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Economic development in South Dakota.


Once an image or perception of a state has been established, be it accurate or misleading, it takes an enormous amount of work and energy to change an image. South Dakota is in the midst of that difficult process now. One of the most challenging aspects of changing the state's image is changing the perceptions of South Dakotans themselves.

Since January of 1987, Governor Mickelson and the Office of Economic Development have labored to bring South Dakota into the 21st century in the minds of the nation and have presented modern opportunities for economic prosperity to the residents of South Dakota. These labors have been imperative since change can not occur until a need for change is acknowledged and accepted.

In South Dakota, that need has been recognized. The economic foundations of the past are not sufficient for the gainful employment of South Dakotans today and tomorrow. The diversification of products and markets is necessary if South Dakota is to compete in today's global marketplace.

These ideas and goals have been the driving forces behind South Dakota's economic development efforts in the last three years. An incredible amount of time and talent have been utilized to create programs that build on South Dakota's strengths and weaknesses.

While the state development office is the most visible participant in these efforts, it does not work alone. The first annual Governor's Economic Development Conference in February of 1987 called for the formation of partnerships in local, regional, and state efforts to revitalize South Dakota. The response has been a phenomenal success. Today there are more than 150 local development groups working to assure their communities' survival and prosperity. Complacency is not to be found in the reality of South Dakota's economic development movement across the entire state.

Critics contend that we are unaware of the modern economic force affecting the state, and that we are incapable of responding in kind. That is not the case. However, it is understandable how all aspects of South Dakota's economic development agenda may not be known by all citizens. It is not understandable though how a person can attack three years of work without first bothering to educate himself on that work.

Governor Mickelson's Office of Economic Development has implemented a wide array of programs since 1987. Low-interest financing, grants for research and development, leads on export markets and self-help programs for all communities are examples of the variety of aids developed by this office.

The Revolving Economic Development and Initiative (REDI) Fund and the Future Fund were the first two programs implemented by Governor Mickelson and the 1987 South Dakota Legislature. These financing mechanisms were created to provide local, in-state incentives to business start-ups and expansions. The REDI Fund program has proven to be highly successful. More than $30 million has been approved in loans in less than three years. And more importantly, more than 75 percent of these loans have gone to in-state firms that have had to expand to meet the growing need for their products.

The Future Fund program met one of its primary goals by obtaining national research funds in less than two years. This program links businesses with university expertise and has dramatically provided the means for the state's universities to build their research departments and, in turn, to develop new technologies which can improve the quality of life for all South Dakotans. Water quality and supply and alternative crop research are just two examples of research being conducted which can lead to a more prosperous South Dakota.

While not all programs and activities of the GOED grab the headlines and attention like the REDI Fund and Future Fund programs, they are no less effective.

In the fall of 1988, the GOED and the South Dakota Department of Labor created the South Dakota Business Start Up Package. Although is is not a major program or initiative, it is a practical guide and reference to starting a business in South Dakota. More than 1,500 packages have been distributed, primarily upon request and predominantly to South Dakotans.

The Fastrack program, also a somewhat low profile activity, serves to encourage young residents of the state to become entrepreneurs and look at their state as a good place to do business. The "brain and youth drain" is a grave concern to us all. This state is finding unique ways to attack and arrest the problem. South Dakota is the creator of the Fastrack program and a leader in showing other states how to deal with retaining the youth while they are still students in high school.

There is another whole array of programs aimed at rural South Dakota. The Guide to Opportunities for Local Development (GOLD) program was developed as a guide for communities of all sizes to take stock of their assets and liabilities. The GOLD program offers a city or town the opportunity to realistically look at itself and assess its strengths and weaknesses. Once this process has been completed, the GOLD community is in the position to make decisions for development or tourism based on fact which will determine the future of the community. Nearly 100 communities have been certified or are in the process of certification to determine and plan their destinies.

The Mainstreet program compliments the GOLD program and offers assistance to those communities which have determined that the revitalization of downtown/commercial areas is a community priority.

The GOED is not and will not be satisfied with its arsenal of initiatives. That is why in the spring of 1990 another community based program was unveiled, the South Dakota Business Retention and Expansion program. R & E is designed to eliminate local barriers tobusiness expansion and to help develop local programs and policies which promote a stable and positive local economy.

In all the programs and efforts initiated by the GOED, a major concern is for the continued existence and expansion of South Dakota businesses and communities.

It would be very easy and actually gratifying to continue with explanations of all of the GOED's programs and initiatives. The Division of Export, Trade and Marketing is taking major strides in the international field from finding new markets for South Dakota products to encouraging additional manufacturers to sell their products overseas. From 1988 to 1989, South Dakota's exports increased by 65 percent. We can applaud the giant export step forward. These quantum leaps can continue as more businesses take advantage of the trade lead program which is administered by the GOED's Export, Trade and Marketing division.

In 1989, the GOED began a 30-month targeted marketing effort. By mid-1991, 15 industries uniquely compatible with our state's business community will have been told the South Dakota story.

Numerous programs and initiatives not administered by the GOED are underway in South Dakota which will impact our economic and social future.

The creation of job opportunities is possible only when an unswerving devotion to educational excellence exists. Governor Mickelson has made it very clear that education is a number one priority not only for curriculum, but also for increased teacher salaries.

We are living in the information era where communication skills and technology are a necessity for survival. South Dakota realized this evolution in the marketplace a decade ago and acted upon it. In 1984, South Dakota ranked first in the nation in student to computer ratio.

Today, this commitment to the application of technology in the classroom continues. Technology In Education (TIE) is devoted to making all South Dakota students participants and leaders in this era of information.

New alliances between education and business have been formed to provide students the needed skills in today's business community. The South Dakota Higher Education Council For Adult Vocational and Technical Education is concentrating on bridging the gaps between the curriculum offered to vocational students and the needs of South Dakota employers. We have forged an alliance of business and education which will strengthen the leadership in future training for employers in all businesses. Education Counts is linking the programs taught in grades K through 12 with the skills and knowledge required in the business world.

South Dakota has bolstered this unique partnership by dedicating over half of the state's sales tax revenues to education. All South Dakotans have a vested interest in seeing that the education provided to our youth will prepare them to fill the jobs created by a growing economy.

Partnerships are being formed throughout our state between the public and private sectors for the primary goal of economic development and diversification. Schools and businesses, utility companies, bankers and local development groups, counties and cities, have all formed alliances to strengthen their economic positions and assure their survival into the 21st century.

The GOED is the lead agency in the state's economic development effort. The GOED can not and will not act alone in these efforts.

Every year for the last four years economic development officials, educators and concerned citizens have gathered at the Governor's Conference on Economic Development to share successful strategies and renew the commitment to working together.

Economic development in South Dakota is succeeding due to the state's vast, interwoven network of agencies and individuals in the private and public sectors. This brief review only scratches the surface in describing all the programs and activities that are occurring in South Dakota. While we can not allow ourselves the luxury of resting on accomplishments, we all must pause a moment and look with pride upon the tireless efforts of hundreds of South Dakotans who have dedicated their time to making South Dakota an economic force in the 21st century.
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Author:Butterwick, Darrell D.
Publication:South Dakota Business Review
Date:Jun 1, 1990
Previous Article:A history of the deanship of the School of Business, the University of South Dakota.
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