Governor Gets Personal in State Business Expansion

It is common for state economic development officials to try to lure out-of-state companies, and South Dakota has been successful at that, notably with the growing firearms sector in the Northern Hills.

But efforts to help existing businesses expand get less attention.

Gov. Dennis Daugaard is trying to change that with a new initiative to keep South Dakota businesses in the state and help them grow.

“Most new jobs are created by companies that already are here and established,” he said Tuesday after a tour of Rapid City firm MEMSense, which produces sensors and measurement units for military applications.

It is one of about 440 South Dakota businesses that will get a personal visit from the governor, lieutenant governor or state economic development officials in coming months.

While it won’t yield big announcements about new companies locating in the state, “That’s probably the most productive route we can take” in growing the state’s economy and work force, Daugaard said.

The governor said he has learned from the tours that many businesses are already planning to expand. But companies have told him they have a hard time finding enough of the skilled workers they need, especially in the areas of accounting, engineering, welding, health care and information technology. Access to capital to fund growth is another pressing issue, he said.

Daugaard said he, Lt. Gov. Matt Michels and Pat Costello, commissioner of the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, will study what they learn from their visits and look at ways the state could help meet businesses’ needs and better promote programs already in place to support those needs.

“It’s a dialogue,” he said. “We want to hear from them. We also want to tell them what we offer.”

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