Wednesday, November 16, 2005

‘Can Do’ Sidney

How does a remote town of 4,774 develop a $4.5 million community foundation? Or, a privately developed indoor hockey dome? Or, a 42 bed hospital with 15 docs? Or, a beautiful 18 hole country club and clubhouse?

It was my second visit back to Sidney, MT this year. I toured the town and keynoted their annual EDC meeting. About 150 people showed up, quite a turnout for a town this size.

Sidney is the county seat of Richland County, which is twice the size of Rhode Island with a population density of 4.4 people/square mile (RI is 1034 people/sq. mi.). The county’s population peaked in 1980 at 12,243 and had fallen to 9,112 by 2004.

Sidney has a strong, diversified agricultural base with sugar beets, alfalfa, corn and barley being the main crops. There is a sugar beet mill and barley terminal in the town, adding value to those crops and providing hundreds of great jobs. The barley terminal is owned by Anheuser-Busch and the local plant manager told me that Augie Busch visits it occasionally. Two new mega-dairies, built in the past five years with more in the planning stages are another diversification occurring in the ag base. There is potential to expand irrigated production from the present 350,000 acres to 600,000 acres.

Brian Milne, incoming chair of the Foundation for Community Care told me, “We started the foundation in 1982 when seven dedicated local people got together and just made it happen. We are really starting to grow in the past few years, with a large number of bequests. We are focused upon the overall health of the community in our giving.”

The hockey dome, hospital and country club were all done in much the same manner. Local people put their minds and hearts to doing something better for the community and then just got it done.

What do you need to get done in your town?

1 comment:

Lael said...

Our community needs its very own endowment fund for community development but we are finding a pocket of resistance from some folks who think any money raised should immediately be spent rather than saved as a permanent asset with only the interest utilized to facilitate community development. They also resist the idea of helping the poor through this fund. I dont understand this but would love any ideas on how to overcome the resistance. We have decided to call it a Legacy fund rather than endowment. This is a rural community with the biggest town being under 10,000 and total county population of approx 40,000. 25% of the population lives below the poverty level.