Organization Focus: Forward Sioux Falls

If you’ve ever been curious about the forces behind the city’s continuously growing economy and quality of life, a fitting place to turn is Forward Sioux Falls.

While it’s just one facet of what goes into successful community development, the organization has provided Sioux Falls with vision, strategy, and financial backing since 1987, when the first initiative was set in motion.

Forward Sioux Falls is “the proven and successful joint venture economic development partnership between the Sioux Falls Area Chamber of Commerce and the Sioux Falls Development Foundation,” said Mike Lynch, Director of Investor Relations.

Since its inception, the initiative has raised over $52 million toward the enhancement of Sioux Falls’ economy and overall quality of life.

Forward Sioux Falls 2021 is the seventh iteration of the initiative, each of which spans five years. Approximately 400 investors come together during each campaign to support a variety of programs freshly imagined for the community’s needs.

Investors range in size and scope, and according to Lynch, the majority of funding comes from the private sector—not the norm within economic development organizations. View the list of 2021 investors here

“What really is outstanding about Sioux Falls as a whole, and the business community as it relates to Forward Sioux Falls, is how competitors push aside that competitive nature, the attitude of ‘I must win,’” said Lynch. “Our mantra is, ‘a rising tide lifts all boats,’ and ultimately, we have this pool of money that will fund these programs for the next five years, and it’s done in a way that these businesses truly understand the importance of lifting up the macro economy.”

The committees and divisions that make up Forward Sioux Falls’ leadership team include members of the Chamber, the Development Foundation, and the greater business community.

Prior to each campaign, surveys and discussions take place between Forward Sioux Falls and the business community to determine the areas of greatest need. This guides the development of each program and its goals for the term.

Current programs and investments include:

Program goals point to a strong, growing workforce

Ultimately, Lynch says, everything in the 2021 initiative points back to the Strategic Workforce Action Agenda. The agenda focuses on talent attraction, retention, and development, and each of the programs play an important role.

“It’s like all the programs are on the same team, but each has a role to push the needle forward so Sioux Falls continues to be a prominent economic force,” said Lynch.

The programs’ efforts will develop the local workforce, expand existing companies, and attract new companies and employees to the area.

“Much of what we showcase is what an outstanding quality of life the Sioux Falls area has,” said Lynch. “The more the word gets out, it simply puts an exclamation mark on why an individual would want to live, work, and play here.”

The development of Foundation Park, for instance, offers companies an 820 acre megasite with all the convenience and infrastructure necessary to produce quick and lasting success.

Similarly, promoting local air service and international trade is essential for both economic development and quality of life. As one of its long standing programs, Forward Sioux Falls’ air service committee aims to ensure flight and carrier availability for both the business community and individuals.

Another program, the USD Discovery District, brings together education, research, and business in an 80 acre development seeking to foster innovation.

Lynch emphasizes the importance of the individual programs within Forward Sioux Falls over the organization itself.

“What’s most important is to know that the opportunities are there,” said Lynch. “At the end of the day, the general public needs to understand the essence of what Zeal does and what Foundation Park does, and what these programs offer. The funding mechanism is just so that they can exist.”

Getting involved as a startup

Ultimately, there are two ways to get involved with Forward Sioux Falls—as an investor or a program participant and supporter.

Investors are welcome at any level, and Forward Sioux Falls recognizes that everyone starts out small.

“Everyone is a significant contributor,” said Lynch. “Whether by dollars or by the understanding that they believe in the cause. They know it ultimately will come back to benefit their ROI, and that someday they’ll become bigger investors, growing as the economy grows.”

While all programs in the 2021 initiative seek to build up the business economy, for the startup community in particular, Zeal is a natural place to get involved.

“Zeal is truly a success story,” said Lynch. “What really emanates from Forward Sioux Falls’ commitment to Zeal is the understanding that startups are a significant factor to the economy.”

Together, Forward Sioux Falls and Zeal support early-stage companies through initiatives like the accelerator program and microloan and investment programs.

“While it’s crucial to support existing successful businesses, we also realize that startups are an important part of the whole economic ecosystem,” said Lynch.

Read more about Forward Sioux Falls’ 2021 goals for Entrepreneurship and Innovation.

Two Things You Can Do This Week:

  • Familiarize yourself with Forward Sioux Falls’ programs by exploring the website and reading about the 2021 initiative.
  • Consider becoming an investor. Contact Mike Lynch, Director of Investor Relations, at (605) 373-2009 for more information.
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