Looking to improve and expand a cities economic development is one venture many cities might find difficult during tough economic times, but it's turned out to be the perfect time for one South Dakota town.
The town of Vermillion has seen very little change in their population over the last few decades, and that's left officials concerned about what the future of their town may hold. So, the chamber development board devised a program that started by gathering funds from those in the community looking to reinvest in Vermillion's growth. In just the first few months, they are already seeing results.
Economic struggles encouraged Vermillion leaders to take a closer look at what was happening in their town. “We found that compared to other communities our size we had higher poverty rates, lower wages, less career opportunities. As University community we have a lot of businesses that tend to serve that community and we have a lot of people working multiple jobs doing low wage service and retail work,” Vermillion Area Chamber Executive Director Steve Howe said.
They were concerned by the results. That's where Vermillion Now comes in. Vermillion Now is a campaign to solve the economic problems of Clay County and encourage new growth. They spoke with businesses throughout the community who were looking to reinvest and make changes to draw more people to Vermillion and keep those who are here.
“We're going to need to use those funds to improve industrial parks, market our community out to the region to let them know we're open and ready for them,” Howe said.
In addition to marketing the funds will be used to expand health care in the city and build a relationship for research opportunities with the USD Medical School and entice students who graduate from the university to stay in Vermillion.
Vermillion Now's goal is to raise $1.5 million by July. In the last two months alone, they've raised $1.1 million, exceeding their expectations and putting Vermillion Now on track to reach their goal.
“We've seen what communities like Vermillion have done and it's time for Vermillion to step up and take control of their own destiny,” Howe said.
That's exactly what city officials and businesses in the community are hoping to do.
The City of Vermillion will match the Vermillion Now campaign funds up to $450,000 that will be spread across five year.