2022 Annual Report

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As we approach WDC’s 75th anniversary this December – and the last year of the Grow Watertown 2018 – 2023 strategic plan, we reflect on the impact WDC has had on economic development in Watertown over the last 75 years and think about what’s next…

Watertown Development Company to Celebrate 75th Anniversary

WATERTOWN, S.D. —   Watertown Development Company (WDC) is proudly celebrating its 75th anniversary throughout the following year with activities highlighting the company’s history and plans for its future.


Established on December 22, 1947, WDC began as an industrial development corporation for the purpose of furthering economic development in Watertown by acquiring real estate for housing and commercial development and raising the capital needed to purchase and plat its first industrial park in 1956. Over the years, WDC has evolved to meet the development needs of the community and now strategically invests in programming and initiatives in areas such as workforce, business attraction and expansion, community development, and investor relations.


Throughout the past 75 years, WDC has been regionally, nationally, and internationally recognized for its initiatives and excellence in the industry. In 2020, the International Economic Development Council (IEDC) recognized WDC as an Accredited Economic Development Organization (AEDO). According to IEDC, accreditation says to your community that your organization is a leading authority on economic development-related issues. Only 71 organizations have met the criteria to become accredited, with WDC being the only organization in South Dakota to have done so.


WDC will kick off its celebration with a Chamber After 4 on December 8, 2022, from 4:00pm – 6:00pm at the WDC office, located on the 3rd floor of the Commerce Center. The company will continue into the next year with two more reasons to celebrate: the reveal of a new website and the launch of the Grow Watertown 2.0 strategic plan and ensuing capital campaign.


About Watertown Development Company

The Watertown Development Company (WDC) is a private, non-profit economic development company funded by private and public sector stakeholders. The WDC owns and operates buildings, land, and development areas for the economic benefit of the community. Since its establishment in 1947, its efforts have generated substantial impacts and benefits for many decades. The WDC has led strategies and been responsible for the creation of jobs and overall economic opportunity through programs designed to promote and increase the commercial, financial, and economic vitality of the Watertown and its citizens.

Watertown Development Company to Receive State Workforce Program Funds

WATERTOWN, S.D. – Watertown Development Company is proud to announce the Governor’s Office of Economic Development has awarded the organization a workforce recruitment grant in the amount of $100,000.


“Workforce continues to be our biggest challenge and will be for the foreseeable future.  It’s exciting to see GOED make workforce recruitment a priority and offer partnership opportunities to communities across the state.  We will use these funds to enhance our Attract and Enhance workforce program, providing more incentives as we work with our existing businesses to attract employees.,” said Mark Vaux, Watertown Development Company’s Executive Director.


In August, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) announced a workforce recruitment program to inform out-of-state jobseekers that South Dakota businesses across the state are hiring.


Communities were invited to apply for funding, which would be distributed based on the partnership commitment, and the quality of jobs available.


The two-part workforce initiative includes an opportunity for both marketing as well as incentives for workforce recruitment in local communities across the state. The digital marketing effort will promote both businesses and communities looking for help. Incentives such as relocation bonuses, signing bonuses, and upskilling are also included.


With both initiatives, GOED will provide Watertown Development Company funds, to be matched by both the economic development organization and local businesses.


A state-wide workforce campaign has already begun, and individual community campaigns anticipate launching in October throughout the states of South Dakota, Wyoming, Nebraska, Montana, California, Iowa, Minnesota, North Dakota, and Colorado.

Northstar Systembuilt Announces Acquisition of a Second Modular Manufacturing Factory in Watertown, SD

7/1/22 – Northstar Systembuilt announces the acquisition of the BestGen Modular factory, based out of Watertown, SD, this plant was formerly known as Superior Homes. “We’re excited for this growth by adding the Watertown, SD factory to the Northstar Systembuilt name,” said Howard Scott, C.E.O. of Northstar Systembuilt.


“We are committed to delivering quality homes and modular projects and expanding our market by adding the Watertown, SD location,” said Howard Scott, CEO.


Founded in 1995, Northstar Systembuilt started production in Marshall, MN. After moving to Redwood Falls, MN in 2013, the company has further expanded its factory and capacity to the point where it has maximized production capacity at its current factory. By adding the additional production space of the Watertown location, it will enable us in time to more than double our current production.


Building will begin in Watertown early July, and all existing staff will remain. The Watertown, SD location currently employs around 30 staff. With this addition, Northstar now employs around 150 staff total and is looking to grow the Watertown location in the upcoming months.



Howard Scott, C.E.O., Northstar Systembuilt




Original article shared from northstarsb.com

Watertown Development Company Announces New Executive Director

WATERTOWN, S.D.– The Watertown Development Company (WDC) has named Michelle Kakacek as the WDC’s new Executive Director effective immediately.  The announcement comes after an extensive national search with an executive search firm, DDA Human Resources Inc.


“Michelle’s credentials, experience, and personality make her an excellent leader for economic development in Watertown,” said Board Chair Jim Redlinger. “She has demonstrated success in all facets of economic development, business development and community leadership. We are very excited to have someone of her ability leading the WDC. I am confident she will bring innovation and strategic direction that will be a true asset in the continued development of Watertown.”


Kakacek has more than 7 years of experience in economic development as the WDC’s Director of Business Development. In that role, she was involved in industrial business retention and expansions, which allowed her to work with business prospects and manage projects for new and expanding companies. Kakacek also led the Workforce Development program, working with the Watertown Workforce Advisory Council and other local stakeholders to develop and execute programs designed to recruit workforce to Watertown and retain and up-skill the area’s incumbent workforce – such as the WDC’s Attract & Enhance Program. In addition to those efforts, she played an active role in the revitalization of Downtown Watertown, helping redevelop several properties to bring new small businesses to the city’s core.


“I am thrilled at the opportunity to lead the WDC and look forward to continuing the organization’s proven track record of furthering the economic prosperity of the Watertown area,” stated Kakacek. “With a talented staff, dedicated Board of Directors, and strong relationships with civic leaders and business and industry partners, I am confident that WDC will continue to innovate and maintain its presence as a leader in the field of economic development.”


Kakacek obtained her bachelor’s degree in Political Science with an emphasis in Public Administration from the University of South Dakota and obtained recognition as a Certified Economic Development Professional (CEcD) in the fall of 2020 from the International Economic Development Council. The CEcD program is the most prestigious designation in the economic development profession, and recognition shows that you have the breadth of knowledge to perform at the top level in the profession.

2021 Annual Report

Get Informed

It’s an incredibly exciting time to be in Watertown for various reasons! A new city government format, including our new City Manager, great community partners and leaders in the Watertown Area Community Foundation, Convention & Visitors Bureau (CVB), Chamber of Commerce, Codington County, the School District, and Lake Area Technical College (LATC) among others…

Mid-America Economic Development Council Presents Award to Watertown Development

CHICAGO, IL –  The Watertown Development Company (WDC) was recognized with an award for its efforts in attracting workforce on Thursday in Chicago.


Michelle Kakacek, Director of Business Development for the WDC, accepted the award in the Workforce and Talent category for WDC’s Intern Engagement Initiative, a collection of tools designed to engage summer interns and integrate them into the community via networking opportunities and introduction to local attractions and amenities, greatly improving the probability of those interns returning to Watertown after graduation.


The WDC, with assistance from a committee within the WDC-administered Watertown Workforce Advisory Council, collaborated on ideas to encourage interns to bond with the community and gain a real sense of living and working in Watertown post-graduation. In 2020, the committee created a “Passport to Watertown” to be given to interns, which included a free pass to the city attraction of their choice and $20 in Chamber Bucks to kick-start their Watertown experience. The Passports were designed with graphics from nine Watertown attractions and included QR codes linking to lists of events and restaurants and maps of recreational trails. A Connections card was included as well, to encourage networking. In 2021, the Passport added an additional attractions pass, plus a visitor discount card. Also in 2021, an in-person event was held to allow interns to network with community leaders and other interns.


WDC’s “Attract and Enhance” program, which provides matching funds for relocations and training, complimented the above engagement efforts by providing matching funds to companies for intern relocations, helping alleviate some of the housing cost burden for students in Watertown for the summer.


Kakacek noted the Intern Engagement Initiative as “an excellent example of the impact and importance of collaboration in attracting and retaining our area workforce.”


For many years, The Mid-America Economic Development Council has sponsored the annual Economic Development Awards competition to recognize and stimulate the creative use of quality marketing by economic development organizations throughout the 13-state Mid-America region in promoting their respective communities.


Mid-America EDC members are dedicated economic development professionals who share best practices to add value in their organizations and communities.


Mid-America EDC is a multi-state association dedicated to being the leading resource for making contact with site selectors, advancing regional economic development programs, and accessing thought leadership.


Kakacek and other award recipients will also be recognized in the January issue of Site Selection magazine.


For more information about The Mid-America Economic Development Council, visit www.midamericaedc.org.

New Real Estate Office to Open Downtown

WATERTOWN, S.D. — Prevail Realty, LLC is excited to announce the opening of their Real Estate Brokerage and Partnership. Partners Jesse Kiihl, Mindy Craig and Julie Knutson announce that Prevail Realty, LLC is projected to open their new location in The Lofts later this Summer. Their current office is housed in The Goss with CP Business Management.


The partners are looking forward to offering Watertown a unique combination of business experience and expertise in areas such as construction, commercial and residential sales, leasing and investment properties. Multi-medium professional marketing of properties, and a multi-state client base.


Jesse, a Watertown native, has years in the real estate industry. With that comes a wealth of knowledge that he has put forth in the development company, Prevail, LLC and, now, Prevail Realty, LLC as the firm Broker. Jesse is currently the construction manager for Parkside Place, Generations on 1st (the 55 and older project), The Ruins, portions of The Lakes at Willow Creek and more to be announced.


The draw to Watertown is strong for Mindy as she began her Watertown journey with the first of its kind in Downtown at The Lofts and has since fell in love with the city and its citizens, as well as realizing the potential it holds for growth and development.  Mindy will continue to offer clients, and the public, the best possible experience and lifestyle.


Julie, also a Watertown native, most recently was with Watertown Convention & Visitors Bureau; prior to that she worked as the General Manager of the Watertown Mall. Julie has a deep knowledge of Watertown, leasing, property management and marketing. Julie brings with her a number of professional memberships and affiliations, she has served on boards and committees assisting in projects like the Downtown Park, intern engagement, Urban Renewal Grants, and ice arena just to name a few. Over recent years Julie has traveled the US representing Watertown and has accompanied the WDC and City of Watertown for purposes of seeking out new commercial real estate development for Watertown.

To obtain more information regarding commercial, retail, investment, or housing opportunities, please call Mindy at 605-237-8806 or email info@prevailrealtysd.com

Watertown Development CoMPany Announces New Executive Director

News Release
April 16th, 2021
7:00 A.M.
Contact: Traci Stein
Director of Marketing and Public Communication
Phone: 605 884 0340
Email: traci@wdcsd.com


WATERTOWN, S.D. —Watertown Development Company (WDC) is pleased to announce the appointment of Mark Vaux as Executive Director.


Mark brings to the WDC a diverse background that includes a proven record of community service, with sixteen years in economic development; serving as CEO of a 450+ member chamber of commerce and 200+ member economic development corporation, and working as a Senior Business Development Representative for the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED). Throughout his career, he was fortunate to have made connections with key stakeholders in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Minnesota.

His roots began in Watertown and he has spent many of his years in economic development working closely with the WDC on several business expansion and retention plans.


“My parents were born and raised in Watertown, and my grandfather, Claude Paterson, was the Chief of Police in the late ’50s to early ’60s. From my years with then-Congressman Thune, and while at GOED, I spent a lot of time in Watertown working on a variety of projects with the WDC. I have always been impressed with the vision and passion of the WDC team, the board, and civic and business leaders. I’m excited to join the community and keep building on the momentum.”


Mark has led many successful economic development initiatives, including the implementation of a public-private workforce development council to address workforce needs, successfully collecting more than $70,000 from a fundraising campaign to support it. He also led the efforts of a public/private partnership to address the community’s affordable housing needs by securing a large donation of land from a business for housing development. As the GOED’s Business Representative, Mark played a key role in developments such as a food processing plant in Huron, the wind manufacturing plant in Aberdeen, and the recruitment of a call center.


It was also under Mark’s leadership in Mitchell that led the redevelopment efforts of Main St Mitchell, which included the acquisition and development of five new properties/businesses in six months.


Jim Redlinger, board chair of the WDC, said of Vaux’s hiring, “The WDC Board of Directors is excited to work with Mark as the new executive director of the WDC. He is well known in the state of South Dakota. We’ve previously crossed paths with Mark in economic development projects in Watertown and I believe he will prove invaluable in his new position at the WDC. We look forward to working with Mark in 2021 and beyond.” Redlinger added, “The WDC Board, along with its staff, thank Chris Schilken for his leadership and the commitment he has given the WDC during his three years as executive director. His contributions have been significant.”

Anonymous Supporter of New Ice Arena in Watertown Revealed

A $1 million gift from First PREMIER Bank and PREMIER Bankcard will help kickstart Watertown’s new ice arena building project.  City Councilman Ried Holien announced earlier this month that an anonymous donation had significantly moved the project forward. That donor was recently revealed as the PREMIER organization.


First PREMIER Bank CEO Dana Dykhouse said the gift is part of the organization’s commitment to supporting the people and communities it serves. He also commended the City of Watertown for its vision and challenged others to help support the project. “We all have a responsibility to give back to our communities,” Dykhouse said. “Things like parks and athletic facilities are important quality of life features. They make a community vibrant and help attract new people and businesses.”


PREMIER Bankcard CEO Miles Beacom echoed this sentiment.


“We are excited to be a part of this project and we hope others will step up and lend a hand,” Beacom said. “This facility will help provide added opportunities for our young people to participate in some fun winter activities. This is a great partnership between the City of Watertown and PREMIER.”


First PREMIER Bank and PREMIER Bankcard have a history of supporting philanthropic ventures in the community. In 2016, the organization provided a $500,000 gift to create the PREMIER Softball Complex in southeast Watertown. PREMIER also donated a building to the City of Watertown that currently houses the Watertown Area Chamber of Commerce and other entities.


The proposed Watertown Ice Arena carries an estimated $15- to 17 million price tag. It will feature two sheets of ice and help alleviate early-morning and late-night practices. The Watertown Hockey Association is currently fundraising for the project and the Watertown Figure Skate Club has pledged an additional $750,000.


First PREMIER Bank VP and Market Leader Mark Dunn said the project is something people in his community have discussed for several years and PREMIER is proud to champion its progress. “This is a win-win situation for our community, our local economy and the many kids who enjoy hockey and figure skating,” he said.


About First PREMIER Bank and PREMIER Bankcard 
First PREMIER Bank and PREMIER Bankcard is one of Watertown’s largest employers with nearly 400 employees. The company supports nearly 700 organizations and its leadership team and employees have donated more than $1.5 billion to South Dakota entities since 1995. For more information visit www.firstpremier.com.


About the Watertown Development Company
The Watertown Development Company (WDC) is a non-profit organization established to own and operate buildings, lands, and development areas for the economic benefit of Watertown. For more information visit www.wdcsd.com.