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May 15, 2014

Black Hills economic development groups launch new marketing initiative

An alliance of Black Hills business, government and economic development leaders have banded together to create a new marketing initiative that will leverage the resources of 21 different organizations into a single entity called the Rushmore Region Alliance.

Officials from Butte, Lawrence, Meade, Pennington, Custer and Fall River counties are part of the Rushmore Region Alliance. The campaign features a new comprehensive website, printed materials, advertising and promotions -- all flying the Rushmore Region flag.

Custer Mayor Gary Lipp, whose city has long supported region-wide economic development, said Custer has a lot of opportunities for new and expanding businesses. However, the city doesn’t have the resources to get the word out.

“We all have to work together in this day and age,” Lipp said. “This kind of cooperative marketing will really give us the leverage of a large organization. It’s good for everybody.”

Benjamin Snow, president of the Rapid City Economic Development Partnership, said a single entity such as the Rushmore Region can draw more attention from site selectors, expanding companies and entrepreneurs who have an interest -- but little personal knowledge -- of the Black Hills business community.

He said the initiative will primarily focus on companies in previously identified target industries, including energy, healthcare, IT and engineering, metalwork manufacturing, small scale food-and-beverage processing and financial services. Research shows that those industries have the best prospects for expanding the Black Hills economy and lifting average wages in the region.

“We chose the Rushmore Region name because our research showed that Mount Rushmore National Memorial is our most recognizable icon,” said Bryan Walker, executive director of the Spearfish Economic Development Corp. “But Rushmore is more than an icon: We’re telling prospects that they can conduct business with the freedom our Founding Fathers intended. That speaks to the frustration that a lot of business owners and entrepreneurs feel elsewhere.”

Walker said the campaign will target site selectors and corporate relocation executives, referred to as the “unaware influencers,” as well as college alumni, former residents and business owners who have ties to the area. The campaign will also target existing Rushmore Region business owners who want to expand their operations but might not know what resources are available.

The idea for the Rushmore Region Alliance grew out of discussions three years ago among members of the Black Hills Business Council. Other organizations such as the Rapid City Economic Development Partnership, Spearfish Economic Development and the Black Hills Council of Local Governments joined the effort.

Another regional economic development organization, Black Hills Vision, funded the project. Chuck Loomis, chairman of Black Hills Vision, said the Rushmore Region Alliance is a positive step toward continuing the regional cooperation and public-private partnerships that Black Hills Vision has been supporting.

In the past, Black Hills Vision has sponsored initiatives in support of Ellsworth Air Force Base, the Sanford Underground Lab, affordable housing and the creation of a Black Hills technology corridor.

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