High School Big Idea Competition

Do you have a big idea for a new business? If you do (and you’re in high school) the Big Idea competition is right up your alley.

High school students can compete for cash and scholarships by submitting a 1,075-word description of their business idea. Returning again this year is the Marketing Design competition where students can choose to also create a logo and ad for their idea. This competition for high school students in Aberdeen and the surrounding region was created through the collaborative efforts of many organizations and is funded by Absolutely!Aberdeen.

This competition is about exposing youth to new ideas and innovation in the hopes that you will view entrepreneurship as an option for your future. Rather than leaving the region to look for a job, you can have the confidence to create your own opportunities close to home and know that there is support for you should you choose to do so. Homegrown businesses are key to the success of our rural communities.

Cash prizes, a chance to meet other students interested in entrepreneurship, recognition and awards are just some of the features of this competition. The first place winner will receive $1,000, second place wins $500 and $250 for third place. College scholarships will also be awarded. A $500 prize is awarded to the winner of the marketing design competition.

On Hand Development would assist any students that are interested in entering the contest. Just give us a call at 853-3098.


SD Housing Lowers Rates

The SD Housing Development Authority has lowered its interest rates for first-time homebuyers to the lowest rate in history.

The interest rate for starting step rate loans is 2.75%. Fixed rate loans have been reduced to 3.75%, and the fixed rate plus option loan rate was reduced to 4.25%.

If you are a business owner in the Miller area and these rate reductions help one of your employees purchase  house, please let me know. I’d be interested in hearing the details.

Is the Census Important for Miller?

Paperwork and I have a love/hate relationship. I love to ignore it and hate to fill it out. The 2010 Census is different. It takes just 10 minutes to fill out and it only comes around once every 10 years. That is my kind of paperwork.

Thinking about the census brings up a couple of questions. Is the census important for Miller? Why is it important? Here are a few answers from the official census website:

  • The federal government uses population data to allocate funds in a number of areas including Title 1 grants to school districts, the WIC program, public transportation (think about the Miller Wheels and Meals), road rehabilitation and construction, and programs for the elderly.
  • Census data helps homeowners research property values, median income, and other demographic information about a particular community.
  • Corporations use population data to determine locations for commercial enterprises such as food stores, pharmacies, and other essential services.

The census really lays the groundwork for the next ten years. As a community, it will help us make decisions in government, education, health care, economic development, business planning and many other areas.

When the form comes out in April please take the time to fill it out and return it.

In 2000, Hand County only had a response rate of 70%. The average response rate for counties in SD was 74%. I bet we can do better than that this time around.

I’m really curious to see how the numbers will turn out for Miller and Hand County. Even though it is a little more paperwork to fill out, I’ll be filling out my census form and I hope you will too.

Miller High School Receives Silver Award

I’ve always known that the Miller High School was an excellent institution and that it was a place my kids would receive a good education. Like many people from small towns, I like to brag about our local education system. However, it is always good to hear the same thing from an outside source.

U.S. News and World Report magazine has just provided that unbiased feedback. Miller High School received a silver medal in their rankings. While there were no gold medal schools in South Dakota this year, Miller High School is the only silver medal winner in the state! How cool is that? Way cool!

Here is a quick description of the rankings from the magazine’s website:

The America’s Best High Schools project is an annual report that identifies the country’s top-performing high schools. The goal is to provide a clear, unbiased picture of how well public schools serve all of their students – from the highest achieving to the lowest achieving – in preparing them to demonstrate proficiency in basic skills as well as readiness for college-level work.

Congratulations to the Miller High School staff, administration, and students for earning this prestigious award.

If you happen to see our teachers, administrators, or students, be sure to let them know you are proud of them for making Miller High School the best high school in the state of South Dakota.

Hospital Bond Election

Avera Hand County HospitalThe upcoming hospital renovation and expansion is an important project for our community and surrounding area. Strong health care providers are one of the key ingredients of a successful and vibrant community. 

The hospital is finalizing their financing for the project and as part of their financing package they are requesting general obligation bonds (GO bonds) through Hand County. A county election is required to issue the GO bonds. There have been a couple of public meetings to explain this process and to answer questions. If you missed the meetings, don’t worry, there are more to come. Here are the meeting dates and places:

  • Tuesday, November 17, 7:30 pm, Miller Fire Hall
  • Monday, November 23, 7:30 pm, St. Lawrence Community Room

 The county election is scheduled for Tuesday, December 8. A “Yes” vote will allow the county to issue the GO bonds. The hospital will pay for these bonds and all associated costs through their lease payments to the county.

 Following is some summary information about the hospital expansion and renovation.

 Organizational History

  • Since 1947, Hand County owns the entire health care campus. 
  • In 1985, the decision was made to lease the campus to Hand County Memorial Hospital Inc. (HCMH). 
  • Present, Hand County leases the entire campus to HCMH who subleases space to Vision Care, and AMK, while operating the community based services.


  • The project will remodel approximately 13,600 square feet of existing space and add 15,400 square feet of new space, while eliminating 12,000 square feet of non-health care usable space. 


  • Total project cost is $5.6M.
  • They are seeking USDA loans/bonds in the amount of $3.55M.  Avera Hand County Memorial Hospital & Clinic (AHC) will pay all bond related costs.
  • The hospital foundation has pledges over 5 years now exceeding $1M. 
  • $500,000 in Community Development Block Grants are available if the program is fully funded in 2010.
  • They are also applying for a Rural Electric Economic Development (REED) Fund loan @ 0% interest for ten years. 
  • Balance will be through HCMH Inc reserves.


  • Because the hospital campus is owned by the county, the USDA Rural Development has directed them to seek General Obligation Bonds (GO Bonds) through the County to finance the project.
  • All bond costs would be paid by the hospital, including the principle, interest, election costs, bond fees and closing costs.  There will be no tax increase as a result of the County GO Bond.
  • The GO Bond process requires a simple majority election of the residents of Hand County, to vote on any bond issuance of the County. 

If you have any questions regarding the project, you can call Bryan Breitling, the hospital administrator, at 853-0399.

Emergency Funds

Two agencies that partner with our local agencies and governments is NESDCAP and NESDEC. Here is a brief summary of what they do:

The Northeast South Dakoka Community Action Program (NESDCAP) and Northeast South Dakota Economic Corpotation (NESDEC) are here to help promote community excellence and stimulate economic growth through loans, techinical assistance and partnerships.

NESDCAP recently announced that they have emergency funds available for families in the counties of northeast SD, including Hand County.

These funds can be used for:

  • Utilities, utility deposits, and utility reconnection fees (electrical, water, sewer, garbage, propane, natural gas).
  • Rent/mortgage payments or rental deposits. Must be past due in their payments.
  • Food and personal care vouchers will also be available up to $300 or three months of need.
  • Tools, equipment, uniforms, specialized shoes, necessary for employment up to $300 per person.  
  • Public transportation, fuel for personal vehicles, personal vehicle repairs, bus transportation to shelters, medical related transportation up to $300. 
  • Eye glasses (up to $300 per person), prescription medicine, and dental work up to $500 or three months prescriptions. Clients may also be assisted with 35% COBRA co-payment for health insurance for newly unemployed individuals.
  • Temporary Shelter including hotels, boarding houses, shelters.

To qualify, the family income must be below 200% of poverty income guidelines based on the family size.

Family size              Income

  • 1                                  $21,660
  • 2                                  $29,140
  • 3                                  $36,620
  • 4                                  $44,100
  • 5                                  $51,580
  • 6                                  $59,060
  • 7                                  $66,540
  • 8                                  $74,020

To contact NESDCAP, you can call 605-698-7654, or go to their website at www.nesdcap.org.

Miller Housing Committee

HousingWe have been receiving feedback at the On Hand Development office that people moving to town are having a hard time finding affordable housing. The Miller Housing Committee has been created to study the housing situation in the Miller area. The mission of the committee is to find out the specific housing needs in the Miller area and to develop a plan to address those needs.

People may ask why On Hand Development is working on housing and how does that relate to economic development. Economic development involves helping our local businesses expand and new businesses get started. That means that these businesses will hire new employees and new employees need an affordable place to live. Insufficient housing will have a negative impact on the growth of new and existing businesses.

Committee members include Joe Fiala, Kurt Pfeifle, Ron Blachford, Dick Palmer, Mike Beaner, Dan Coss, Bryan Breitling, and Mike Ruth.

As part of this project, the committee will be conducting some surveys through the mail. They may also have an independent party conduct a telephone survey to gather pertinent data related to our community’s housing needs.

If you are contacted to provide information for one of our surveys please take the time to answer the questions. We would really appreciate your cooperation and it will allow us to get a clear picture of the housing situation in the Miller area. If you have suggestions or questions, feel free to contact us or stop by the office.