An optimistic mindset can change more than just how we see the world – it can change everything about our lives. Winston Churchill summed up how when he said, “A pessimist sees the difficulty in every opportunity; an optimist sees the opportunity in every difficulty.” Two years ago, when the pandemic made its way to America, states across this country shut their doors out of fear. All but one. South Dakota built opportunity out of that difficulty, and the result is a booming economy — the strongest in the nation.
For decades, South Dakota has had all the right ingredients to become an economic powerhouse. We’re one of the best states to start a small business because of our low taxes and lack of a state income tax or business income tax. The affordability of living in South Dakota also makes it easier to raise a family and for bold thinkers to kickstart their ideas.
When I first took office, I promised that South Dakota could be an example for other states. I began that work immediately, taking the first steps toward a more diversified economy. It started with a big vision of expanding broadband across our state and making cybersecurity our state’s next big industry. Within two years, we have fully secured the funding to take broadband statewide, and this year, we took a big leap in expanding the cybersecurity program at Dakota State University to help bring expand that industry in South Dakota.
Before we could get here, we had some smaller steps to take.
Not knowing what lied ahead, I took the initiative in 2019 of having the SDReadyToWork website revamped so we could connect more employers with potential employees. That was a smart mov, as we have seen a tremendous increase in the number of jobs posted, creating new points of entry for a growing workforce.
Over the last four years, my administration has taken on licensure reform in several industries. This includes making it easier for military soldiers and their spouses to transfer out-of-state licenses, as well as medical professionals. In all, South Dakota in recent years has simplified licensure procedures for barbers and cosmetologists, plumbers, counselors, appraisers, medical assistants, and electricians.
This year, we focused on turning the difficulties of some of our workforce challenges into opportunities for the next generation of South Dakotans. Thanks to these investments in our economy, we are building a stronger career pipeline from our colleges and universities to a variety of industries.
Two big areas of focus are healthcare and agriculture — our state’s No. 1 industry. In total, the legislature approved $20 million for healthcare programs, such as the West River Health Science Center, the Lake Area Tech Archway Complex, and Southeast Technical College’s health simulation center. For agriculture, lawmakers approved more than $22 million in funding for programs like USD’s Discovery District, the Ag/Diesel lab at Mitchell Technical College, and continued improvements to the South Dakota State University’s Cyber Precision Ag program.
The early economic indicators for this year already point to more success on the horizon for our state. Travel and tourism numbers are already increasing above 2021’s record numbers. Our unemployment rate continues to be among the lowest in the country and is far below the national rate. Our population grew three times faster than the national growth rate in 2021. All of these are signs that what we are doing in South Dakota is working.
As South Dakota’s top promoter and number one fan, I will continue to support policies that turn challenges and difficulties into opportunities. And if this is your first time hearing about South Dakota, we welcome you to visit anytime. The new opportunity you are looking for is just around the corner.