CEO’s Report: Protecting rural development through advocacy

Heartland focused on the USDA REDLG program during 2019 APPA Legislative Rally

We’ve been talking a lot lately about state legislation that could potentially have a negative impact on municipal electric systems in South Dakota. That doesn’t mean we’ve forgotten about the importance of advocacy at the federal level.

The APPA Legislative Rally was held the last week of February in Washington, D.C. While this crazy winter weather prevented some of us from attending, several Heartland board members were able to make it and had quality visits with legislators and representatives from the U.S. Department of Agriculture regarding economic development.

Heartland board members hosted a dinner with South Dakota officials during the Legislative Rally. From left to right, Barb Fritz, Heartland board member Roger Fritz, U.S. Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), U.S. Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD), State Director of USDA Rural Development in South Dakota Julie Gross, Heartland board member Dave Hahler, Nancy Lewellen, and Heartland board members Bill Lewellen and Jeff Heinemeyer.

Our main focus on this trip was our economic development programs, particularly our use of REDLG funds and a requirement of the program that may hinder development in our communities.

USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan and Grant Program (REDLG) provides 0% interest loans to utilities, such as Heartland, which we pass through to customers, their economic development corporations or local businesses to spur rural economic development. The ultimate recipients repay the lending utility (Heartland) and the utility is responsible for repayment to USDA.

Because Heartland is not an RUS borrower through USDA, we are required to provide a Letter of Credit, and generally assessed a fee, anywhere from 1% to 6%, by a local bank, which is passed on to the recipient. The fee schedule is set by the bank and we are responsible for that amount.

This fee can add up quickly over the course of the loan, and essentially, we are no longer offering a 0% loan.

Heartland has provided several REDLG loans over the years for projects such as infrastructure improvements, industrial park development and business development.

One of the best example is in White, SD, population 485, where a developer purchased a former care center which had been closed for several years, to create a mixed-use facility known as The Farmstead, with a healthcare clinic, daycare, fitness center, office space and apartments and the creation of over 15 jobs.

Project officials behind The Farmstead celebrated kick-off of the renovation with a ceremonial “wall-breaking” December 1, 2017.

Heartland was awarded a REDLG loan to pass on to The Farmstead. But, the entire project was almost derailed due to the letter of credit requirement. Today, the project is providing much needed services to the community of White as well as jobs and other economic benefits.

This unnecessary requirement will stop projects in rural communities from moving forward. Also, the only entities that stand to gain for this requirement are the banks.

“As with any economic development project in rural areas, the margins on our project in White were very thin. If not for other incentives provided, the community would have lost these businesses, jobs, tax revenue and the building would have been torn down. The Farmstead is a true rural economic development success story, but was almost derailed due to the LOC requirement in the USDA regulations. This unnecessary requirement will certainly stop other projects in rural communities from moving forward.”

– Randy Hanson, project developer, The Farmstead

We had a very productive meeting with USDA officials and look forward to continuing the conversation. We want to keep utilizing this valuable tool to promote development in our rural customer communities.

While in Washington, we also had the pleasure of meeting with Senator Mike Rounds (R-SD), Representative Dusty Johnson (R-SD), Representative Ron Estes (R-KS), Representative Roger Marshall (R-KS), Representative Steve Watkins (R-KS), as well as the energy policy advisors for Representative Jim Hagedorn (R-MN) and Senator Joni Ernst (R-IA).

Representative Steve Watkins, left, is serving his first term for Kansas’ Second Congressional District. From left to right, Heartland board members Dave Hahler, Roger Fritz, Bill Lewellen and Jeff Heinemeyer met with Watkins to discuss public power during the Legislative Rally.

Advocacy at every level is important for public power. From advocating to our own customers, at the state or federal level, we must continue telling the public power story and promoting all the benefits it has to offer.

I hope you all continue to stay safe and warm as we ride out the rest of this long winter.

2018 Summer Conference combines work + play

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Healing hands coming to White

Public Power is Good for Business: Massage therapist brings services to The Farmstead

Public Power is Good for Business is a quarterly section highlighting successful businesses and projects located in our customer communities. Public power communities help foster prosperity and growth by offering reliable electric service at cost-based rates.


Diane Kinney, owner of Health Through Massage

When it comes to healing, Diane Kinney believes it runs in her blood. As a young girl, she watched her grandmother, a “toe tickler,” alleviate pain through reflexology.

“I’d watch her work with people and it was fascinating,” she said. “I remember, our pastor had post-polio syndrome, and he could barely stand or walk down the aisles of church. But leaving her treatments, he’d walk out with ease.”

Following in her grandmother’s footsteps, Kinney also seeks to help others as a licensed massage therapist.

Through her business, Health Through Massage, she offers a variety of massage techniques as well as reflexology, aromatherapy and other remedies for clients of all ages.

Kinney previously operated her business out of an exercise facility in a nearby town. In June, hers will be the latest establishment to open in The Farmstead, a one-of-a-kind, multi-purpose building under construction in White, SD.

“I live in White, so I’m very excited to have my business in my hometown,” she said. “It’s what I’ve always dreamed of–having something right next door.”


Skilled in body treatments

Originally from Veblen, SD, Kinney has been involved in the Brookings area healthcare industry in varying capacities since 1996.

Kinney utilizes aromatherapy during sessions.

She worked as a Certified Occupational Therapy Assistant for the Brookings Health System until 2002. She’s treated hospice patients and the elderly through local hospitals and nursing homes and has gained clients through referrals from area doctors and physical therapists.

As a massage therapist, she specializes in a broad variety of techniques, including deep tissue, Swedish, Meridian therapeutic, neuromuscular, hot stone and more. Through continuing education and training, she’s broadened her scope of services to include treatments like kinesio taping.

She’s also an independent distributor of Young Living Oils.

Her treatments provide pain and stress relief as well as help with long-term improvements, such as renewed energy, increased circulation, improved sleep and injury prevention.


The Farmstead presents new opportunities

The Farmstead is a $1.6 million multi-use facility spearheaded by Dedicated Investments Group (DIG) of Brookings. Housed in a completely renovated former senior living center, The Farmstead will house multiple amenities under one roof.

DIG is remodeling the 20,000 square-foot space to include a restaurant, day care, salon, office space, laundromat and fitness center. It will also offer twelve apartments, both one and two-bedroom.

Brookings Health System recently re-opened their newly remodeled clinic in a portion of the building. Kinney will be the facility’s second tenant, occupying office space.

The move to White will eliminate her daily commute and free up more time for appointments. It will be more out of the way for some of her clients, but they say they’re willing to make the drive.

She said the new location will likely allow her to take on some new clients as well, and her proximity to a fitness center and a health clinic might also work in her favor.

“I’m used to working with personal trainers and healthcare professionals to help with all kinds of needs. At The Farmstead, they’ll be right next door, so maybe there will be more opportunities for collaboration.”

Fitting, considering collaboration has been key to The Farmstead since the beginning.

DIG partnered with Mills Construction for the physical design and remodel, and Mills Property Management to manage the property once it is complete. They secured $1 million in financing with help from Heartland, the city’s wholesale power supplier, and USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant Program.

All involved say the facility will create jobs, generate more local tax revenue and bring needed services to the area. For Kinney, the impact was immediate.

“The Farmstead is great for the community and the perfect solution for me,” she said.

Life experiences led the way

Although Kinney primarily credits her grandmother, several family members and life experiences growing up have led her down this career path.

When she was in the third grade, her older brother Michael, age 12, was severely injured in a horse-related accident.

“He suffered a traumatic brain injury and was in a coma for seventeen days,” she recalls. “When he woke, he had to re-learn everything.”

Michael had to endure extensive occupational and physical therapy treatments as well as brain and memory exercises.

“He had to start over,” she said. “He had to learn how to eat, walk and talk. We were re-introduced to him as his siblings. It was like he was a baby.”

To further complicate things, her mother had another actual baby to raise—Kinney’s younger brother, Wayne.

As the older sister, she helped with Wayne, who was born with a disability and also needed therapy.

The experiences left quite the impression on a young Kinney.

“Seeing what Michael went through at the hospital and helping Wayne with therapy at home led me to my therapeutic line of work,” she said.

Health and help through massage

Many years after watching her grandmother care for others, it was Kinney’s turn to help her ailing grandmother.

“At the end of her life, she was sick with cancer,” she said. “I gave her treatments for four years, and it extended and improved her quality of life.”

Kinney’s aunt was also a reflexologist and was able to work until the age of 91. She hopes she gets the same longevity out of her career, if only to continue providing relief.

“I believe I can provide the community with care. Whatever a person needs, I’m here to help,” she said.

New $1.6 million multi-use facility to open in White

Community building will provide needed services to rural community, create jobs

A group of investors is hoping to transform the rural community of White with the addition of a $1.6 million multi-purpose facility known as The Farmstead. A former senior living center is being completely renovated to house multiple amenities under one roof.

Dedicated Investments Group (DIG) of Brookings, S.D. purchased the former White Care Center building from the city after it closed its doors in August of 2015. While construction officially started in October, the group held a ceremonial “wall-breaking” on December 1st.

The Farmstead will be remodeled from the former White Care Center, which closed its doors in 2015.

Randy Hanson serves as the managing member of DIG. He said everything about the project is both unique and exciting.

“From the process of determining the best use of the existing building, to the involvement and coming together of so many entities, to the creative financing to the components of the building once it is complete, all are unique. This is an exciting time for the city of White.”

DIG is remodeling the building into a 20,000 square-foot, multi-use community center which will include a healthcare clinic, restaurant, day care, salon, office space, laundromat and gym. It will also offer twelve apartments, both one and two-bedroom.

Brookings Health System currently operates a healthcare clinic in a portion of the building and will remain open during construction.

“Brookings Health System is excited about the opportunities this new space will bring to White,” said their CEO, Jason Merkley. “Our mission at the White Medical Clinic is to provide high quality, compassionate, personalized local care to residents. This facility transformation will greatly enhance our ability to care for our patients and better serve the community and surrounding area.”

Randy Hanson speaks during the wall-breaking ceremony.

Prior to development, Mills Construction Architectural Department led a series of community discussions focusing on the needs and desires of local residents. From that feedback, they learned The Farmstead offered an opportunity to provide much needed services the community is currently lacking.

“One of the key elements in our design process was to include residents of the city of White in the conversation about community needs, amenities, and potential business opportunities at The Farmstead,” said Angela Boersma, architect for the project. “The goal is to put business, jobs, and some basic amenities where people live instead of asking them to commute for everything.”

Boersma pointed out that affordable housing, quality daycare, salon services, eating establishments, and medical services are staple components that many rural communities need. Additionally, residents brought up more specific needs related to housing including enclosed parking, storage opportunities, as well as access to laundry and health/wellness facilities.

“All of these elements working together end up creating a hub of activity in the community, and hopefully the success of those businesses helps create even more opportunities for things to grow in White,” added Boersma. “At the end of the day, this project is about more than just creating a building – it’s about helping to build a community.”

White’s mayor, Terry Wright, is excited about the impact The Farmstead will have on the small community of just under 500.

Project officials used golden sledgehammers to ceremoniously kick off construction. White Mayor Terry Wright took the first swing.

“Rural doesn’t have to mean zero amenities,” Wright said. “People love living in our small community, but they also don’t want to have to drive fifteen or twenty miles for services. The Farmstead will also create jobs and generate more local tax revenue. We look forward to all the benefits it will bring our small community.”

DIG has partnered with Mills Construction and Mills Property Management on the project. Mills Construction did the physical design and is remodeling the existing structure. Mills Property Management will manage the property once construction is complete.

DIG secured financing for the project with help from White’s wholesale power supplier, Heartland Consumers Power District of Madison. Utilizing funds from USDA’s Rural Economic Development Loan & Grant Program, Heartland was able to provide DIG with a $1 million, low-interest economic development loan.

“This is truly a unique project and one I can see other rural communities emulating in the future,” said Heartland Director of Economic Development Casey Crabtree. “Heartland is proud to be part of this and looks forward to its success.”

The Farmstead has an anticipated completion date of May 31, 2018. Anyone interested in securing an apartment can contact Mills Property Management at (605) 697-3175. Those interested in commercial space can contact Randy Hanson at (605)697-3100.

Featured image: from left to right, Julie Gross, state director of USDA Rural Development; Angela Boersma, architect for Mills Construction Inc.; Stacy and Randy Hanson, managing members of Dedicated Investment Group (DIG); Casey Crabree, director of economic development for Heartland; and Terry Wright, mayor of White.

View our Gallery for images from the ceremony, including video of some officials swinging at the wall.

The Farmstead to host ceremonial “wall-breaking” to kick off construction

Group hopes to revitalize community, provide needed amenities and create jobs

Dedicated Investments Group (DIG) is hosting a ceremonial “wall-breaking” to officially kick off construction of a multi-purpose facility known as The Farmstead. The one-of-a-kind project involves a complete renovation of a former senior living center in order to house residential and commercial facilities under one roof.

DIG purchased the former White Care Center building from the city of White after the senior living center closed in 2015.

Upon completion, the building will include a restaurant, day care, salon, office space and gym. A healthcare clinic operated by Brookings Health System occupies a current portion of the building and will remain in the facility.

DIG has partnered with Mills Construction and Mills Property Management on the project.

The ceremony will begin with a short program followed by the wall-breaking and photo opportunities.

Speakers include Randy Hanson, managing member of DIG and owner’s representative; Terry Wright, mayor of White; Angela Boersma, architect for Mills Construction; Casey Crabtree, director of economic development for Heartland Consumers Power District; and Julie Gross, state development director for South Dakota for USDA Rural Development.

WHO: Dedicated Investments Group, Mills Construction and Mills Property Management
WHAT: Wall-Breaking Ceremony to kick off construction of The Farmstead
WHEN: Friday, December 1, 2017 at 4:00 p.m.
WHERE: 200 S. Patrick Ave., White, S.D.

The city of White consists of just less than 500 people and is located approximately 16 miles from Brookings, SD.