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Gov. Daugaard Announces Economic Development Awards At 2015 Annual Conference

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – Gov. Dennis Daugaard recognized two individuals and a community for achievements and contributions to economic development in South Dakota at the annual Governor’s Economic Development Conference. Among the award recipients were Jim Doolittle of Belle Fourche, Dr. Ron Utecht of Sioux Falls and the community of Gregory.

Created several years ago, the Excellence in Economic Development Award honors the dedication and commitment of eight South Dakotans, including Gov. George S. Mickelson, who lost their lives when returning home from an economic development event in Cincinnati, Ohio, in 1993. The award is presented annually at the conference. Doolittle was honored with this year’s award.

“Jim Doolittle has been active in economic development since the 1980s, bringing together economic development and education, creating a regional approach to economic development, and founding the Black Hills Business Community yearly banquet,” said Gov. Daugaard at this evening’s banquet. “Jim exemplifies the spirit of the great men who lost their lives. He is one of the most humble individuals I know and I’m pleased to honor him with this year’s Excellence in Economic Development Award.”

Next, Gov. Daugaard presented the Entrepreneur of the Year Award, created in 2013, which recognizes a visionary who takes big risks to accomplish big dreams. A former professor of chemistry and biochemistry at South Dakota State University, Dr. Ron Utecht was named the 2015 South Dakota Entrepreneur of the Year.

“Dr. Utecht won the first Giant Vision Business plan competition and has had a long and winding path over the last 10 years developing technology for the medical industry,” said Gov. Daugaard. “He is one of the success stories of our statewide effort to increase research and technology in South Dakota. For his giant vision and innovative spirit, it is a great honor to award Dr. Utecht with the 2015 South Dakota Entrepreneur of the Year award.”

Finally, the governor recognized Gregory as the Community of the Year.

“In the last year alone, Gregory opened six new businesses, creating 20 local jobs,” Gov. Daugaard said. “They also saw a $32,000 boost in sales tax revenue, which is impressive for a town of only 1,200. Gregory also has purchased land for future development and created a workforce-training program to help current businesses. It is my pleasure to honor Gregory as this year’s South Dakota Community of the Year.”

Editor’s Note: For photos of the award presentations and other photos taken from today’s conference, please visit our Facebook page, To request high resolution, electronic copies of photos, please contact Natalie Likness, media relations coordinator, at


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