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LVEDC Participates in Expert Panels During South Dakota Visit

By Colin McEvoy on June 9, 2022

A panel discussion at the Elevate Rapid City building as part of the visit to South Dakota communities in which LVEDC participated.

An official from the Lehigh Valley Economic Development Corporation (LVEDC) was invited to participate on expert panels during a visit to South Dakota communities organized and sponsored by the International Economic Development Council (IEDC).

Karianne Gelinas, LVEDC Vice President of Regional Partnerships and Talent Strategies, visited the cities of Madison and Rapid City in South Dakota to provide feedback and advice in support of economic and community development goals in those communities.

The invitation to participate in these visits reflects the recognition of Lehigh Valley as a best practices location for economic development and growth, as well as LVEDC’s distinction as a leader in the economic development community nation-wide and respected partner to IEDC.

“It’s invaluable to have these opportunities to visit different places, see how the communities work, and learn their approaches to economic development,” Gelinas said. “Even if it’s not immediately applicable to your own community, it forces you to think in new ways, and you can learn a great deal about attracting and retaining people and businesses in different ways.”

LVEDC often works collaboratively with IEDC, having participated in various expert panels for them in the past. Additionally, LVEDC was re-accredited by IEDC earlier this year, and also received IEDC awards last year for best Talent Development and Retention initiative and best Annual Report.

“I was honored to serve with Karianne Gelinas and the team in Rapid City, SD as they provided guidance for the Equitable Communities project,” said Emily Brown, IEDC Senior Director of Knowledge Management and Development. “Karianne supplied deep knowledge about the intersection between workforce development and business retention, expansion, and attraction, providing actionable ideas and examples.”

Both of the South Dakota communities had recently received funding to support economic and community growth. Madison was awarded more than $3 million in Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) public assistance funding to repair damage from heavy rains and flooding, while Rapid City received a grant from the Rockefeller Foundation to build equity in the community.

Madison is located in Lake County, with a population of 7,000. While agriculture is the main economic development driver for the county, it also supports a strong manufacturing sector and is home to Dakota State University, a major innovator in cybersecurity and technology.

As part of the expert panel, Gelinas talked to community members, business owners, and other stakeholders, and provided feedback on the economic strengths and opportunities in Madison, as well as recommendations on how to accommodate future growth in the city.

These recommendations included marketing job opportunities outside of the area, engaging diverse groups, branding the identity of the city, highlighting and supporting Madison’s downtown, and adapting a regional approach to economic development in a way similar to the approach taken in the Lehigh Valley.

In Rapid City, Gelinas and the expert panel were hosted by Elevate Rapid City, a team of internal and external stakeholders throughout the area tasked with devising workforce development initiatives and leading economic development and small business efforts.

Rapid City is the second-largest city in South Dakota, with a population of 148,933. While largely supported by tourism, its robust local economy and abundant natural resources have proven attractive to a diverse group of industries, and the city has developed space to support the growth of entrepreneurs.

The expert panel made several recommendations for Elevate Rapid City, including that it map its community assets, work with engaged companies on workforce training and retention, provide remote work opportunities, and work with potential industry clusters to diversify the regional economy.

The panel also suggested engaging diverse stakeholders for economic solutions, particularly its Native American tribes. They recommended Elevate Rapid City infuse the Native narrative into its tourism materials, increase Native representation on boards and initiatives, and help develop a Native American entrepreneurial ecosystem.

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