Prairie AquaTech: On Being an Entrepreneur in Brookings!

13 November 2017

Prairie AquaTech: On Being an Entrepreneur in Brookings!

FROM:          Mark Luecke, Managing Director and CEO
DATE:           September 11, 2017
RE:                LINK Article – “It Takes a Special Village…”


You have probably heard the proverb, “it takes a village”.  It means that a child has the best ability to become a healthy adult if the entire community takes an active role in contributing to the rearing of the child.  With the utmost respect to the proverb’s origin, our recent experience highlights that it takes a special village to support entrepreneurship.  Brookings has been a very special village to us.

Entrepreneurship and starting new businesses, especially commercializing university research, is eerily similar to raising a child.  A new idea starts small, and has the best ability to become a healthy business if the entire community takes an active role in contributing to building the business.  We have experienced first-hand the very active role that Brookings plays as we have built South Dakota Innovation Partners, Prairie AquaTech, and Medgene Labs.      

Start-up success begins with civic entrepreneurs who think “community first” and have built successful businesses themselves.  We have learned and grown under the experienced leadership of Van Fishback, Al Kurtenbach, and Gene McGowan.  These gentlemen have helped us make sound business decisions, and while contributing to the success of the community in the process.

SDSU and its world-class researchers have provided, and continue to provide, an endless source of new ideas; and most importantly, they have provided, and continue to provide, the resources to test and advance the best ideas that actually solve market problems, including the global need for high quality protein and more effective vaccines. 

Brookings Economic Development Corporation (BEDC) and other community partners have helped us leverage private investment capital with public funding to create unique and important entrepreneurial infrastructure, including the 30,000 square foot AgTech Center for Rural Enterprise, which has allowed us to scale up university research and establish new operating businesses in surrounding rural communities.  Prairie AquaTech Manufacturing in Volga will be a good example of this community effort. 

Other critical success factors have included establishing strategic partnerships with industry leaders, such as South Dakota Soybean Processors, Redfield Energy, and Christensen Farms, and employing the best students from our state university system who have literally poured their hearts and souls into building these businesses from an idea on a piece of paper.

While there is much more work that needs to be done, and entrepreneurs never really complete the “building” process, it is important to recognize what has worked and share our gratitude. 

Therefore, our best advice to others starting new businesses – surround yourself with good people, and start your business in Brookings, because it truly takes a special village.