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Feb. 21, 2021
I figured it wasn’t worth even trying to schedule the meeting.
No way would I manage to find a time slot that worked for a bank president and two hospital CEOs with all of two days as options and about that much notice.
Calendars like those are impossible to coordinate even weeks out, so I figured one in-person interview and a couple of emailed quotes probably would be the way I’d have to put this story together.
I think it took these guys all of 24 hours to prove me wrong.
You can read their story Monday, when we publish a first look at the new five-year Forward Sioux Falls campaign. This is a signature approach our community has taken – as the name indicates – to propel us forward for 37 years.
This campaign always seems to come at what I’ve considered critical times in this community. A decade ago, I remember helping form the strategies for it as we focused on job creation and emerging from the Great Recession. Five years later, as we acknowledged true deficits in workforce, Forward Sioux Falls backed a vision to attract and cultivate more talent.
And today, this community again seems to be on the precipice of tackling what we need to do to get to that proverbial next level. With intense business activity and what I’m guessing will be record numbers of new residents, we seem to be standing at our next stage of growth.
“What we all enjoy about Sioux Falls didn’t happen by accident,” said Dave Rozenboom, president of First Premier Bank, who co-chaired the previous five-year campaign and is co-chairing this one as well.
He’s joined by a 40-person Cabinet – the biggest ever – representing a huge cross-section of the business community.
“It’s important our Cabinet members understand that story and be able to articulate it and carry it on,” Rozenboom continued. “It’s the education process of letting people know what’s made our community successful in the past and what it will take in the future.”
There are a lot of chapters to that story, but my early morning interview with these leaders brought one of them clearly to light.
And that’s why I left with not just a news story but this column.
Rewind a little with me. Before the pandemic. Back when I used to go visit business leaders in their offices and walk the halls of their organizations with them.
I had done that in 2019 with both Sanford Sioux Falls CEO Paul Hanson and Avera McKennan CEO Dave Flicek.
And in both cases, our conversations for some reason had ended up touching on their across-town counterparts.
“You know, he seems like a pretty nice guy,” I remember one of them telling me about the other.
“I don’t talk to him often, but when we do, we really get along pretty well,” the other told me.
I’m paraphrasing, but you get the picture.
So months ago, when I heard Flicek and Hanson would be co-chairing the upcoming Forward Sioux Falls campaign together, I remember automatically smiling. This was going to be fun to watch.
And when I got lucky enough to have them both in the same interview, I fully intended to bring this up.
They beat me to it.
“Paul and I came together with COVID,” Flicek told me. “It was something that brought us together.”
They talked daily throughout the pandemic response.
“(I’d ask) ‘How are you doing today?’ And he’d ask how I was doing,” Flicek continued. “Every day we got through COVID together and put the competition down and said let’s just take care of the community.”
At one point, they learned a community outside Sioux Falls didn’t have a plan to care for patients.
“Their COVID plan was us – send everything to Sioux Falls,” Hanson said. “The realization came that we have to work together because of the broad reach and expertise we have. There are times you say enough is enough, and we have to get together on the same team, and that certainly happened.”
As they learned about incoming patients, it literally became “I’ll take one, you take one, so we still have bed capacity,” Flicek said.
“You can compete, but in the end it’s about a greater Sioux Falls.”
While COVID-19 thankfully has calmed down, the hospital CEOs still talk at least weekly. Hanson agreed to join Flicek on a nonprofit board in addition to co-chairing Forward Sioux Falls.
The two found they “actually like each other,” Hanson laughed. “Go figure on that one. And I don’t know if it’s that well known that Dave (Rozenboom) orchestrated this and did a wonderful job.”
He turned to Rozenboom: “I think a lot of credit goes to you and your vision for this campaign.”
I am not that familiar with the inner workings of many cities, but Tom Micelotta is. He helped guide the feasibility study for Forward Sioux Falls as part of the firm National Community Development Services and was part of our interview.
So I asked him to weigh in on the uniqueness of this community-first mindset.
“You have such a collaborative spirit with all your leaders,” he said.
“They may compete for business outside, but everybody, when they come into the Chamber or Development Foundation, all have a single goal to make the community a better place to live, work and enjoy a better quality of life. You don’t see that in many communities. We’ve worked with more than 500 communities, and I’ve never seen a community that works stronger and more collaboratively than Sioux Falls.”
We never can lose sight of what a competitive advantage that is. And when you think about it, there are a lot of forces conspiring to drive divisiveness – especially in our current environment and as our population continues to diversify and our business community continues to expand.
The fact that the Sioux Falls-based leaders of our two largest employers didn’t just set competition aside but forged friendship is a model for all of us. That’s what we mean when we talk about the Sioux Falls way.
“The Sioux Falls way is not a zero-sum game,” Rozenboom agreed. “It’s not about winners and losers. It’s about putting our chips on the table together and making the pie bigger.”
“You can compete, but in the end it’s about a greater Sioux Falls.” And this is the perfect example of living that mentality.