BEDC and Research Park
23 Oct 2023
The U.S. Economic Development Administration recently awarded $725,000 to the Brookings Economic Development Center (BEDC), Research Park at SDSU, and South Dakota State University (SDSU) for the next phase in the Innovate SoDak program. Innovate SoDak, originally founded in 2018, was designed to support economic development in the region by making University resources and expertise more available to businesses.
Having been successful thus far, Innovate SoDak pursued the EDA Grant to build upon the need for new approaches. Up until now, the program has mostly focused on promoting SDSU’s resources, making them more accessible to businesses at any stage. Through their five years of operation, it became clear that small businesses and start-ups needed to be prioritized to ensure they were able to access the resources. This EDA grant will launch Innovate SoDak into its second phase where assisting founders and entrepreneurs will be a main focus. To target entrepreneurs and founders, other programs, such as Launch Founder, will be incorporated into the plan.
The main goal of this next phase is to cultivate a robust ecosystem that supports founders and entrepreneurs in the state of South Dakota and the Northern Plains region. The three main organizations, the BEDC, Research Park, and SDSU each contribute a different expertise to the program that allows them to fulfill this mission.
SDSU will play a pivotal role in delivering relevant and timely technical assistance to those who request it. Such assistance might include individual consultation, capstone design projects, service or research activities, or providing referrals. The technical assistance component of the project is very similar to the current activities of Innovate SoDak, but it remains an essential part of accomplishing the new goal. With a heightened focus on small and start-up businesses, these resources will be more accessible to organizations that need them most.
The Research Park will be acting as the scout of the program, working to find businesses and organizations that might be beneficial to the community/program, demonstrating to the businesses how their investment and participation is beneficial to themselves and the state. The Research Park will also play a major role in supporting start-ups and small businesses through their program Launch Founder by seeking out and identifying founders and entrepreneurs with strong potential who could utilize University resources.
Finally bringing it all together, the BEDC will act as a bridge between these entities and other entities statewide. With strong ties to the South Dakota Economic Development Professionals Association (EDPA) and other economic development organizations, the BEDC will foster connections between all necessary actors including university faculty/students, established organizations, and budding businesses. Although the program services will be available statewide, being located at SDSU, the Brookings area will benefit greatly. Tim Reed, Executive Director of the BEDC expressed excitement about the program expansion saying, “The BEDC looks forward to utilizing services provided by the University to tackle workforce challenges, create employment opportunities, and promote capital investment in businesses. This partnership will generate economic growth in Brookings County and the whole state.”
While these services will be open to any businesses in need, there will be a heightened focus on agriculture, manufacturing, healthcare, and service industries. In 2022, these four industries were all included in the top five industries in South Dakota based on their contribution to the state GDP. Although each of these trades are central to South Dakota’s economy, they currently face unique challenges with workforce issues at the heart of the problem. Innovate SoDak will work to address this issue by attacking problems at all stages of the economic development cycle, delivering sustainable solutions that will promote a healthy, balanced economy.
This next phase in Innovate SoDak holds powerful potential that many are excited to explore. The Executive Director of the Research Park, Dwaine Chapel, is one such person. Talking about all the possibilities the future holds he said, “This funding will help us expand our reach to new communities where we can provide essential resources for starting and growing a business. With collaboration between SDSU, the BEDC, and the Research Park, we can create a one-stop shop for founders and entrepreneurs in South Dakota encouraging new business and spurring economic growth.”
This new direction for the Innovate SoDak program takes a much-needed focus on promoting and growing small businesses across the state. Stephen Gent, one of the Innovate SoDak faculty, said, “Innovate SoDak is excited to be working closely with research park and clients in the state to connect and provide value added expertise and services. We are committed to the success of industry, entrepreneurs, startups, and others, and look forward to the opportunities to serve.” The funds from the EDA Grant will make the expansion of service access possible encouraging healthy small businesses and ultimately boosting economic growth. We are grateful to have the opportunity to maximize the potential of this grant.