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Feb. 18, 2019
This paid piece is sponsored by South Dakota Biotech.
Ready to head south right about now? Well, is Vermillion close enough?
Get caught up on all the development activity and research growth happening in this home to everything from tech companies to a growing entrepreneur scene at an event organized by South Dakota Biotech from 4:30 to 6:30 p.m. Feb. 26 at the Vermillion Area Chamber & Development Company, 2 E. Main St.
Enjoy appetizers, beverages and networking with those representing the bioscience industry, higher education and a variety of professionals connected to economic development in South Dakota.
If you’ve not been following the progress of Vermillion, you’re likely going to leave surprised.
We got a preview from Nate Welch, president and CEO of the Vermillion Area Chamber & Development Company.
Vermillion was named South Dakota’s Large Community of the Year by the governor in 2014. It’s going on five years since then, so how have you been able to build on that success?
What’s been so exciting since being named Large Community of the Year in 2014 is that we have been able to take the momentum of those successes that led to us being named Large Community of the Year and have capitalized on them to continue the momentum. In 2014, we completed and opened the Vermillion Technology Center. The 32,000-square-foot office complex allowed us to attract Biotest Pharmaceuticals and retain Navigant Cymetrix. These two separate companies in the Vermillion Technology Center combine for a direct economic impact in the amount of nearly $6 million every year.
Within months of the VTC completing construction, we also completed development of 35 acres of a new residential development. That development included bluff lots and a nice variety of workforce housing. In its first 4.5 years, over 61 percent of the 74 lots have been sold. That is nearly twice as fast as it was originally projected! We also saw two expansions to Vermillion’s Polaris distribution site – both internal operations equipment and external building expansion – a total investment of over $20 million. Additionally, we’ve seen great expansions from MASABA, and we’ve welcomed FlexScreen SD to Vermillion.
Along with those projects, we have seen a revitalized downtown, which in 2014 had less than 75 percent occupancy in that district. Today, we sit with our downtown 99 percent full and showcasing everything one would want – from retail, tech companies, consulting firms, legal offices, restaurants, medical services, beauty services, real estate, marketing and, of course, our own Chamber, economic development, tourism offices and a collaborative co-working space, which are all located in the newly restored McVicker Plaza.
How would you describe the level of biotech activity in Vermillion? What sort of work is occurring there?
We have a healthy amount of biotech capacity in Vermillion. It’s very exciting that with all of the progress we’ve seen in Vermilion, our current opportunities for biotech are only just scratching the surface. We have been in discussions with some larger projects that would prove to be a great fit with the biotech industry. Vermillion is primed and ready for growth in this sector, especially with the University (of South Dakota) located right here.
What do you think might surprise people to learn about what’s been happening in Vermillion?
I think the constant momentum and growth Vermillion has seen can sometimes be a surprise to people who haven’t checked in recently. The best way I can summarize it is through our growth numbers:
In the last four years, the average amount of annual building permits has doubled compared to the four years prior.
In that same timeframe, the average annual amount of construction investments has nearly tripled from the four years prior!
Of course, it’s more than just those building numbers; they show the start of a deep story of the growth Vermillion has experienced. Partnerships with USD and community have become commonplace. As USD President (Sheila) Gestring put it best when we celebrated the grand opening of McVicker Plaza and the groundbreaking of the National Music Museum Preservation Center (all on the same day), “The old way of ‘town and gown’ is no more – I declare from this day forward we are ‘forever partners.’ ”
If people haven’t visited your organization lately, they’re going to discover you’re in a fairly new home. Tell us a little about your new location.
McVicker Plaza is something we are so excited and proud of! We recently completed an exhaustive renovation of one of our oldest buildings in Vermillion, located on Main Street. The building, which dates back to 1884, has been home to everything from business and medical offices, hardware and electrical shops, SDPB, variety shops and apartments.
The VCDC purchased the building in 2016 with the vision to renovate the space to accommodate new offices for the VCDC, a visitor center, a co-working space and USD’s retail store (Charlie’s). The space now offers a flexible workspace to engage more collaboration, both ad hoc and coordinated efforts by the community and the VCDC. One of those coordinated efforts of collaboration is the creation of Up-NEXT Community Coffee Hour, which is a weekly coffee hour, a bit like a 1 Million Cups – our Vermillion twist being that along with entrepreneurial ideas, we discuss community opportunities, topics and events. This allows our community to practice the art of collaboration on a weekly basis. Up-Next Coffee Hour has become the place to go to hear what is coming up next in Vermillion.
What are your expectations for 2019 in Vermillion? What are you anticipating from a development standpoint?
We are really looking forward to 2019 as we prepare to launch our campaign for Vermillion NOW! 3, which is our economic development initiative (much like a Forward Sioux Falls) to coordinate and focus research on enhancing growth priorities for Vermillion. As we begin designing those priorities and objectives, we know for certain that housing, quality of life, business support and attraction will be high. Simply put, we look forward to establishing Vermillion as the destination in South Dakota for opportunities, quality living and great success.
What potential do you see to further grow the bioscience industry in Vermillion?
I’m extremely optimistic for bioscience in Vermillion. With assets like the University of South Dakota, including a pipeline to workforce; our geographic proximity to other major cities, multiple states and the interstate; while complemented by our natural resources, I think the possibilities for growth in the bioscience industry in Vermillion are exciting.
From tech companies to startups, downtown to USD, Vermillion is booming almost five years after being named South Dakota’s Large Community of the Year by the governor.