Ken Soderlin began Sod’s Mechanical, a plumbing and heating business on the Pine Ridge Reservation, in 1989 with one employee and one truck. Today, his business employs 14 full-time staff members and operates a fleet of six trucks. Early in his company’s history, he took on some big jobs that put Sod’s Mechanical on a strong growth trend. But, Ken also attributes some of his company’s growth to working with Lakota Funds.
“Using all of the programs that Lakota Funds has offered, we’ve been able to grow the business some. They have even helped when things fluctuate, and getting through some of the rough times,” says Ken.
Sod’s Mechanical became a client of Lakota Funds over 15 years ago when they obtained a small business loan to purchase some equipment. Since then they have also utilized a line of credit and participated in business programs that Lakota Funds has offered.
“It’s been a great resource for me – for expanding my business and establishing my credit to grow my business,” says Ken.
More recently, Sod’s Mechanical was one of the contractors to participate in the pilot of the Construction Internship Program facilitated by Lakota Funds in partnership with the South Dakota Native Homeownership Coalition. Ken explains this has helped the company broaden its horizons, because “it’s a struggle to find young men and women that want to take our trade on.”
Although he believes the plumbing and heating industry can be a great profession, not enough youth have been exposed to it. As an active member in the community, Ken is an advocate for the trades professions.
He says, “We have an untapped resource on the Reservation. Our young men and women need to know that this is a great profession, and they can still stay close to home.”
Having a limited workforce can equate to lost opportunities for Sod’s Mechanical as well as other local contractors. It’s a hard hit when a large project is awarded to an off-reservation company.
“It can be tough as the bigger jobs come in – because of technology and having the skilled craftsmen to tackle those jobs,” Ken explains.
This past summer Ken participated in the Construction Internship again. He has been happy with the results, and has even gained a permanent employee through the program, which he says is a great asset.
Ken emphasizes the Construction Internship Program is critical to building the Reservation workforce, “On the job training is the best education you can get.”
Sod’s Mechanical plans to continue its participation in the Construction Internship Program again next year.
“It’s been a win-win for me,” says Ken.