Three years of process, development and improvement was recognized last Tuesday evening in the Mueller Center Gymnasium. The Hot Springs Community Engagement hosted an annual report on community projects and initiatives, with almost 100 people in attendance.
In May of 2015, Hot Springs partnered with Dakota Resources and launched the community engagement process with the purpose of, "unifying Hot Springs for a sustainable future."
For the rest of 2015 was filled with listening sessions. In total, over 700 people participated. In January of 2016 five key initiatives were born: housing, business and economic development, health and wellness, recreation and tourism.
At the event Tuesday, each initiative team gave a report on their accomplishments over the past couple of years and current projects.
The business and economic development team had several major accomplishments to report. A major project was obtaining a grant for a geothermal study. The study maps the geothermal resources in the area. The information will hopefully be used to make cost effective greenhouses a reality in the Southern Hills.
The business and economic development team also helped with the opening of over 20 new businesses, marketed to recruit young professionals and works for existing business retention and expansion.
Currently, they are working on a market analysis for the demand for local produce, encourage citizens to shop locally, studying what retail demands could be met in Hot Springs rather than elsewhere, establishing a commercial kitchen and providing youth scholarships.
The Health and Wellness team reported the creation of the Southern Black Hills Health and Wellness Directory. This directory has over 40 businesses and independent practitioners. They also helped establish the Hot Springs Farmers Market and Southern Hills Holistic Fair along with helping bring multiple health oriented businesses to the Hot Springs area.
They are currently working to establish Hot Springs as a "food hub" and are finding ways to promote the healing aspects of the area.
The housing initiative team has made and continues to make progress on several fronts. They promoted a residential tax rebate in the City of Hot Springs for property owners making improvements on structures as well as working with the city to develop workforce housing. Currently they are working on getting a similar residential tax rebate program for Fall River County.
The recreation initiative team has been busy over the past few years. They started a youth gymnastics program. A community survey was administered to identify the recreational needs for the Hot Springs area. The survey found significant support for an indoor walking track and a lap swim pool. Also many respondents called for a recreation center for all ages. They also hosted a tennis clinic last year and will be hosting another this summer as well as a pickleball clinic.
The tourism team helped streamline messaging for Hot Springs. They worked with local attractions to create a central message to make Hot Springs a destination. Heavy emphasis was put on Hot Springs' natural resources through various social media channels. They also helped create the community calendar.
Looking forward, the tourism team wants to establish community wide wi-fi, develop the Ice Age Animal River Walk and promote Hot Springs in a national ad campaign.
In addition to the presentations from the initiative teams, the event also showcased many of the non-profits operating in Hot Springs. Over a dozen organizations had booths. Their presence demonstrated the immense amount of service that takes place in Hot Springs.
Organizations present included: the Southern Hills Recreation Initiative, the Hot Springs Farmers Market, Keep Hot Springs Beautiful, The Mammoth Site, the Pioneer Museum, The Black Hills Wild Horse Sanctuary, The Kiwanis Club, Right to Life, Casting Vets, Challenge Hot Springs, Community Action, First Interstate Back Fall River Fund, South Dakota Community Foundation, the Philanthropic Educational Organization and the Black Hills ACF.