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Ager named NeighborWorks housing coordinator in Belle Fourche

December 24, 2017

BELLE FOURCHE — James Ager, the self-described passionate, people-centric Belle Fourche City councilman and former cosmetologist, has moved onto the next chapter of his professional life after being selected as the new housing coordinator for the Belle Fourche office of NeighborWorks Dakota Home Resources.

“I’m very excited,” Ager said. “I’m still in the business of people, and I really enjoy people.”

Ager, a Belle Fourche native of nearly 50 years, started his new position in early November after deciding to close his hair salon in downtown Belle Fourche.

“I’m moving on in life,” he said.

NeighborWorks is a nonprofit organization providing assistance to residents of the Black Hills and western South Dakota who need help purchasing, repairing, and retaining their homes. The organization offers affordable housing and community-focused programs to improve the quality of life for lower-income families and neighborhoods.

Ager, who has volunteered with NeighborWorks on some past projects, said he’s excited for the opportunity.

“It’s a challenge, and I love a challenge,” he said. “This (the work NeighborWorks performs) is tangible … when you’re done, you get to look at it, you can smell it, feel it - that’s rewarding.”

Initially, Ager said he’d be preforming mostly marketing tasks until he completes a rigorous training period when he will take on the position’s remaining duties.

“The training is very intense; and it should be,” he said.

Although the new position is not directly related to Ager’s position on the council, he said his objectives and intentions for each role parallel one another. One of those objectives is to be part of creating a better Belle Fourche.

“Everybody deserves an opportunity to own a home,” he said. “I’d like to do anything that I can do through NeighborWorks to move our community in that direction.”

Ager said he wants to help grow the community by being heavily involved.

“Through this, I also think I can contribute economically to the community and grow it through housing, home repairs, those kind of things,” he said. “I love to work with people; I consider myself a service-type person.”

Programs like these, Ager said, are needed in aging towns like Belle Fourche.

“We’re an old community, and we have a lot of older homes that could use rehabilitation,” he said. “We’re (the town is) 100 years old; we have so many homes that can use new windows, insulation, doors, whatever. We can assist with all of that.”

In addition to utilizing his people skills, Ager said he’ll continue to flex his creative side to assist community members in whatever way best suits them.

“Not everybody can just go out and buy a $200,000 home; even just 10 percent down payment — who’s got $20,000 laying around?” he said. “These programs are applicable to older homes and brand new construction for mid- to low-income (recipients).”

“There’s a lot of people who could afford to make a monthly mortgage payment but have no way to come up with a down-payment,” Ager added.

When NeighborWorks assists community members with the purchase of a home, Ager said, now those community members are contributing to the property tax base and will likely utilize local companies to perform home repairs, expansions, landscaping, etc.

“If you own your own home, you’re more apt to stay in a community,” he said. “So then your kids are in school and there’s funding there for schools.”

Ager said he looks forward to working with the Belle Fourche Development Corporation to cooperatively engage the community’s need for workforce development. The two topics, workforce development and housing, go hand in hand, Ager said.

“If you don’t have housing, where are you going to put the workers?” he said.

Ager, who said he raised his two children, who are now adults in Belle Fourche, is invested in the wellbeing of the community and invites members of the public with housing concerns to reach out to him.

“Aside from that, people can come see me because I care,” he said.

Ager replaces Jamie Van Norman who vacated the position in May.

The NeighborWorks Belle Fourche office is situated inside the new Fifth and Grant Plaza located at 608 Fifth Ave. in Belle Fourche.