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South Dakota: Economic Expansion Centers on Work Force Development

Dec/Jan 10
South Dakota, like its northern neighbor, has done remarkably well in the face of some difficult economic times. A low unemployment rate of 4.8 percent - the second lowest in the nation - is particularly telling when compared with the national average of 10.0 percent (as of November 2009). Several initiatives implemented over the years seem to be paying off for the state, but new challenges in work force development are on the horizon.

Like other states, South Dakota is facing challenges of labor force shortages, as many older workers will start to retire, according to the state's recent Labor Market Report: "The looming labor force shortages in South Dakota are colliding with great potential for economic growth in our state." According to Governor Mike Rounds' office, one ongoing initiative, Workforce 2025, has focused on providing a competent and qualified work force. Five programs that are part of Workforce 2025 all focus on development of the work force, retaining current residents, recruiting individuals and businesses to the state, and preparing students for the future.

One earlier program dubbed the 2010 Initiative proved fruitful for South Dakota. Its goal of growing the gross state product by $10 billion was met last year, two years ahead of schedule. It is among the top states in gross domestic product (GDP) by state growth for the 2008 year, according to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, a division of the Department of Commerce. South Dakota had the 10th-largest GDP growth last year among all 50 states. The increase brings the state's GDP to $36.96 billion, up from $34 billion a year earlier.

The state also has U.S. Senator Tim Johnson working at securing funding for many of its agricultural programs. Johnson, a member of the Agriculture Appropriations Conference Committee, announced that the full Senate passed the Agriculture Appropriations bill for fiscal year 2010, which included millions for the state. Some of the funding includes $1.25 million for the North Central Agricultural Research Laboratory Biomass Crop Production; almost a half-million dollars for the South Dakota State University Crop Integration and Production; and $563,000 for the South Dakota State University Ruminant Nutrition Consortium.

The Mount Rushmore State has experienced growth despite the economic climate. Link It Software, a California-based high-tech firm, announced the opening of its fifth call center in Britton, according to the Governor's Office of Economic Development. Horizontal Machining and Manufacturing, a heavy-metal manufacturing company, added 17,000 square feet to its existing Pierre facility, creating 35 jobs. And Vizio, a HDTV and consumer electronics manufacturer opened a customer service and sales center in North Sioux City.

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