Volga’s growth not going unnoticed

Volga selected as a Community of the Year this spring

VOLGA – Volga is a thriving small town, growing both in population and business opportunities over the past few years.

And its efforts haven’t gone unnoticed, even at the state level. This spring, Volga was announced as the recipient of the 2019 Community of the Year Award, awarded by Gov. Kristi Noem.

The award was given due to Volga’s economic and community growth, representing years of hard work, dedication and passion in the city of Volga.

In City Hall, there is a pewter and granite plaque showcasing the award on the wall next to the building entrance. Motorists can also see the new title on two signs on either side of the town along U.S. Highway 14. 

“The Governor’s Office of Economic Development decided to have their Community Development reps each put forth a few towns that they are responsible for in their area as possible candidates for this,” Volga City Administrator Jameson Berreth said. The city of Volga applied and was promptly selected.

“We’re obviously very pleased and happy that the governor chose us to be the community of the year, and we think that it’s just a sign of more good things to come,” Mayor Randy Santema said.

Over the past few years, Volga has seen a substantial uptick in housing development, small and large local business ventures, expansion of utilities and new job openings. According to Berreth, since 2016 there have been 106 residential buildings (single-family and multiple-family homes) built in Volga, and 54 are currently in the process of being built.

The community had a population of 1,768 as of the 2010 Census, and the numbers are bound to be up in 2020.

The increase in population meant there needed to be more space for classrooms in Sioux Valley school. With additional revenue that was coming in from new businesses and homeowners, no tax increases were needed to pay for the multi-million-dollar elementary school expansion.

The biggest development within Volga recently has been from Prairie AquaTech. The aquaculture protein-based company has erected a 45,000-square-foot, $60 million facility there, according to a Governor’s Office of Economic Development press release.

The economic benefits the company brings to Volga include dozens of jobs, providing opportunities for locals and potentially attracting new residents.

Prairie AquaTech’s impact on Volga includes its utilities, which are coming from the City of Volga. This required a massive municipal expansion of Volga’s water, wastewater and electrical utilities.

“It’s been a great working relationship with Jameson (Berreth) and the city council members,” said Dennis Harstad, vice president of manufacturing and general manager at Prairie AquaTech.

Harstad said that the facility in Volga was built for expansion. He said the Volga-based facility will be “doubling in size” in the not-so-distant future.

Another recent substantial business addition to Volga was Valley FiberCom. Valley FiberCom is an internet, cable TV and telephone service provider, specifically for rural communities.

Jeff Symens, Valley FiberCom’s CEO and general manager, said that working with Volga has been a “delightful” and easy process.

“We hope to continue to grow with the city as they continue to grow at a pace not normally seen in small town South Dakota. It is a growing community, which will allow us to continue to expand. We are very excited to become a part of and help grow the community of Volga,” said Symens.

The Volga Development Corporation bought the old building and land where Valley FiberCom is currently located, 209 Kasan Ave., and before the old building had even been torn down, Valley FiberCom approached the City of Volga to see if they could erect a building in its place, Berreth said. Now they are “currently installing fiber throughout the community.”

“We will have close to 70% of the homes and businesses connected to fiber by the end of the year,” Symens said.

Berreth said that Valley FiberCom has not only been a substantial source of economic growth but also community growth and involvement. Valley FiberCom plans to host an Easter Egg hunt every year and provided root beer floats for Old Timer’s Day. It also has a community meeting room where organizations can meet.

“The community impact they’ve been having is really fantastic,” said Berreth.

Downtown Volga on Kasan Avenue has seen growth alongside Valley FiberCom. Flourishing businesses in the downtown area that were already in Volga, such as Valley Motorsports, CC Bar & Grill, Subway and Dollar General, have all seen an economic influx with all the new businesses that are being established and plan on coming into Volga.

Artisan Concrete Concepts is another new addition to downtown Volga. Owner and craftsman Chad Guthmiller designs and makes concrete countertops, sinks, fire pits, fireplace surrounds and more in the 3,500-square-foot facility.

Berreth said that Guthmiller contacted him about finding a location in Volga to work from, and within the day Guthmiller had bought the building and found a house to move into within the community.

Casey’s General Store is building a new convenience store along U.S. Highway 14, at the former location of the Gas Stop, and Dakota Land Design plans to build a new mixed-use building, called 14 WEST, next to Dollar General. 14 WEST will have three commercial spaces on the main level and apartments above that. 

Santema thanked all the entities and people who have helped bring prosperity to Volga.

“Thanks to all of our partners. The Brookings Economic Development Corporation has been a great partner in this. Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce has helped us out tremendously in trying to grow our business community. 

“Heartland Consumers Power District, they stepped up to the plate in getting Prairie AquaTech to Volga, so they were instrumental in giving us an edge for them choosing Volga than another site in the area. The Volga Development Corporation for all their work on Main Street using the money they’ve been given in the past, taking on one building at a time,” Santema said. 

“Our partners have been tremendous, and I continue to hope that we can continue growing all of our relationships with all of our partners and developers.”

COURTESY OF: The Brookings Register

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