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Economic development is about changing lives


Charity: Water is an organization that electrifies Silicon Valley billionaires into donating millions to bring water wells to African villages. The need is evident for everyone to see, but the Charity: Water idea for motivating financial commitment is revolutionary. Instead of focusing on the thousands of African people and hundreds of villages that need water, the charity group asks each donor to focus on one person, one story, one result of the availability of potable water to an individual who never had it before.

           

 

The effects of that concept have produced stories in the New York Times and across the Internet about the level of participation and success Charity: Water has seen. Along with transparency and good reporting of results, Charity: Water’s focus on the “heart” stories have underscored the human element in fundraising, and transformed American charitable giving.

           

 

What does this have to do with economic development? Perhaps in a less dramatic way, economic development is also about changing the lives of people—people looking for jobs, for opportunity, for a future. We look for benchmarks in economic development that sometimes are weighted toward statistics that equate investment to construction and construction to employment numbers. We then extrapolate employment numbers into population data and population data into new housing starts and the economic ripple effect of payroll reports. Those numbers are important to understanding our economy and its success—but they overlook the impact economic growth has on people.

           

 

When a business in our region expands—or a new company relocates here—we’re seeing an investment in the people who live here. Families will have a better standard of living as better-paying jobs become available. Mom and pop businesses will grow, providing more opportunity and more success for the founders of those operations. And young people—so crucial to our workforce development goals—will seek their futures here, where they can achieve their dreams.

           

 

Each of those individuals will have a better life in the Sioux Falls area because of economic development and enhancement of our economy. We need to look at those real-person stories and understand the good we do. It’s a benchmark that’s hard to measure, but vital to our success. 

 

 

By Slater Barr, President, Sioux Falls Development Foundation 

 

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