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Websites a useful tool for region cities, counties

A sign welcomes people into Gregory, South Dakota. (Republic file photo)

GREGORY COUNTY — City and county agencies across the region are taking advantage of technology to entice new residents.

As the popularity of the internet continues to spread, government agencies have begun to build websites to promote their community's best qualities.

For entities like the city of Mount Vernon, which released a new municipal website this week, and Gregory and Douglas counties, both with plans to soon release county-based websites, it's a new endeavor.

Still in its development phase, the Gregory County website is expected to include information like courthouse hours, department directories, zoning ordinances and commissioner contact information, according to Gregory County Commissioner Kelsea Sutton. Additionally, the county's recently-adopted snow removal policy and information about housing, economic development and schools will be included.

Dedicated to transparency, the county has supported the idea proposed by a group of locals who informally reorganized the Gregory County Economic Development group, Sutton said.

"The only money they asked for was enough to cover the SD Association of County Commissioners fee to build a website and provide training for maintenance," Sutton said in an email to The Daily Republic. "...Rural marketing is essentially the same as business marketing, and we now know that if you don't have a meaningful internet presence, people are very likely to move on to a county that does."

That philosophy has proven true in Freeman.

The city of Freeman has had a website for several years, but recently launched a new site with a redesigned look. Now, when a person logs on to cityoffreeman.com, they are directed to a hub of sorts, with links to the city's website, the economic development website and more.

Like Gregory County's future website, Freeman's domain has information for both residents and non-residents, such as how to pay bills and what schools are available in town.

Spearheaded by Josh Hofer, Freeman's community development and marketing coordinator, the project took approximately one year to complete. And its rewards have been worth the effort.

"I think it is the unification point, or it's the focus point for our energy and for where we start to tell our story," Hofer said. "With more and more people online these days, the story has to be told on multiple platforms. The website is a useful tool to start the conversation."

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