Ellie Naasz

Ellie Naasz speaks at the RuralX 2020 conference which she helps plan every year.

Ellie Naasz, daughter of Mike and Cathy Dailey of Jefferson, graduated from Elk Point-Jefferson High School in 2012. She continued her education at the University of South Dakota and later Colorado State University. She made her way back to South Dakota and now works for Dakota Resources as the Director of Community Impact. The Southern Union County Leader-Courier asked her five questions.

1. Cover your journey from EPJ to now, which colleges and why the major you chose.

After graduating from EPJ in 2012, I went on to the University of South Dakota. I knew I wanted to pursue a degree in the businesses school, but I wasn’t exactly sure what I specifically wanted to study. After taking my introduction economics courses, I knew that was where I belonged. I love economics because it combines both human behavior and hard science. After graduating from USD, my husband and I moved to Fort Collins, CO so that I could pursue my Master’s degree in Agricultural Economics at Colorado State University. I knew I wanted to learn more in the economics field after undergrad. I specifically chose Agricultural Economics as agricultural is a sector in which economics can be applied very easily and because of my personal interest in agriculture from growing up on a South Dakota farm. This degree really helped solidify some of the concepts I had learned in undergrad, but also helped me to see how economics can be applied in real world scenarios.

2. Present organization, mission, outreach. How did you find them and what is your role?

My husband and I knew we wanted to end up back in South Dakota to be close to our families (my husband’s family is from Winner, SD). My job offer from Dakota Resources is what brought us back. I had discovered Dakota Resources when I was living in Colorado. I was really inspired by the work they were doing throughout South Dakota and in rural places. On a whim, I decided to reach out to the president, Joe Bartmann. We connected via email, and a few months later they had a job opening. I applied, and the rest is history! I’ve been with Dakota Resources almost two years, and I really enjoy the work.

3. How did you find them and what is your role?

Dakota Resources is a non-profit CDFI (Community Development Financial Institution). Our mission is to connect capacity and capital with rural communities. We work with rural communities in South Dakota, and we are in the early stages of spreading that reach farther into the region and country. Our work is specifically geared toward economic development organizations. At Dakota Resources, I serve as the Director of Community Impact. I work behind the scenes to help us as an organization understand the impact we are creating in these rural communities. Since we are a small organization, I also wear many different hats. One of the other parts of my job is helping to plan our annual conference, RuralX. RuralX is a conference that brings together rural people who want to make a difference in their community. This year, our event will be hosted virtually on June 16.

4. Can you give a couple of examples of rural development you have worked on?

Dakota Resources has five main programs: the Learning Network, Community Coaching, Community Development Loans and RuralX. We are also a part-owner of a for-profit company Dakotas America, which is a Certified Development Entity (CDE) that works specifically with the federal New Markets Tax Credit program.

See full story in this week’s Leader-Courier.