Heartland hosts SD GOED for tour of Madison

Heartland welcomed Commissioner Steve Westra and employees of the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development for a tour of Madison businesses on October 15.

Heartland hosted the group to not only showcase the Madison community, but to educate GOED officials on Heartland economic development programs and show examples of how those programs are being used at local businesses.

High-quality skid loaders

The tour started at Gehl of Manitou Americas, producer of high-quality skid loaders using state-of-the-art engineering. Gehl has been in Madison since 1973 and is one of the city’s largest employers.

Gehl owns three facilities in Madison, and like many businesses, needs more workers to keep up with demand. They currently employ 220 people and expect to almost double their workforce in the next few years.

high-quality skid loader
female welder working
GOED Commissioner Steve Westra touring Gehl with a group of men
GOED Commissioner Steve Westra, left, visits with Heartland CEO Russell Olson while touring Gehl.
GOED Commissioner Steve Westra, left, visits with Heartland CEO Russell Olson while touring Gehl.

Manitou Americas is headquartered in West Bend, Wisconsin, and in addition to Madison, maintains operations in Yankton, SD and Belvidere, Illinois. Formerly known as Gehl Company, it became a wholly owned subsidiary of Manitou Group, based in Ancenis, France, in 2008.

Assembly of one Gehl skid loader takes two weeks, and they can produce 18 per day in the Madison facility. Each loader goes through four hours of inspection time before being shipped out. The 260,000 square foot site is a state-of-the-art manufacturing facility equipped with laser cutters and robotic welders. However, the world’s largest skid loader, the V420, is hand-welded.

The company ships skid loaders to 50 different countries and Gehl is currently the number one skid loader brand in Israel. Between 35 and 45 percent of skid loaders are shipped overseas each year.

Leader in custom injection molding

Falcon Plastics started in Brookings, SD in 1975, molding customer ideas into a wide variety of quality plastic products. Falcon has become a mid-to-high volume custom plastic molder of choice. They remain a family-owned and operated manufacturer.

The company expanded to Madison in 1990. They also have facilities in Lexington, Tennessee and Portland, Oregon. The manufacturing facility in Madison employs 52 people with plans to hire more. Overall, the company has 285 employees.

group of employees standing in a warehouse
group of people talking in a manufacturing facility
President Jenn Barlund talking
President Jenn Barlund discusses Falcon Plastic’s custom injection molding process and products.

Each facility offers production in different markets and focuses on agriculture, automotive, construction and industrial, electronics, medical, office products, and recreational sports.

 The Madison facility focuses on recreational sports, pet care and business products such as toner cartridges. They also produce high performance ice packs for outdoor and sporting goods markets. Overall, they produce 30 different products in Madison along with variations of each product. 

Falcon Plastics is also home to Life Floor, a slip-resistant, non-abrasive tile installed around pools, on pool decks, splash pads and slide pads. The foam-rubber flooring system is the only safety surface specifically designed to perform in aquatic environments. It has been manufactured at Falcon since 2015. LifeFloor utilized a Heartland HELP Fund loan to assist with setting up operations in Madison.

boxes of Life Floor in a facility
group of people standing in between Life Floor boxes

Planting your future

The next stop was another family-owned business, Mustang Seeds. The company started in Madison in 1963 with a mission to provide quality small grain seed to area farmers. Today, over a million acres of Mustang brand seeds are planted in the United States annually.

Mustang Seeds facility exterior
group of people inside Mustang Seeds facility
GOED Commissioner Steve Westra
Mustang Seeds CEO Terry Schultz discussing his company
Mustang Seeds CEO Terry Schultz, center, discusses his company’s growth and recent partnership with global company GDM. Also pictured is Red Horse Seed Production General Manager Justin Wise, left, and Mustang Seeds Marketing Manager Pato Rodriguez, right.

Over the years, Mustang has adapted their product line as farmers in their five-state region have moved strongly toward row crops. Currently in their second generation of family ownership, Mustang offers a full line of corn, soybeans, alfalfa, cover crops, grasses and small grains.

The seed supplier encompasses over 200 dealers in South Dakota, Iowa, Nebraska, Minnesota and North Dakota.

In 2017, Mustang launched Red Horse Crop Insurance to offer growers protection against multiple perils. Red Horse Seed Production (RHSP) was launched in 2019 after Mustang partnered with GDM, a global company based in Argentina which focuses on soybean research, development and commercialization. RHSP is responsible for the operations and distribution of all seed products for Mustang Seeds.

The company employs 80 people across the region. They recently built a 20,000 square-foot warehouse which is completely climate controlled to help maintain product quality. They utilized a Heartland HELP Fund loan to aid with construction.

Technology leader

The final stop on the tour was Madison Cyber Labs, otherwise known as MadLabs, on the campus of Dakota State University.

MadLabs opened in 2019 as one of the only cyber research facilities of its kind in the United States. The building features both an open floor concept for research as well as closed off rooms where classified research is done.

Dr. Ashley Podhradsky, VP for Research and Economic Development at DSU, provided a tour of the open part of the lab. A variety of research projects are currently being undertaken at the lab, including those on drones, electric vehicle charging stations, and testing for weaknesses in convenience systems such as “smart” home devices.

DSU Cyber Labs exterior
2 students working on a computer
Cyber Community Club info on a table with students in the background
Dr. Ashley Podhradsky giving a tour
Dr. Ashley Podhradsky led the tour of MadLabs on the campus of DSU.

The lab houses 17 full-time employees. Podhradsky emphasized the lab’s partnerships with private entities which enables the utilization of university students, which benefits everyone involved. 

Podhradsky also touted the CybHER Institute, a program designed generate interest among women in cybersecurity and related fields.

Local businesses highlighted

Two local technology companies were given the opportunity to share their stories with the group over lunch.

Darin Namken is founder and president of Bulldog Media Group, a performance-based e-commerce and marketing company in Madison. The company was formed in 2000 and is recognized as an industry leader that has developed proprietary software and innovative technology.

Darin Namken shares Infotech Solutions’ story with the GOED group.
Darin Namken shares Infotech Solutions’ story with the GOED group.

In 2006, Namken co-founded Infotech Solutions, LLC, an information technology company with offices and a data center in Madison. Infotech is the only complete managed IT company in South Dakota.

Bulldog Media employs 22 in Madison and recently acquired a digital performance marketing agency, taking their total employee count to 30. Infotech employs 10 full-time employees plus currently has four interns on staff.  

The majority of both Bulldog Media and Infotech’s employees are graduates of DSU. Heartland utilizes Infotech’s services for technology management needs.

Chad Knutson is a co-founder of SBS CyberSecurity, a premier cybersecurity and consulting firm based in Madison since 2004. SBS assists organizations with the implementation of risk management programs and helps mitigate cybersecurity risks. SBS empowers customers to make more informed security decisions.

SBS has 75 employees, 30 of which are DSU alumni and 35 of which are based in the Madison area. They have employees across 15 states and expect to keep growing.

Chad Knutson talking and using hand gestures
Chad Knutson is a DSU alum and co-founder of SBS CyberSecurity, headquartered in Madison.

School spotlighted

The Madison Central School District generously provided a bus for the group’s transportation around Madison for the day. Driving the bus was Madison High School Principal and Madison City Commissioner Adam Shaw.

During the tour, Shaw took a moment to tout the high school’s “Workforce Ready” program. The school has formed several partnerships with community businesses, including those highlighted on the day’s tour, to introduce students to different careers and job opportunities.

MHS Principal and Madison City Commissioner Adam Shaw driving a car
MHS Principal and Madison City Commissioner Adam Shaw found a new role as bus driver for the group’s tour. He also had the opportunity to share details on the MHS workforce ready program.

The school lines up 70 internships per year for students. They also offer a dual credit class through Madison Regional Health for those interested in learning more about the healthcare field. The same is said for welding opportunities at Gehl. The school even has an auto shop on campus that mirrors the local auto shop at Prostrollos to give students first-hand experience.

The staff at GOED were treated to just a small portion of what Madison has to offer in their few hours in the community. They even had a chance to meet with Brooke Rollag, the new executive director of the Lake Area Improvement Corporation.

Brooke Rollag, the new executive director of the Lake Area Improvement Corporation, talking to a group
During lunch GOED officials met Brooke Rollag, the new executive director of the Lake Area Improvement Corporation.

Heartland would like to thank GOED for spending time in Madison and all the local businesses that opened their doors for tours. Heartland has a long-standing partnership with GOED and was proud to not only show of our community, but also share more about the many programs Heartland offers to help businesses succeed.

Heartland to support scholarships with philanthropic investment

Students in Heartland customer communities will benefit

Heartland Consumers Power District is sponsoring a $1.5 million gift to Dakota State University to primarily be used for scholarships over a 10-year period. This financial support from Heartland reflects an investment in both their customer communities and DSU.

Heartland provides wholesale electric energy to 29 municipal electric systems in South Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa, and Nebraska. Their new scholarships will support students attending DSU from their customer communities. These are primarily rural communities, most with populations under 3,000.

“Part of Heartland’s vision is to add value to the communities we serve,” said Heartland CEO Russell Olson. “This is an opportunity for Heartland to directly impact students across our customer base, as well as invest in our local university.”

Heartland has long been a supporter of DSU, sponsoring various events throughout the year to raise money for the university. These new endowed awards allow Heartland to invest a one-time annual donation, creating more efficiencies while providing company-named scholarships.

Heartland strives to be a community partner, and is a strong supporter of economic development, offering programs in their customer communities to help businesses start-up or expand. This investment will help Madison grow and is a great opportunity for economic development for Madison and the greater Madison community, Olson shared.

In addition to scholarship funding, Heartland’s gift will also support the development of new athletic facilities.

“As DSU continues to grow and lead the way in technology and cybersecurity, we are proud to partner to help bring more students to Madison,” Olson added.

In honor of their significant support, Heartland will be given naming rights to the hospitality area in the new facilities.

“We’re grateful for Heartland’s investment in Dakota State and their ability to see our vision and stand up to support it,” said Jon Schemmel, Vice President for Institutional Advancement and CEO of the DSU Foundation and Alumni Association. “When we looked at the influence of DSU within Heartland customer communities, it was clear that this was a perfect opportunity for them to support their customer communities and the local university.”

“Madison supports DSU like no other college-town can compare,” he added. “This special partnership underscores that support and continues to show our students that the Madison community wants to help them rise. I look forward to hosting students, supporters, community members, and Trojans of all types in the new hospitality area named after Heartland.”

This partnership is one of the largest single gifts to the university from community members. It will help both organizations continue to grow, develop, and rise together.

DSU Athletics plants 3,200 flowers at Heartland

Members of Dakota State University’s athletics program recently completed a community service project at Heartland headquarters.

Staff, coaches and student athletes planted 3,200 flowers on Heartland’s front lawn on June 28. The group planted native prairie flowers, including mixtures of rudbeckia (black-eyed susan), yarrow and echinacea (cone flowers).

Volunteers included DSU Athletic Director Jeff Dittman, Sports Information Director Nick Huntimer, and head coaches Josh Anderson (football) and David Moe (women’s basketball). Strength and conditioning coach Stephen Vassalotti and assistant coaches Anvil Sinsabaugh (football), Jamal Branco (women’s basketball), and Trevor Flemmer (men’s basketball) also helped plant.

Six student-athletes rounded out the group: football players Devonte Murphy and Justin Cater, women’s basketball players Ashlyn Macdonald and Savannah Walsdorf, and men’s basketball players Ronnie Latting and Chris Williams.

DSU student athlete Ashlyn Macdonald, left, works alongside women’s basketball coach David Moe, Sports Information Director Nick Huntimer, and Heartland Customer Relations Manager Kelly Dybdahl.
Volunteers pause during planting. From left to right: coach Stephen Vassalotti, student-athlete Savannah Walsdorf, coach Anvil Sinsabaugh and student-athlete Devonte Murphy.

The project took about two hours to complete. It was one of many that DSU athletes complete each year as part of the Champions of Character program with the National Association of Intercollegiate Athletics (NAIA).

Champions of Character focuses on five core values: integrity, respect, responsibility, sportsmanship and servant leadership. The program provides training for student-athletes and professional development for coaches and staff.

DSU assistant coach Jamal Branco used an auger and drill to dig holes for flowers.
The group planted native prairie flowers to complement Heartland’s natural landscaping.

Pauli joins Heartland board

Madison resident Dr. Josh Pauli is the newest member of the Heartland Consumers Power District Board of Directors.

Dr. Pauli was appointed to represent Subdivision 10, which consists of the municipalities of Madison, Groton and Volga, SD.

“Josh has a unique background and will bring great value to Heartland and our board,” said Heartland Board President Mark Joffer. “His cybersecurity and technology expertise will certainly prove valuable as Heartland moves forward.”

Dr. Josh Pauli is sworn in by Heartland’s attorney Dennis Duncan.

Dr. Pauli serves as the executive director of the Dakota State University Applied Research Lab. He received his Ph.D. in software engineering from North Dakota State University and has been a professor at DSU in the Beacom College of Computer and Cyber Sciences since 2004.

Dr. Pauli leads funded research in cybersecurity for government agencies and private sector partnerships.

As a longtime Madison resident, Pauli became interested in serving on the Heartland board after learning of the support Heartland provides communities outside of power supply.

“I know many of the Heartland staff members and have always been intrigued with the projects they were involved in,” Pauli said. “I’m looking forward to helping Heartland continue to expand and serve customers.”

Dr. Pauli says he is honored by the opportunity to serve an organization in the Madison community. He is excited to get to know his fellow board members and learn more about Heartland and the public power industry.

He is also interested to see how renewable and clean energy technologies are integrated into public power, especially in rural areas.

“Renewable energy is a complex topic with many angles to consider,” Pauli said. “In addition to environmental impacts, there are financial and legal considerations as well as logistical concerns. Those difficult problems interest me a great deal.”

Dr. Pauli also serves on the board of directors of Dacotah Bank in Aberdeen, SD and LifeScape in Sioux Falls, SD.

In his free time, he enjoys golf, cycling and traveling. He and his wife Samantha have two adult daughters: Elizabeth and Madison.

Subdivision 10 was previously served by Dave Westbrock, who passed away in 2020.

Infotech breaks ground on new facility in Lakeview Industrial Park

Technology company looks to expand in 2021

In today’s modern world, information technology is essential for day-to-day business operations.

A long-time Madison company provides a proactive approach to ensure a stable, secure and reliable network.

Infotech Solutions, LLC looks to celebrate 15 years of providing complete managed technology services in 2021. To continue providing the highest service possible, they broke ground this week on a new facility in Madison’s Lakeview Industrial Park.

Technology niche

Infotech’s success reflects the trend of a growing tech industry in the Midwest.

Madison has become known as a technology leader, with Dakota State University making their mark nationally in the realm of cybersecurity education and research. Its cyber programs have seen steady growth in recent years and consistently reports high job placement rates.

Infotech has tapped into the local talent pool as all eleven of their employees are graduates of DSU.

“DSU’s leadership is directly responsible for the success of Infotech,” said Infotech CEO Darin Namken. “They continue drawing students in, who then become contributing members of the community. We have an incredibly talented group of applicants to choose from right here in Madison.”

Infotech CEO Darin Namken credits Dakota State University for attracting talented students, some of whom end up working at Infotech, to the area.

Namken believes the new facility will create an impression for guests entering Madison.

“We hope this project helps showcase everything the community and DSU has to offer,” he said.

Collaboration with LAIC

Infotech is the latest tenant to take up residence in the industrial park, owned by the Lake Area Improvement Corporation (LAIC).

Retail company Runnings broke ground on a 69,000 square foot building in October. The following month LAIC announced the sale of eight acres to Midwest House Movers.

LAIC Executive Director Eric Fosheim speaks at the groundbreaking.

LAIC Executive Director Eric Fosheim is pleased by the recent surge in growth.

“We are excited to see continued growth in the industrial park along Highway 34,” he said. “What better way to promote our community than to showcase our growing businesses on the gateway to our city.”

Todd Knodel, chairman of the Infotech board, said the LAIC is an important asset to the region.

“Eric Fosheim along with the entire LAIC board have been excellent to work with, on this project specifically as well as when Infotech launched in 2006,” he said. “They are invested in the economic prosperity of this region and deserve a lot of credit for recent success.”

Preparing for growth

Changes to Infotech’s corporate structure were announced in August, in preparation for expansion.

Josh VanDyke was promoted to president and Kyle Stoebner named vice president/director of engineering.

VanDyke joined Namken and Knodel to form Cattail Technology Partners to build the new facility and develop 3.6 acres in the industrial park. The new headquarters will accommodate existing employees with room to grow.

“The demand for businesses-integrating technology for efficiencies is ever growing. Similarly, cybersecurity is more important than ever,” VanDyke said. “Infotech needs to continually innovate to meet our clients’ needs. The new facility will allow us to do so while also expanding our IT team.”

Supportive business community

Infotech aims to be the leading information technology service provider in South Dakota. Namken says backing from local business leaders will help them achieve their goal.

“Businesses in Madison always support each other and help each other out,” Namken said. “They influenced our decision to expand and we are grateful to have so many partners here.”

Madison’s wholesale power supplier, Heartland Consumers Power District, will provide growth incentives to Infotech once their expansion is complete.

“Infotech and Heartland have a long-standing relationship,” said Heartland Director of Economic Development Casey Crabtree. “Our growth incentive program is designed to help businesses expand and create jobs, and we look forward to doing our part to help increase their presence in Madison.”

Infotech plans to move into their new facility in the summer of 2021. Innovative Design & Management Services is the architect on the project and Mills Construction is handling the land and building development.

Construction on the new facility is already underway.

Featured image: Project officials broke ground December 9. From left to right: Infotech Director of Client Services Doug Iverson, VP/Director of Engineering Kyle Stoebner, President Josh VanDyke, LAIC Executive Director Eric Fosheim, First PREMIER Bank VP/Market Leader Floyd Rummel, Infotech CEO Darin Namken, Mills Construction President Randy Hanson, Innovative Design President/Architect Lanny Auringer, Infotech Director of Business Development Tyler Ruhd, Madison City Commissioner Mike Waldner and GMACC Executive Director Eric Hortness.

Free cybersecurity service helps local governments

Project Boundary Fence performs testing to determine cyber risk

Your city’s computer network is attacked multiple times a day. The question is not whether an attack will be successful, but when.

Online threats continue to increase each year. City governments and utilities need to accept the seriousness of cybersecurity. Never assume your system is safe.

Small utilities may find this difficult. Budget dollars are limited, and staff resources are thin. But a successful attack will be far more costly than prevention.

Free service offers cybersecurity testing for South Dakota cities

A new program developed at Dakota State University in Madison, SD can help. Project Boundary Fence (PBF) tests city and county networks in the state.

PBF offers penetration testing including a simulated system attack to determine weaknesses. The Consumer Protection Division of the Attorney General’s Office is funding the service to make it free to South Dakota municipalities and counties.

Dr. Ashley Podhradsky

“We are very thankful for the forward-thinking nature of the Attorney General’s Office. Consumer protection is working to not only respond to situations, but also prevent them. Our partnership with them started with our DigForCE Lab (digital forensics for law enforcement) and has grown to include this important new program,” said Dr. Ashley Podhradsky, Director of Research for the lab.

Austin Fritzmeier is a recent cyber operations graduate and penetration tester at DSU. He says the testing is like a burglar trying to break into a house via an unlocked window.

“You wouldn’t leave your house unlocked and unprotected,” said Fritzmeier. “Your computer network is no different. PBF helps find the unlocked windows of your system.”

There are different types of external testing, and each city can pick the one that best suits their needs.

Internal penetration tests involve connecting a device to the network. PBF runs scans from within the network as if a breach had already occurred and a hacker reached the utility’s secured digital assets.

A wireless assessment looks at the strength and security of a utility’s wireless network.

Most utilities unprepared for cyber attack

Many utilities believe they are ready to address cyber threats. Some think they don’t have anything useful for a hacker to steal. Both assumptions are wrong.

Ann Hyland

The utility sector becomes more vulnerable to cybersecurity threats with each passing day. This is true for all industries as everything becomes more digitized.

It is more important than ever for utilities and governments to prepare for a cyber-attack.

Heartland takes the cybersecurity of our municipal utilities seriously and works with industry partners to provide professional services to ensure your utility is secure.

“The testing offered by PBF is one piece of the puzzle,” said Heartland Chief Communications Officer Ann Hyland. “It is a great tool for utilities to kick off the process.”

Complementary services

PBF helps cities grasp their current security position, reduce cyber risk, and improve efficiencies. It focuses on individual goals of security assessments.

Their tools and techniques provide comprehensive security assessments. Cities will receive a final report outlining their findings.

“Every South Dakota city should take advantage of PBF,” Hyland said. “Valuable information provided free of charge is an easy decision.”

Click HERE to learn more about Project Boundary Fence.

Business Plan Competition recognizes outstanding young entrepreneurs

Heartland sponsors contest targeted at youth in customer communities

Be the Future, Change the Future.

That was the challenge Dakota State University (DSU) recently presented to young entrepreneurs with its Business Plan Competition.

Organized by DSU’s Collegiate Entrepreneurs Organization (CEO) Club, college and high school students were asked to conceive of a new service or product offering and create a business plan and elevator pitch detailing how their new business would operate and succeed.

Heartland joined the Lake Area Improvement Corporation as co-sponsors of the competition. As such, the contest targeted high school students within Heartland’s customer communities, from Grove City, Minnesota to Valentine, Nebraska.

The contest garnered 26 submissions in the high school division and 10 in the college division. Entries were narrowed down to a pool of finalists and three winners were selected from each division. For both divisions, first place winners received $1,000, second place $500, and third place $250.

“We support entrepreneurs of all ages, especially those within our customer region,” said Heartland Director of Economic Development and Governmental Affairs Casey Crabtree. “Competitions like this help young people develop the skills and experience to turn their dreams into reality.”

Crabtree also served as a judge in a portion of the competition.

“The students were innovative, organized and motivated, and shared some really terrific ideas,” said Crabtree. “As our next generation of business leaders, they show a lot of promise.”

DSU winners

First place: Grant Carlson
OpticSuite

OpticSuite is a software program using artificial intelligence to help display the optimal footage during events. It can be added to existing hardware or installed with a new camera system. The software will take all camera footage being recorded and adjust cameras to provide the best viewing angle for spectators in stadiums and larger venues.

Second place: Elizabeth Olson
Lzrd Designs

Lzrd Designs aims to reduce the negative impacts of fast fashion. Fabrics and printing processes used in fast fashion often use chemicals and materials that are harmful to the environment. Lzrd Designs will use water-based inks and entirely recycled or sustainably-sourced fabrics to have a positive environmental impact and provide safe working conditions for employees.

Third place: Andrew Rotert
Developed Not Downloaded

Developed Not Downloaded is a platform to connect businesses looking for software development with software engineers, developers and firms. The business would create a database sharing what businesses are looking to have developed, anything from a website or mobile app to desktop software. Developers would then be able to bid for projects.

High school winners

First place: Erica Ingerson, Eureka High School
Stubborn Stitches

Stubborn Stitches will provide embroidery and sewing services to its clients in Eureka, SD and the surrounding area in an organized and friendly environment. Customers will be able to place embroidery and sewing orders by calling or by visiting Stubborn Stitches during business hours. There will be some products Stubborn Stitches will make and sell, while the majority of sales will entail customizing personal designs for individual customers.

Second place: Trey Sejnoha, Brandon Valley High School
Mr. Clean’s Laundromat

Brandon, SD is lacking a laundromat where people can go, sit down, relax, and get their clothes washed.  Laundromats are usually seen as unsafe areas. People don’t typically enjoy going to the laundromat, and there is nothing there to keep them entertained. At Mr. Clean’s Laundromat we will be introducing a snack bar along with the highest quality washers and dryers to clean clothes quickly.  While their clothes are getting washed customers can enjoy the snack bar, and check out the 82 inch flat screen TV.  Mr. Clean’s Laundromat will have free Wi-Fi, lounge seating, a snack bar, and an overall light, bright feel.  To handle customers’ tight schedules Mr. Clean’s Laundromat will offer a pickup and drop-off service and a wash-dry-fold service.

Third place: Seth Thury, Arlington High School
Clean Cut Lawn and Landscape

Clean Cut’s mission is to create lifelong customers by providing a quality, consistent, dependable service to everyone one of their clients. They want to make the customer experience top priority, realizing that the best form of advertising is by word of mouth. Clean Cut’s primary service offering is weekly lawn care and landscape maintenance to residential and commercial clients. They also offer a variety of landscape maintenance and renovation services.

Research investment will lead to growth, job opportunities

Dakota State University receives grant to invest in high-speed research network

An institutional vision by a university president, bold leadership from within and a variety of public and private partnerships are leading to more advanced research at Dakota State University in Madison, SD, which will lead to more opportunities for the school, the community and the region.

DSU will soon have access to a high-speed research network thanks to a $1.46 million grant from the U.S. Department of Commerce’s Economic Development Administration (EDA). The grant will help facilitate more ambitious research in Madison and faster, more efficient work at DSU.

The funding will allow for the purchase of research computing equipment for the Madison CyberLabs and the Heartland Technology Center.

The grant comes at an opportune time for the university. According to DSU Director of Sponsored Programs Dr. Peter Hoesing, the South Dakota Board of Regents recently made a major investment in an expansion of the state’s Research and Economic Development (REED) network that will have a major impact along the entire I-29 corridor of higher education partners.

“The network builds up the capacity of all those institutions, including DSU, for speed and security of research-related data,” Hoesing said. “EDA awarded the grant to facilitate campus and lab-level linkages to the REED network. Those connections make it possible for DSU to build out robust, secure, fully customizable research environments.”

This funding will afford students new opportunities to work with faculty researchers in various capacities as DSU research continues to grow.  Graduate programs, and especially doctoral/PhD students will have expanded opportunities and resources to conduct various research activities. 

Beacom Institute of Technology

“The ability to fully customize research environments on a powerful, stand-alone network that’s walled off from those we use for day-to-day operations will build capacity for bigger, more aspiring research here in Madison,” said Hoesing

More data transfer capacity and better security will mean faster, more efficient work and readiness to compete for opportunities. Some of those will be private sector partnerships, some will be federally funded research and development, and some will develop DSU-born intellectual property with great potential for translation into private sector innovation.

The entire Madison community stands to benefit from the innovations taking place at DSU. Vice President for Business and Administrative Services Stacy Krusemark stated, “The research network is just one more piece in the growth of DSU. This growth will continue to foster additional demand for housing, retail, and other services in Madison and the surrounding area.”

Heartland Consumers Power District, wholesale power supplier to the city of Madison, was one of the partners assisting in applying for the grant.

“DSU’s economic impact to the Madison area, South Dakota, and the region continues to grow as enrollment and research grows,” said Heartland CEO Russell Olson. “The EDA project, the MadLabs building, and the university’s recent acquisition of the Heartland Technology Center are all facilitators of the innovative research DSU faculty and students are doing now and aspire to do in the future. They are working on so many things relevant to economic development, and EDA certainly saw that when awarding this grant.”

The EDA funding required a 1:1 match, meaning the university had to match every grant dollar with a dollar from a non-federal source. University President Dr. Jose´-Marie Griffiths committed the necessary matching funds from the MadLabs building project. The majority of those matching dollars are donor funds, though some were also committed to the project from former Governor Daugaard’s Future Fund.

Dakota State University campus

DSU is located in a Tax Cuts and Jobs Act designated Opportunity Zone. This program was created to increase investment in economically distressed communities. Built on bipartisan federal legislation, the Opportunity Zones tax incentive is designed to spur economic development and job creation by encouraging investors to fund new businesses, develop properties, and finance construction. In addition to the private funds available to the opportunity zones, EDA announced in 2018 that its Public Works and Economic Adjustment Assistance Programs are available to eligible entities within Qualified Opportunity Zones.

“This project at DSU is a strong example of a public/private partnership within an opportunity zone,” said Alex Smith, economic development representative with EDA. Smith, along with Heartland and DSU started working on this specific partnership in late summer 2018.

Since fiscal year 2018, EDA has invested more than $13 million in 22 projects in Opportunity Zones to help communities and regions build the capacity for economic development.

“DSU faculty, students, and staff alike remain devoted to the continuing development of the community, the economy, and the greater good,” Hoesing added. “Investments by EDA and the state in research network technology will empower the advancement of scientific inquiries that actively contribute to economic development. We are excited about all the opportunities those investments will afford our faculty, students, staff, and community partners.”

Heartland Technology Center to house DSU research projects

DSU Foundation purchases building from LAIC

Research projects at Dakota State University are ambitious, to say the least. In fact, some are moving forward so fast that researchers can’t wait for next fall’s completion of the university’s new research and development center, the Madison Cyber Labs (MadLabs).

“Rather than sit back and wait for the MadLabs building to be completed, many research groups have started work,” said DSU President José-Marie Griffiths. “They are developing extensive partnerships with federal and state governments, in-state and out-of-state corporations, and as a result we need space now to house some of our R&D personnel and contracts.”

The space at the Heartland Technology Center (HTC) just north of the DSU campus was ideal for this use, so the DSU Foundation has purchased the HTC from the Lake Area Improvement Corporation (LAIC). The foundation will lease the 10,000 sq. foot building to the university.

“As Dakota State pursues its ambitious research agenda, there is a concurrent need to expand the spaces where new knowledge is discovered,” said Bob Preloger, interim vice president of Institutional Advancement. “The DSU Foundation’s acquisition of the Heartland facility addresses this immediate need and will supplement the new spaces that MadLabs will provide when it opens in the fall of 2019.”

The DSU Foundation requested a $660,000 REDL (Rural Economic Development Loan) from Heartland to complete this purchase, which was finalized on July 31, 2018.

The Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant program provides funding for rural projects through local utility organizations. As a utility provider, Heartland may apply for REDL loans and pass them through for customer use. The Madison-based power company is one of only two entities in the state of South Dakota that can do so, and has a longstanding relationship and excellent track record with USDA.

USDA provides these zero-interest loans to local utilities which they, in turn, pass through to local businesses (referred to as the ultimate recipients) for projects that will create and retain employment in rural areas. These ultimate recipients repay the lending utility directly; the utility is responsible for repayment to the federal agency.

“USDA has certain criteria they look for when approving loans,” said Casey Crabtree, director of economic development at Heartland.

“This project checks all the boxes for what makes a great economic development project and therefore received high scoring from USDA,” Crabtree said. “A business incubator focusing on DSU’s strengths will have a long-lasting impact on the university, the community and the students who are able to utilize it. Heartland is proud to be a partner in seeing it to fruition.”

Research groups should be moving into the facility in September, Griffiths said. With almost five acres of land, there will also be space available for additional buildings if needed, she added.

“The sale of the Heartland Tech Building was crucial to the future growth of DSU and the future economic development of Lake County,” said Rory Maynard, executive director of the LAIC.

“The LAIC and DSU have a great relationship and I am excited to be there for every step of their growth,” he added.

LAIC built the HTC in 2006 as an incubator for businesses focused on technology and has since housed many start-up businesses.

Heartland welcomes economist intern

Heartland has retained an economist intern to help with various projects throughout the summer months. Michael Shlanta, a recent graduate of Dakota State University, joined Heartland at the end of May.

Shlanta will be working with the Operations group to help streamline some of their forecasting processes to increase efficiency in the daily activities Heartland performs on behalf of our customers. Utilizing his computer programming background, Shlanta will help develop a new load forecasting tool. This will help Heartland more accurately anticipate load when scheduling market purchases within the SPP and MISO markets.

“With a limited number of staff at Heartland, continuously improving internal processes becomes a vital exercise,” said Chief Operations Officer Nate Jones. “Michael has the perfect background to dig into our daily forecasting processes.”

Another of Shlanta’s objectives is to provide a comprehensive view of the overall success rate of Heartland’s economic development program. He will be collecting information to gauge how much growth in Heartland’s customer communities can be attributed to the program since it started in 2004.

“We are always evaluating our programs and want to ensure they are providing the desired benefit,” said Heartland Director of Economic Development Casey Crabtree. “This will help us gauge the return on investment our incentives are providing and help determine what modifications we can make in the future.”

Shlanta will also be creating a program to more easily track business growth in the future, creating a meaningful way to evaluate incentives and loans as they are distributed.

Heartland applied for and was awarded funding through the American Public Power Association’s DEED (Demonstration of Energy & Efficiency Developments) Program for the internship. DEED awards scholarships to provide work experience to students at utilities and to support research projects that can be emulated by other utilities.

Shlanta currently resides in Madison and will be attending graduate school in the fall at DSU. He previously worked as a student researcher in the Cyclops Research Lab at DSU and also as a systems intern at CitiBank.