Governor seeks more business for South Dakota
PIERRE—Tourism, cyber security and bioprocessing are among the keys to boosting South Dakota’s economy, according to Gov. Kristi Noem. The governor made those assertions in her State of the State address on Tuesday.
A highlight of Noem’s speech to a joint session of the Legislature was the state’s attractiveness to new businesses, touting South Dakota’s tax structure, work ethic, state credit rating, balanced state budget and lack of red tape.
“For employers and employees alike, my goal is to make sure folks across the country and around the world know that South Dakota is the place to do business,” Noem said. “Whether you’ve owned and operated a business for four generations, or you’re looking to start or even relocate your current operation, I want my message to be crystal clear: South Dakota is open for business.”
Noem highlighted tourism as a “bright spot” in the state’s economy, with nine consecutive years of record growth. According to Noem, tourism supports 8.8% of of all jobs in the state.
She hinted at another good year for tourism and told legislators they would learn more at next week’s tourism conference.
South Dakota can be a leader in cyber security, Noem said, as Dakota State University recently received a $1.46 million grant to create a high-speed research network.
“We have a chance to lead the nation in cyber security,” Noem said. “We must remember to train not only this work force, but also attract and create new companies here in South Dakota.”
As with cyber security, Noem predicted potential for the state in bioprocessing. She said in the next decade a partnership between private industry, South Dakota State University and the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology would support research and development of bioprocessing.
“Our graduates will have a deeper understanding of how biofuels and agriculture can drive change across the globe,” Noem said.
South Dakota’s status as the pheasant capital of the world is also a means of economic growth, Noem said. She credited a predator trapping program she championed with an increase in pheasant numbers. Noem said 50,000 predators were trapped in the past year.
“Though our efforts have just begun, I’m hearing from people all over the state that birds are more plentiful,” Noem said.
Taking on hemp
Another area of potential economic expansion that doesn’t have Noem as a fan is the production of industrial hemp.
Last year Noem vetoed an industrial hemp bill due to her concerns about public safety, law enforcement and funding.
Noem said she would be willing to sign hemp legislation that has reliable enforcement guidelines; responsible regulations regarding licensing, reporting and inspection; minimum land area requirements; and an appropriate fee structure.
“Those four guardrails I’ve put forward are reasonable,” Noem said at a news conference following her speech. “I think this is the most responsible path forward.”
The governor insists that the program be selfsufficient. Money generated by inspection fees and licensing would be required to pay for the program’s estimated $3.5 million cost.
Meth treatment needed
Noem got a few scattered laughs from legislators when she told them that last year her administration launched a meth awareness advertising campaign. “I’m sure you’ve heard of it,” Noem said, referring to the “Meth, we’re on it” campaign.
“Whether you liked the ads or not, I can tell you this: I have heard story after story of people talking about the problem,” Noem said.
The governor asked legislators to grant her request for additional funding for the next phase—intensive treatment programs.
Budget outlook changes
At her budget address in December, Noem said there was no money available for increases for state employees, public schools or Medicaid providers. Since her budget speech, state revenues have been slightly better than expected.
“What this means is that we may have extra flexibility to achieve the things we want to accomplish,” Noem said. “My number one priority with additional, on-going money will be to provide increases to K-12 schools, providers and state employees.”
At her press conference, Noem said an additional two months of revenue information available by the end of the legislative session in March may also inform how much money lawmakers could designate for state employee salaries, education and Medicaid providers.
Gov. Kristi Noem prepares to deliver the second State of the State address of her administration.
(Community News Service photo