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Public gathering places play a vital role in the social life of a community. Community centers help cultivate relationships and a sense of belonging. Publicly owned recreational amenities like parks and gymnasiums take it a step further, enabling residents to reap the additional mind and body benefits of getting physical.
Unfortunately, it can be prohibitively expensive to build and maintain such facilities. When the Faulkton, South Dakota community identified a need for a second school gym in 2003, there wasn’t a clear path forward to achieving this goal.
In the end, the Rural Electric Economic Development Fund and the Faulkton Area Economic Development Corporation teamed up to make the gym happen.
The REED Fund offered FAEDC a low-interest loan for the project. REED offers business development and expansion loans but also has loans geared towards improving quality of life and community. The school gym, with locker and weight rooms, is open to the public — which makes it a great example of the latter.
As plans were in the works for the gym, the city of Faulkton realized an opportunity to build an adjoining community center to the building. In 2004, the complementary, community-oriented facilities were completed.
FAEDC owns and manages the Melius Center. The facility was named after a generous private donor for the project and is used extensively for physical education classes and extracurricular activities such as youth basketball and volleyball leagues. The public can purchase affordable memberships to for the gym.
The city owns the community center and FAEDC manages it. The center includes a meeting room and kitchen. It’s well utilized for events like conferences, wedding receptions, banquets, trainings and more.
The project was a boon to the community — with significant ripple effects. “We’re 13 years into it now. The school has benefited and the community has benefited from this project,” says Trevor Cramer, director of FAEDC. “Because the project is on our balance sheet, we now have the ability to finance a housing development and an industrial park too.”
Cramer noticed a lack of buildable lots when he moved to town to work for FAEDC, a clear problem for a town intent on growing. “Right now there’s nowhere to build in Faulkton,” says Cramer. “This is something this community really needs.”
Cramer’s team is working to solve this problem with a 24-lot housing development in Faulkton. It recently started marketing the lots. Over the next decade, Cramer expects 20 houses to be built in the development, which is self-contained, has three cul-de-sacs and is surrounded by a belt of trees.
FAEDC is also encouraging business growth in the community. It just completed a 28-acre industrial park east of Faulkton on U.S. Highway 212. The development received a grant from the governor’s office and a REED Fund loan. Eleven lots are available. Cramer says one anchor tenant is already committed and several other businesses are looking at relocating or expanding to the area.
The housing development and industrial park will help promote growth in the town for years to come. REED funding was the spark that started it all. ”Without the gym and community center, we couldn’t do these additional projects. We wouldn’t have the assets to do something like this on our own,” says Cramer.
FAEDC also worked with the REED Fund to help finance a strip mall for Walkabout Developments in 2013. The Faulkton Retail Center is now home to five businesses, including two new businesses and three relocated businesses. “This was definitely a win for Faulkton and REED was instrumental in being part of the package that made this happen,” says Cramer.