Civic involvement runs deep in SDN Communications’ culture

Nov. 28, 2018

This paid piece is sponsored by SDN Communications.

Judging from SDN Communications’ high level of civic involvement, you might think the company is one of the biggest employers in the Sioux Falls area. That would be an easy mistake to make.

SDN and its employees are prominently engaged in causes ranging from assisting schoolchildren to serving in community leadership positions.

However, the company only has about 160 full- and part-time employees. That’s a good-sized business, but in terms of total employment it’s not close to the number of jobs provided by several prominent, local companies in fields such as health care, financial service, agricultural processing, manufacturing and retail. Job totals at those companies are measured in the thousands, not the hundreds.

Of course, most of the prominent businesses in Sioux Falls, large and small, are meaningfully engaged in the community. That’s one of the characteristics that makes the area such a cool place to live, work and play.

The fact that a modestly-sized company such as SDN can stand out in a community that values cultural engagement reflects positively not only on company leadership but also the caliber of employees attracted to the company.

“It starts at the top with Mark,” said Vernon Brown, vice president of marketing and community relations, referring to SDN CEO Mark Shlanta. “He’s certainly engaged in the community. He sets an example about how we should give back.”

Shlanta has held leadership positions and continues to assist organizations such as:

  • Boy Scouts of America Sioux Council
  • Sioux Falls Development Foundation
  • Sioux Falls Catholic Schools.

Brown is good example of civic engagement too. He co-led a 30-member community task force that recently assessed public education facility needs in Sioux Falls and proposed a $190 million bond issue. The school board endorsed the proposal, and voters in the school district approved it overwhelmingly. The bond issue will now guide additions and improvements in schools for the next several years.

Brown previously served eight years on the Sioux Falls City Council and continues to embrace positive causes. For example, he initiated SDN’s close relationship with Garfield Elementary School, a public school that lacks a Parent-Teacher Association or similar organization.

SDN’s headquarters, which is in the Garfield attendance area, essentially has become the school’s PTA or PTO. Employees assist with projects and committees, volunteer during Read Across America, do fundraising for BINGO night and collect donations to feed teachers during parent-teacher conferences and provide winter gear for students.

The long-range goal is to get other businesses in the neighborhood similarly engaged with the school, Brown said.

Meantime, SDN’s civic mindedness continues on several other fronts.

SDN encourages community activity in part by annually paying employees for five hours of charitable work at places other than their family’s school or church.

“A lot of SDN’s workforce is involved in the community on their own as well as through company programs,” said Amy Preator, director of human resources. “It’s fun to see how many of the employees donate their own time and resources in our community.”

Preator shared just some of the activities and causes the company and its employees have actively embraced. In addition to the examples already mentioned, the causes include:

  • Serving on committees, the board of directors and pledging donations to the Sioux Empire United Way.
  • Serving as instructors for Junior Achievement, board members for STARBASE and other educational organizations, mentoring students and giving educational presentations in schools.
  • Serving meals at The Banquet and collecting items for Project S.O.S.
  • Participating in events such as the American Heart Association’s Heart Walk.
  • Giving blood regularly to the Community Blood Bank.
  • Committing to clean a 3-mile stretch of Highway 137 twice a year through the Adopt-A-Highway program.
  • Assisting organizations such as the South Dakota Special Olympics and Feeding South Dakota.

Most recently, employees coordinated collections for the Midwest Honor Flight’s next mission to Washington, D.C., in May 2019. Employees raised money by selling $5 stickers for jeans days on Patriots Day and Veterans Day, and collected enough to cover the costs for two veterans’ Final Tour With Honor.

“Our employees always make us proud in how they give back to the community,” Brown said. “Our workforce average age is on the younger side, but their maturity in recognizing a need and stepping up to that need impresses us and the organizations that benefit.”

SDN’s board of managers also deserves credit for ingraining the company with a strong sense of civic responsibility. SDN is owned by 17 independent telecommunications companies that serve different parts of South Dakota, and they are active in their communities.

The owners created SDN in 1989 to help tie their telecommunications networks together. Today, in addition to assisting member companies, SDN specializes in providing broadband connectivity and cybersecurity services for businesses throughout Sioux Falls and in the region.

For information about the company, services and job opportunities, visit the SDN Communications website.

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Civic involvement runs deep in SDN Communications’ culture

From helping kids to honoring veterans and serving in community leadership roles, SDN Communications embraces civic involvement.

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