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SD's Meeks lauded for development efforts

Utah's rural development state director has lauded Elsie Meeks, South Dakota's rural development director, for her work with Native American communities and economic development.

Wilson "David" Conine, Meeks' Utah U.S. Department of Agriculture counterpart, made the comments at the eighth annual Governor's Native American Summit held last week at Utah Valley University in Salt Lake City, Utah. Meeks has 20 years of experience working with Native American leaders, tribes and individuals in economic development.

Conine said Meeks recognized the importance of community development financial institution efforts. He said CDFIs are an important part of the infrastructure for delivering consistent funding for housing and small business development activities that benefit low and moderate income people.

CDFIs combine multiple sources of public and private capital to make loans and investments available to underserved geographies and types of businesses or borrowers.

A successful example from South Dakota is The Lakota Fund, according to Conine. The South Dakota office established a Native CDFI in 1986 that serves the Oglala Lakota Tribe on the Pine Ridge Reservation. Its products and services include micro-loans, small business loans, business loans, credit builder loans, training and technical assistance.