Year in Review:
As I near my one-year anniversary in Hettinger, I’m thankful that this gem of a community tucked into rural North Dakota took a chance on me.
The strides we’ve made in both community and economic development in 2018, however, were not left to chance. The successes and growth of this year are a testament to the hard work and dedication of the members of this community. The hundreds of people who’ve volunteered their time, resources, skills, and leadership to this community remind me why Margaret Mead was exactly right when she said: “Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.”
I have no doubt that together, with thoughtful action and a commitment to progress, we’ll continue to thrive and share with the world why it is that we love the place we live.
Year in Review:
ix years ago, my family moved to Hettinger from Rapid City so I could take the Research Agronomist job at the NDSU Hettinger Research Extension Center (HREC). I was excited about the position, but I asked Jennifer several times between applying and accepting the job “Are you sure you are OK with moving to Hettinger?” We both grew up in a small town in Nebraska but had come to love living in the Black Hills and hadn’t ever planned on leaving there. But life happens and the opportunity to take a better job was too good to pass up. I had been to Hettinger a few times for work. It always appeared to be an active and vibrant town, and being partial to the treeless open prairie, I always thought that if we moved to small town again it would be a place like Hettinger. When we visited for the interview, Jennifer felt it was place she could live, and since her employer has a work at home program, she could bring her job along with her. So, we packed up our things and headed up SD 79. Well, I wish it was really that easy to move, but that is the idealized version.
Wanting to be involved in the community we were living in, I took the opportunity to join the Hettinger Chamber of Commerce board of directors. At that time the Chamber was mainly involved in planning and running the major events in Hettinger like the 4th of July, the Fair and Rodeo, Wake Up Santa and Street Fest. Though these events did drive business into town, we could see that more needed to be done. Except for an uptick when the wind farm was being built, sales tax receipts had been declining for several years, and we were seeing businesses close. The Chamber then formed a marketing committee to promote shopping locally in an era when it is so easy to order online and have most anything shipped to your doorstep. Hopefully you have seen the billboards on the east and west side of town, heard the promotional spots on the local radio, and read the business spotlights in the local papers.
The Chamber is a volunteer board with members that have full-time jobs, making it difficult to devote the time necessary to run our long-standing events while also expanding our reach. When the Adams County Development Corporation (ACDC) director retired, we started discussions with the ACDC board on combining their part-time director position into a full-time position that would serve both boards. Though the organizations have somewhat different missions, there is a lot of synergy with promoting and improving the economic health of Hettinger and Adams County.
With the hiring of an Executive Director who is able to devote time to Chamber goals, we are now able to provide more services to our chamber members. One of the benefits of an Executive Director is having a person with the time and ability to apply for grants. There are many public and private grant opportunities for community improvement, but the application process takes a significant amount of time beyond what our volunteers could devote. In the short time our Executive Director, Jasmin Fosheim, has been here, we have been awarded several grants that have allowed us to improve our marketing of area businesses, promote tourism and improve recreation.
One of the most exciting events this year was Helping Hettinger Day. The day greatly exceeded our expectations with over 150 people donating a Sunday afternoon to spruce up Hettinger and make it an even more pleasant town to live and work in. It shows that so many people care about the community we live in and can come together to make it even better. I’m looking forward to the 2nd annual Helping Hettinger Day in spring of 2019.
As I look back on my tenure as president, it has been an exciting time to see so many positive changes. I look forward to the Chamber, ACDC, Dakota Buttes Visitors Council, local government and other community organizations working together promote the wonderful town and county we live in. As the new city motto says, “Love the Place You Live.”
John Rickertsen-Hettinger Chamber of Commerce President
If you’re interested in learning more about our accomplishments throughout the year, go to hettingernd.com to view our 2018 Annual Report or stop by the Community Promotions Office to get yourself a copy.