South Dakota’s economy has been thriving over the past few years, but even though our unemployment rate in 2022 was the lowest it’s been in our state’s history, we still have 23,000 open jobs in our state. These are growing pains, and we’re tackling them head-on. That is how we will continue to build and advance the American Dream.
Occupational licenses are a great place to start. My first year in office, I signed legislation that recognized occupational licenses for military spouses who moved to our state. Then I proposed and signed legislation to recognize the healthcare licenses of folks moving here from other states, helping us fill jobs. Now, we have an opportunity to finish the job we started by providing a path to recognize the licenses of nearly every profession in the state.
States with similar policies have seen workforce growth almost immediately. Arizona’s workforce has grown by about 5,000 workers since their law was implemented, and thousands more are sure to come. That’s the kind of drastic workforce boost that we need here in South Dakota.
I am working with legislators like Senator Jim Stalzer on this bill. He is leading this effort because he knows the lasting impact this will have on South Dakota’s workforce. I want to thank him for his support.
The Governor’s Office of Economic Development worked with partners to help facilitate $1.7 billion in new economic investments in South Dakota over the last year, creating 2,400 new jobs. During my first term we delivered more economic investment in South Dakota than in the previous 10 years combined. That’s the kind of success you only see in a state where government is limited, personal responsibility is central to everything, and the private sector is unleashed.
South Dakota continues to attract the careers of the future. Last year, we expanded Dakota State University’s cyber research capabilities, which will bring 500 six-figure jobs to Sioux Falls. More importantly, it will allow future generations to pursue the career of their dreams right here in South Dakota. I promised to bring the next big industry to South Dakota – and this is it.
We also broke ground on Gevo’s Net-Zero 1 Site, the largest economic development project in state history. The first billion-dollar investment in South Dakota will literally turn corn into jet fuel.
We aren’t just bringing new businesses to South Dakota – our existing businesses are growing and thriving. Valley Queen in Milbank began a $200 million expansion that will create an additional 140 jobs for the community. South Dakota’s total milk production has risen 11% in the last year, and that will continue to increase with the completion of this project.
We were the only state to reject the additional elevated unemployment benefits offered by the federal government. Our people kept working, our unemployment rate remained low, our economy remained strong, and new businesses moved here. Now, our healthy unemployment trust fund balance gives us the opportunity to cut the unemployment tax, delivering an estimated $18 million savings to South Dakota businesses.
When people move to South Dakota to join this record-breaking economy, they are literally pursuing happiness. They are choosing South Dakota to build the American Dream, and we need to be ready for them. We will do this by continuing to tackle our workforce challenges, inviting businesses and Freedom-loving Americans to join us, and providing a level playing field where everyone can succeed.