Kirk Simet and Eric Skott of SLH Holdings have purchased the land that held the former St. Bernard’s and later Avera Hospital. The company has begun construction on a project that has been five years in the making.
The Milbank City Council formalized an agreement between the City of Milbank and SLH Holdings on Monday night,April 13 at their regularly scheduled city council meeting. Dave Hicks, president of the Grant County Development Corporation (GCDC) added his signature to the documents. The agreement is based on the tax increment financing ( TIF ) that was approved earlier this year.
President Hicks said, “This a very big step in the right direction for helping the growth of our local economy. By making more housing available, it is our hope our local business will be able to more easily attract and retain employees, which will benefit our entire community.”
The project is the brainchild of the City of Milbank, Northeast Regional Healthcare Foundation, Grant County Development Corporation, SDHousing, and SLH Holdings of Brookings. GCDC started in 2015 with a housing survey paid for in part by a grant from SDHousing. The survey outlined the needs of the community. A startling fact that came out of the survey was almost two-thirds of employees in Milbank were commuting. Community meetings led to discussions about what could be done to change that trajectory.
GCDC reached out to landowners in the Milbank city limits and sent out an RFI to developers in the region who would consider partnering with landowners. GCDC’s executive director, Bobbie Bohlen, said, “ We spent time, money, and energy looking at possible sights and different scenarios. By the end of 2018, it looked like we were at a dead end. We learned that building costs in rural communities are higher — in some cases as much as 10 percent higher — and many factors contribute to the problem with no right solution.”
Eric Skott of Crestone Builders approached GCDC in early 2019. Skott had worked with the developer Kirk Simet of Brookings, who had projects in other rural communities.
Simet said, “Speaking on behalf of SLH Development and Crestone Builders, this project has been a exciting opportunity to work with the City of Milbank, the community leaders, and residents on this project. The vision and credit go to Grant County Development and county and city leaders, who have worked tirelessly to make this project happen.”
Milbank Mayor Pat Raffety said, “This project is the direct result of people who would not take no as an acceptable answer. It is the culmination of several years work and several different approaches to find a solution that worked best to solve some of the housing issues we have and benefit our community.
Bohlen said, “His (Raffety) support and belief never wavered. We are fortunate now more than ever to have his leadership to help us drive and thrive when others are hitting the pause button.
“Eric Skott and I are both lifelong South Dakota residents and business owners,” Simet said. “We are grateful to have worked on this project and excited for the open house next spring.”