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Miller Nonprofit Building Houses, Empowering Youth Photo

Miller Nonprofit Building Houses, Empowering Youth

There’s a lot more to economic development than trying to attract big companies to a town to create jobs. Promoting truly sustainable growth is more nuanced, particularly in rural areas. It involves proactive planning and developing leadership from within.


Since 1987, a small group of citizens has been working to grow the economy in Miller, South Dakota through On Hand Development Corporation (OHDC). The nonprofit has been cultivating some creative solutions.

Recently, its two primary areas of focus have been housing and youth.

In an effort to address housing needs in Miller, OHDC spurred the development of two Governor’s Houses in 2017. The Governor’s House program is an innovative initiative with a dual purpose: to train prison inmates in marketable skills such as carpentry and provide affordable homes to income-qualified individuals.


“We really want young people to feel ownership in this community,” Caffee says. “Once their voices are heard and their ideas acted upon, they hopefully will realize how important they are to us and will consider this as a worthy place to raise their families in the future.”


While housing might not be the first issue that comes to mind when one considers economic development, quality housing is a prerequisite for growth. “You’ve got to have housing if you want people to come to your town,” explains Tammy Caffee, executive director for OHDC.

Caffee says the Governor’s Houses are energy efficient, safe and secure — making them excellent starter homes for young families. A family of six moved to Miller and purchased one of the homes. One house is still available.

Bringing new families to town has a number of important ripple effects. It augments the town’s tax base, workforce and school enrollment.

A second big priority for OHDC is engaging area youth. In 2016, OHDC asked teachers to recommend a group of students in grades 7-12 with leadership potential. This committee of young people began to meet regularly.

They came up with the idea for “Cozy Cabin Christmas,” a fun project to encourage entrepreneurship. Garden sheds were rented and entrepreneurs were recruited to provide a pop up market experience in Miller during the holiday shopping season.

The students set up their own businesses –— a t-shirt shop and a photo booth. Adults also participated, with shops featuring items such as baked goods, bath products and repurposed furniture.

Caffee says the project has had a surprising impact. The portable garden sheds rented for the event have been in demand. The business that provided them has been growing. And the 7th grade student who had the photo booth idea won an entrepreneur contest to pursue her unique business plan. People are now hiring her to bring the photo booth to area events.

The pop up event was so successful that it continued in 2017, both in July and December.

In 2018, youth leaders want to create an indoor movie theater. Since the local indoor movie theater closed, winter entertainment options are limited. Though the area has a very popular drive-in theater, Miller residents have to travel two hours round trip to see a movie in the colder months.

The students are brainstorming about organizing an indoor movie pop up event, likely using the theater space at the local high school.

Through these efforts, OHDC is empowering students to creatively solve problems close to home. It’s a powerful lesson that Caffee hopes will have a secondary effect.

“We really want young people to feel ownership in this community,” Caffee says. “Once their voices are heard and their ideas acted upon, they hopefully will realize how important they are to us and will consider this as a worthy place to raise their families in the future.”

On Hand Development Corporation is a member of the South Dakota Prairie Gateway, a portal for economic development information in Eastern Rural Communities of South Dakota.
 

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526 North Broadway Avenue
Miller, SD 57362
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