- Associated Press - Thursday, March 27, 2014

The Daily Republic, Mitchell, March 27, 2014

While Sioux Falls grows, what about the rest of us?

Between the 1900 and 2010 censuses, Sioux Falls‘ population grew by an astonishing 1,400 percent.

During the same period, the rest of the state’s population grew by 69 percent.

In other words, Sioux Falls expanded at a rate 20 times faster than the rest of South Dakota.

The numbers verify what we can plainly see by driving around the state: Sioux Falls is doing phenomenally well, while many small towns are struggling.

That’s why we’re continually discouraged by the amount of economic help statewide officials arrange for Sioux Falls, oftentimes at the expense of other places.

Lately, the South Dakota High School Activities Association has angered many with what seems like a master plan to take state-level events away from smaller cities and move them to Sioux Falls. Mitchell, for example, was told that its new, multi-million-dollar soccer complex won’t be a preferred site for state tournaments in the future, simply because it has real grass instead of artificial turf. Some critics interpreted that and other, similar moves as a convenient way to send more tournaments eastward.

This week came news that the governor and the state Board of Education have approved the creation of an electrician training program at Southeast Technical Institute in Sioux Falls, despite objections from Mitchell Technical Institute, which already has such a program.

Perhaps we’re just bitter, but we suspect Sioux Falls could somehow find the electricians it needs without duplicating and potentially harming an existing program in Mitchell. As we’ve seen throughout South Dakota’s history, the state’s largest city always finds ways to keep growing.

Meanwhile, the rest of us watch as our events, workers, families, shoppers and state government resources get sucked up by the vacuum that is Sioux Falls.

We wish Sioux Falls and its residents no ill. We only wish our state’s leaders would better recognize who needs help and who can get along fine without it.


Aberdeen American News, Aberdeen, March 23, 2014

These 1,000 jobs aren’t the same

In past years, Northern Beef Packers, Molded Fiber Glass and Sanford Aberdeen Medical Center were some of the great businesses looking to meet prospective employees at the Aberdeen job fair.

This year, it seems a Starbucks coffee shop was one of the new companies that attracted attention.

This is not to take anything away from Starbucks, but this community has been a little spoiled by previous job fairs, with big new companies promising dozens, if not hundreds of new jobs. Starbucks is offering 17 hourly positions, beginning in August.

But with MFG and Sanford up and running and the beef plant in limbo, the most recent job fair Tuesday at the Aberdeen Civic Arena saw low turnout numbers. Dan Thielsen, manager of the Aberdeen office for the South Dakota Department of Labor, said 270 job-seekers visited. Past job fairs have seen attendance as high as 700, Thielsen said.

We hope this is not a sign of things to come: too much demand for help, and not enough supply of workers.

It’s something this region has struggled with for years.

The area slogan “1,000 new jobs” - once ubiquitous, now conspicuously absent - touted the hundreds of jobs that would have been provided by the beef plant and the then-coming Sanford hospital.

Now that the hospital is staffed and the beef plant is back to ground zero, Thielsen says there are still 1,079 jobs in Brown County.

The slogan vs. the reality.

It’s a frightening thing, and shows that our low-single-digit unemployment rate does have a dark lining.

Much of the service jobs that were expected to crop up were to come on the heels of the beef plant’s opening - more workers there, more demand for restaurants, shopping, etc. everywhere.

It’s becoming clear, if it wasn’t already, that Aberdeen’s opportunities are growing faster than its population.

We already know many who moved here to work at the plant have come and gone in a short amount of time, frustrated by the loss of a job and the lack of payment for work already done.

On a state level, South Dakota has been pushing to recruit businesses and workers to the state. Everything has been tried, from South Dakota Roots and the South Dakota Workforce Initiative - SD Wins - to postcards sent to neighboring states to attract employers.

Daugaard told our editorial board in January the next plan will be all-day workforce summits around the state, including one to be upcoming in Aberdeen.

In the meantime, the precarious balance of jobs and workers must be carefully watched here. We would hate to see good employers fail because of a lack of workers, waiting for that next beef plant to open up and infuse this area with cash and new residents.


Daily Leader, Madison, March 24, 2014

Broad powers should be given out sparingly

A commission created by the Rapid City city council has been given broad legal powers, more than we think are appropriate for this group.

The newly-formed Rapid City Human Rights Commission will be able to issue subpoenas, cross-examine witnesses and order remedies if they believe someone has been discriminated against in the city. The commission can investigate complaints against employers, labor organizations, schools, landlords, businesses and others.

While complaints of discrimination based on race, color, sex, ancestry or disabilities should be taken very seriously, we question the powers given to this group. The commission is not elected by the people and requires no specialized training (including any legal training).

Furthermore, the ordinance has an extraordinarily vague clause about discrimination concerning “family relationships.” What does that mean? Can someone complain about a small business owner employing a spouse, saying the spouse got the job ahead of the person complaining?

The legal powers being granted are very powerful tools. We believe they should be granted sparingly, and not to this group.

Such legal powers should be granted only to people trained in their use, with an understanding of the consequences of their decisions. Despite good intentions, legal action must be restricted to appropriate persons, and used with respect. An appointed citizen commission without training or public accountability is not the right group.

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