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Planning and development survey shows resources not understood

State and local officials need to increase communication about development resources, according to survey results announced Wednesday. The findings from the 2012 survey were presented to Planning and Development District III members at Mitchell T...

Planning and development
Greg Henderson, executive director of Planning and Development District III, speaks Wednesday at Mitchell Technical Institute. (Jordan Steffen/Republic)

State and local officials need to increase communication about development resources, according to survey results announced Wednesday.

The findings from the 2012 survey were presented to Planning and Development District III members at Mitchell Technical Institute.

More than two-thirds of respondents said they had not accessed the Governor's Office of Economic Development website in the past year, and 48.8 percent said they do not have a general understanding of GOED programs. Only 6.4 percent of communities that responded to the survey had buildings listed on the GOED website.

The survey's overall purpose, said Greg Henderson, executive director of Planning and Development District III, was to compile information and feedback on local development activities, conditions and priorities, and to provide a set of expectations for regional action.

"This is not a scientific survey," Henderson told an audience of about 35 area leaders, "but it's useful and it's feedback from people who are supposed to be paying attention."

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The survey was sent in December to Planning and Development District III's members in about 15 counties in south-central and southeastern South Dakota. Collecting responses took about six weeks. A total of 536 surveys were sent out -- 56 by email and 480 by standard mail. There were 228 responses, for a 42.5 percent response rate.

Henderson said the highest response rate, at 64 percent, was from municipalities, followed by counties at 27.4 percent. Five percent of area economic development corporations responded.

"There weren't any surprises in the sense that we knew some issues were priorities for people already, but there were some surprises in that some people didn't seem to know about resources," Henderson said. The survey found that development resources were not being used well. "We need to take advantage of everything and we're not -- and that is a problem," Henderson said. The survey did not paint a rosy picture of area development.

Thirty-six percent of those responding said their community has no comprehensive development plan, and 31 percent weren't sure a plan existed; 67 percent said their community development plan either had no economic component or they weren't sure such a component existed.

Nearly half (45.1 percent) said their community had not prepared an annual economic development work plan. Fifty-eight percent of those towns with a plan depended on a regional development association to implement the program.

Henderson said 20.6 percent of communities with a website reported having any economic development information on their site.

GOED Research Director Mary Cerney, who was at the meeting, explained some GOED programs and said the office will send out a survey of its own in the coming weeks.

Cerney said businesses, individuals and entrepreneurs need to become aware of greater financial resources that will become available in the coming months.

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"It's becoming very obvious that we need to get the message out more," she said. "We need a broader audience."

Planning and Development District III is a voluntary association of county, municipal and tribal governments. Its mission is to provide comprehensive development assistance to its membership and the private sector.

Other findings of the survey as reported by the district:

  • There was age stratification among respondents, with 70 percent of those responding age 50 or older.
  • Respondents felt regional infrastructure is in relatively good shape.
  • Drainage issues and cellular phone service need to be addressed.
  • Local transportation systems are a concern, especially county and township roads.
  • The workforce and housing remain priorities.
  • Respondents were cautious about the region's economic development prospects.
  • Planning is popular, but not practical.
  • Economic development remains a challenging activity.
  • The Governor's Office of Economic Development has not reached its audience.
  • District III is still a "go to" resource.
  • Communication is a critical development issue.
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