Andrea Powers is new SHEDCO director

Farm Forum

HOT SPRINGS – Andrea Powers was just 12 days into her new job as executive director of the Southern Hills Economic Development Corporation (SHEDCO), based in Hot Springs on Wednesday afternoon, Sept. 2.

And short of getting a black eye from being head-bonked by her new puppy that morning, she had stepped fully into her new position, is looking forward to serving the community that has shared much with her, she said.

Powers, originally from Memphis, Tenn., during the last three decades has worked in two fields that oddly enough lend themselves to her current job.

One field is education. Powers spent nearly three decades in education, including 11 years as a grant administrator for five school districts, and serving as the executive director of a consortium of school districts.

She knows how to acquire grants, she said, smiling.

Her other career was serving as a park ranger and a fire behaviorist monitor at 10 different regional national parks. These include the Badlands, Wind Cave, Jewel Cave and Mount Rushmore park here in South Dakota; Devil’s Tower in Wyoming; and Theodore Roosevelt, Knife River and Fort Union parks in North Dakota.

The thing that attracted her to the SHEDCO position, she said, was a chance to “give back to the county that gave me so much.”

“I like jobs where I can provide a service, and serve as a resource for people,” she said. “And this position fits that bill. I like to explore all kinds of opportunities and learn what’s going on in the rest of the communities.”

Powers said her ultimate SHEDCO goal is to create “a better quality of life for people in the Southern Hills.”

Brian Spitzer, president of the SHEDCO board – Powers’ boss – agreed.

SHEDCO, now going into its fourth year, has many on-going projects, Spitzer said. He noted one of the group’s goals is to gather grants for Hot Springs and Edgemont. Another effort involves enhancing storefronts in Fall River County. He also talked about how many home-based businesses are coming into the community, and how SHEDCO can help start-up businesses as well as people retiring to Hot Springs using SHEDCO as a resource center.

Powers said one of her focuses is creating pathways to help people accomplish their goals.

Spitzer also saw Powers as an assister, a reference and referral source for businesses.

SHEDCO, Spitzer also said, is interested in getting more involved with Dakota Resources and their Dakota Rising effort , a three-year program that helps rural entrepreneurs find new ways to grow their business.

Dakota Resources helps rural communities find “practical ways” to “revitalize” their community, based on five proven asset-based approaches that help communities grow, according to information from the group. These five techniques focus on including new voices in the planning process, partnering with surrounding communities, developing leadership skills within the community, building economic engines to strengthen resources and create wealth for the community, and developing the community’s existing assets as a foundation for future growth.

Spitzer said he sees great potential in Dakota Rising for Fall River and southern Custer counties, the area that SHEDCO serves.

Begun in 2008, Dakota Rising is a community of successful business owners who mentor entrepreneurs who demonstrate that they have the passion, drive and will to grow their companies.

The program’s ultimate goals are to help rural South Dakota business owners become better managers, achieve greater success and employ more people.

Spitzer pointed to the example of an Aberdeen farmer’s son who began making custom farming equipment for that area’s agricultural community and wanted to grow his business. Dakota Rising helped this man find a three-year program to benefit his business and help him grow as an entrepreneur. He also received a grant for conferences and travel, important elements in networking to help his business grow.

Spitzer and Powers also talked about the $10,000 grant SHEDCO received the day before and what they intend to do with it.

The grant, matched by $10,000 of community money, is earmarked to help Hot Springs “reinvent its economic and community climate” amidst the instability surrounding the future of the Veterans Hospital.

With it SHEDCO hired a professional consultant – Kristi Wagner, president of the Rushmore Center for Civic Leadership – to conduct “community listening sessions” and act as a “community coach,” Spitzer said.

Wagner will meet with community groups to listen, gather information and share themes that can help the groups accomplish their goals, Spitzer said.

The target is getting 300 more people involved in the community, and creating the community we want to be in 2020, he said.

Spitzer noted how, several years ago, a $2,000 Horizons grant for a community study resulted in the Boys & Girls Club. He believed Wagner and SHEDCO will develop similar efforts, try to bring more people together, to vision collectively, instead of each group trying to do its own thing.

Spitzer pointed to Sturgis’s success in developing the Rally event since 2007 as an example of what a community working together can create.

Powers is helping in this effort to bring the community closer, Spitzer said, serving as a facilitator, a resource person.

To accomplish this, Powers is reaching out to the community, urging people to get to know her, learn what SHEDCO can do for them. She and Spitzer urged the community to contact her, stop by the 401 North River Street office, visit SHEDCO’s website at, call 745-3551 or 890-0338, or e-mail her at