Harrisburg’s new community development director anticipates big year ahead

Jan. 5, 2021

This paid piece is sponsored by the Lincoln County Economic Development Association.

Harrisburg has named its first community development director — and he plans to get creative in helping support the growing city of nearly 10,000.

Kevin Fitzgibbons is a South Dakota native and USD graduate who has spent the past decade in strategic communications and marketing. His first job, though, was working for the South Dakota secretary of state, so he’s excited for his return to public service.

He shared more about his new job, the community and his expectations for 2021.

What does your new role in Harrisburg entail, and what attracted you to it?

The short answer is I direct the communications and community-building efforts on behalf of the city; however, it goes beyond that. Truly, my duties hinge on my meeting with our schools, chamber, city groups and clubs, various city boards, business leaders and members of the public. I listen to them and take what I have heard and see how we can put their input into action. Sometimes, you must get creative with your solutions.

What kind of year was 2020 for Harrisburg?

I am so proud and impressed by the residents, business leaders and students in Harrisburg. 2020 was an incredibly abnormal year for everyone, and for me to be able to work in this city and see everyone coming together while being mindful of their neighbors’ safety has been incredible to witness.

What is attracting people to Harrisburg or will continue to attract them there?

For as long as I can remember, people have often referred to Harrisburg solely as a bedroom community. While this may have been true 10 years ago or even five years ago, we are seeing incredible growth and grit through the tumultuous 2020. There has been an uptick in small businesses – dentists, restaurants, financial advisers and clothing boutiques – forming here, as well as other established businesses like Hy-Vee, Fareway, Sanford, B&G Milkyway and Dollar General coming to our city because they see the residential growth and business-friendly opportunities Harrisburg has to offer. We cannot forget our existing businesses, which have continued to thrive during this unusual time. The potential this city has to offer is almost limitless. Our state is on the cusp of seeing Harrisburg take off faster than a rocket headed for Mars.

What are some of your initial goals in your new position?

My initial goal for my new position is to learn as much as I can in my first year. Moving forward, my goals are to form this position into one which helps bring solid communication to the residents, visitors, and bring a sense of fun and creativity to the city. I also want our residents and business owners to know we are here for them and support them. There is so much life in this city, and I want to make sure people everywhere know it.

What is 2021 looking like for Harrisburg? What should we be watching for in the community as far as economic growth and development?

Growth. We have seen this city grow at almost 8 percent year over year for the past seven years – even with COVID, we saw our city grow – and I do not see that slowing down anytime soon. With Hy-Vee coming to town and a Sanford Clinic and Lewis Drug all on the way, this town is about to see some serious growth.

What is Harrisburg missing? What more would you like to see there?

I would love to see a brewery in the old bank at 101 Railroad Ave. With the history in that building and the strong community here, Harrisburg could really take pride and support a business like that. I also would not mind seeing an outdoor/sporting goods store. With Harrisburg being near so many state parks – Lake Alvin, Good Earth and the Big Sioux River are all within proximity and Newton Hills and Palisades state parks both only a 30-minute drive – it would be amazing to see a business that specializes in everything from camping goods to kayaks out here.

What has been your biggest surprise since coming to the community, or what do you think might surprise others?

Honesty, the biggest surprise has been that this is a city full of people who care for one another. Not that I should be surprised by this, but the surprising factor was how everyone treats each other. Everyone here is neighbors. What I mean by that is everyone has each other’s backs and are willing to support each other. I have seen an immense amount of generosity and caring from everyone down here. To me, this says more about this city than any of the economic factors.

If people would like to connect with you and learn more about opportunities in Harrisburg, how can they reach you?

People can connect by emailing me at Kevin.Fitz@harrisburgsd.gov or by calling me at 605-767-5078. We look forward to sharing more information about how Harrisburg is a beautiful city with a substantial number of amenities for families as well as opportunities for businesses. I encourage anyone who is even remotely interested in either moving here or starting a business to come down to City Hall and meet with the staff. We will be more than happy to help answer any questions you may have.

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Harrisburg’s new community development director anticipates big year ahead

Harrisburg has named its first community development director — and he plans to get creative in helping support the growing city of nearly 10,000.

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