HURON – As she met with community leaders and later addressed the annual Beadle County Lincoln Day dinner, Gov. Kristi Noem praised Huron for accomplishments that made it deserving of the 2018 Community of the Year award.
“The leadership, the business leaders, but also your city leaders, the people that have invested time and effort in helping this community grow and thrive is really unique and special,” she said.
“I wish I could create that kind of environment in every town across South Dakota,” Noem said. “Because our economy would be growing, people would be making higher wages and we’d have a lot more economic benefit from that.”
The presentation of the award, from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, came after she met with community leaders at an afternoon roundtable discussion.
Later, she gave an upbeat address to Republicans about the lessons she has learned so far in her first six months as South Dakota governor.
After serving in Congress for eight years, Noem said she is thrilled she doesn’t have to leave the state every week to serve in Washington, D.C.
“That I get to be here, focusing on communities like Huron and building economic development opportunities, investing in kids, creating a space where our next generation of kids can stay here and pursue any dream they might have,” she said.
In an interview, Noem said she thinks it’s important for people in Huron to know that what they have here is special, that sometimes they are so busy living their lives they may tend to forget to look around and see the blessings they have.
Huron has been successfully facilitating community and workforce development and assisting the English as a Second Language kids and their families, she said.
“In the future, I am looking for ways to help communities do things like that and help Huron continue to invest in that,” Noem said.
Asked about challenges in her first six months in office, she said just a few hours after the legislative session wrapped up the bomb cyclone hit the state.
“We immediately went into a very severe winter storm and flooding, and we’ve been flooding ever since then,” she said.
“Everybody went through very difficult times. It’s the largest disaster that we’ve ever had in South Dakota,” she said, involving 58 counties and three tribal reservations.
Noem said the state’s disaster declaration to the federal government was the biggest in its history. But she said she has been impressed with how South Dakotans have responded.
“South Dakota has come through it and we’re working together to heal and to get infrastructure fixed back up and I’m just so proud of our people,” Noem said.
The Community of the Year award recognizes the city of Huron for programs and projects completed last year that improved the community’s climate for population growth and economic vitality.
Noem said one of the reasons Huron was chosen was because of Huron Regional Medical Center’s pre-apprenticeship program which connects area students with the healthcare industry through a job shadowing program. It also connects minority and English as a Second Language students to careers in the industry.
Just a few of the other examples of innovation in community development through public-private partnerships in 2018 were:
• Completion of a new city public works building and a collaboration with Greater Huron Development Corporation in completing infrastructure projects.
• Visioning sessions to gather public input and establish priorities for future projects.
• Hosting a weeklong National Junior High Finals Rodeo, with attendance of nearly 50,000 people, an event that will kick off for its second year in Huron next week.
• An attendance increase at the South Dakota State Fair of more than 2.5 percent.
• GHDC’s acquisition of property for residential, commercial and industrial development. The development corporation also assisted businesses with construction projects and began work on a ninth speculation building.
“The Huron community came together and accomplished great things in 2018,” said Mayor Paul Aylward.
“I have seen many positive changes in Huron and I look for more of the same in the future,” he said. “We are truly honored to receive this recognition from Gov. Noem.”