Thursday, March 6, 2008

Growing the Whole State

I recently read the editorial in the Watertown Public Opinion regarding economic development across South Dakota. The article was entitled “Growing the Whole State”. I am excited the Public Opinion has joined us in an effort to bring this glaring concern to the forefront. As Mayor of the City of Brookings I learned early on, we are only as strong as our smallest community.

Burdened by the reality of small school consolidation across South Dakota as well as the subsequent deterioration of our small town economies, the mayors of our area met four years ago to discuss solutions for the issues we faced. The result: an effort to improve the economy of our communities by working together with a common vision, driven by a strong desire to make a difference. Today, as our local partnership continues to grow, we are now on the cusp of establishing working relationships along the I29 corridor in the same fashion. Collaboration today means better solutions for tomorrow. However, this new approach calls for a transformation in the way we think – moving from a mindset of a pioneer independence to that of mutual interdependence.

The new global economy continues to challenge everyone in South Dakota. New technologies will bring a whole new economy to our land. To participate in this new economy, our children must be educationally prepared and our communities ready to invest in new ways; laying down a path and creating the road of ‘competitive advantage’. That means we must step up to the plate right now. This isn’t something we can talk about for the next ten years while making small incremental changes along the way, in how we function. To create the significant impact required, will take significant resolve.

We must create a higher standard of living for our children. Can South Dakota make a difference?

The question we need to really ask ourselves is this: Are we willing to think differently in order to strategically develop our future? Are we willing to rise to the challenge of creating a development model for South Dakota? The present dilemma of the issues we face in education funding and economic development is literally tearing at the seams of the social fabric of our smaller communities. Our legislators are burdened every year to try and solve problems whose solutions cannot be found because of our status quo thought process and system. It's like trying to start your new pickup with a hand crank.

I am convinced we must change the path we are on today for a successful transition into the future of tomorrow. South Dakota is only as strong as its smallest community. New strategic development must address the decline in the core fabric of our state to make all of our communities viable. The Lakota Chief Sitting Bull once said, “Let us put our minds together, to see what future we can make for our children.”

So, what’s the solution you ask? The answer: Working together; through strong, strategic leadership. I welcome contact from anyone who embraces this proactive approach.

Scott Munsterman
City of Brookings

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