One of the talking points Democratic nominee Susan Wismer needs to adopt from her vanquished primary opponent Joe Lowe is his talk of the "culture of corruption" fostered by the Rounds-Daugaard administration. Why?

  1. It's true!
  2. Fighting a "Culture of Corruption" will synergize with the "Take It Back!" populist message of Sue's new best buddy on the prairie, Rick Weiland.
  3. South Dakota's higher-than-normal corruption has policy impacts, like an over-emphasis on economic development based on bribe-prone corporate handouts and less funding for education and health care:

...Economic development projects are ripe for corruption, the study published this spring in the Public Administration Review, found.

Using data from the Department of Justice that encompassed more than 25,000 public corruption-related convictions nationwide between 1976 and 2008 of elected officials, judges and local employees, the study concluded that higher instances of corruption correlate with more spending in certain areas. Among the most corrupt states were Mississippi, Louisiana, Alabama, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Pennsylvania, Illinois, South Dakota and Alaska.

The study found that high levels of corruption in a state can shape its budget allocation. More corrupt states tended to spend money on construction, highways, and police protection programs, which provide more opportunity for corrupt officials to use public money for their own gain. These states spend less on health, education, and welfare, which provide less opportunity for officials to collect bribes... [Liz Farmer and Kevin Tidmarsh, "What Corrupt States Spend Their Money On," Governing, 2014.06.06].

Wismer can also point out that the culture of corruption ends up hamstringing the economic development that Daugaard and pals say they are promoting:

The shakedown culture can also be a deterrent to economic development, with developers who are attempting to play fair getting disenchanted by pay-to-play politics, he added. After all, there's little incentive to spend time and money on a bid when the winning bidder has already bought political favor [Farmer and Tidmarsh, 2014.06.06].

Corruption could even have something to do with lower voter turnout:

Public confidence in government is also a hidden – and immeasurable – cost of corruption, added Sergio Acosta, a corporate attorney who was the former federal prosecutor for the Northern District of Illinois [Farmer and Tidmarsh, 2014.06.06].

The culture of corruption that Joe Lowe identifies hinders public welfare, economic development, and civic life in South Dakota. Sue, that's your message, in one sentence. Get on it!

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In the Democratic gubernatorial candidates' forum on SDPB last Thursday, candidate Joe Lowe recommended that the Governor's Office of Economic Development redirect some of its grants from big corporations to South Dakota's small towns to help them revitalize their downtowns. Lowe pointed to Main Street Square in Rapid City, where regular events create a shopping and tourism destination that's boosting business.

Regular readers know that I'm all about big-thinking economic development policy that looks past the traditional, unreliable corporate-welfare model. So, apparently, is Fargo, where downtown development is drawing youth, creativity, and entrepreneurial spirit. The Minneapolis Star Tribune's profile of Fargo's downtown success discusses young Fargo entrepreneur Greg Tehven's passion for his stereotype-busting hometown:

Tehven’s Fargo is the five-block radius of downtown; a vibrant community of artists, tech entrepreneurs, college kids and possibilities. Once hollowed out, the downtown is now crowded with coffee shops, restaurants and quirky shops that draw in crowds of strolling pedestrians and cyclists.

Tehven’s Fargo is one of the nation’s fastest-growing cities [Jennifer Brooks, "Fargo Reinvents Itself as a Magnet for Creative Types and Entrepreneurs," Minneapolis Star Tribune, 2014.06.01].

We discussed that population growth last week, when we noted that Fargo ranks seventh for population growth among the nation's cities, ahead of booming #11 Sioux Falls.

What's it feel like to be in charge of economic development in Fargo?

“You feel like you died and went to heaven, ” said James Gartin, president of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corp. — the man in charge of encouraging economic growth in a place now ranked as the best place in America to find a job, the country’s third-safest community and its fourth-fastest growing metro region.

“It’s electric,” Gartin said. “It’s just an incredible time to be in this market. Not only with the business growth, but we have this incredible entrepreneurial ecosystem” [Brooks, 2014.06.01].

Fargo's good fortune spills across the Red River to Moorhead, which is growing even faster. Moorhead has hamstrung its downtown development but enjoys other advantages from which South Dakota might learn:

Rather than focusing on downtown revitalization — a difficult proposition, since a large swath of downtown Moorhead was razed to make way for a mall — Moorhead cultivates the image of a politically progressive, family-friendly college town. It touts its schools, its close-knit neighborhoods, its public funding for the arts, its parks and green spaces — in short, its Minnesota-ness [Brooks, 2014.06.01].

Economic development is much, much more than handing money to big corporations. Fargo and Moorhead get that. Joe Lowe gets that. Why don't Dennis Daugaard and Mike Rounds get that?

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Haven Stuck, Democrat for District 33 Senate

Haven Stuck, Democrat for District 33 Senate

Haven Stuck wants to upset the Republican apple cart and become only the third Democratic legislator from the Black Hills in the last 20 years. But in an interview with the Madville Times, the Rapid City attorney and District 33 Senate candidate indicates his route to victory lies in showing that he is a pragmatic good apple in the cart who's just going to Pierre to get things done.

Stuck, who has chaired the Rapid City Chamber of Commerce and the South Dakota Investment Council with a master's , says the economy is a major issue for South Dakota. He says South Dakota is doing a lot right but that we need to make our state more attractive to young people by offering more jobs. Stuck wants to boost our vo-tech schools to provide more training for trades and develop programs that align better with job market demands.

Stuck says the EB-5 scandal, a product of the state's economic development efforts, hasn't pinged the Rapid City radar much. He says we should look at how the state has used EB-5, but he has no specific suggestions for changes in federal visa investment program.

Stuck does not see a major economic boost coming from the Powertech uranium in-situ leach mining plan, although he notes that even a small number jobs will be a big plus for the Fall River area where the Canadian-Chinese company plans to dig. Stuck says there is a lot of scientific evidence that in situ leach mining is safe, but he says the state needs more information. He favors a continued review of the proposal to ensure that we can regulate the project to keep our land and water safe.

Stuck sees "tremendous" economic gain to be had in expanding Medicaid under the Affordable Care Act. Along with the obvious humanitarian justification, good health care, says Stuck, means a more efficient economy.

Expanding Medicaid is an important issue for his lower-income constituents in North Rapid City. So is increasing the minimum wage. Stuck says the ballot initiative to raise the minimum wage to $8.50 won't affect a lot of workers, but it will be positive for the economy. Stuck breaks out his master's degree in economics to explain that the folks who benefit from the minimum wage hike are more likely to spend every penny of that boost, thus generating a GDP increase that would outweigh whatever small job loss a minimum wage hike might bring.

On education, Stuck recognizes that we need to boost teacher salaries. He prefers not to set some benchmark goal for teacher salaries, saying instead we simply need to "see what we can do." Stuck also wants to look for efficiencies, like sharing resources among districts. (Hmm... I think some teachers and administrators will tell Stuck that we've already squeezed that turnip.)

Stuck is running in a district currently represented by Senator Phil Jensen, who has run and won on culture-war issues like abortion, Islam, and civil rights. I asked Stuck how he'd fight the culture war. He said he didn't think such issues have been at the forefront of District 33's concerns. But he does say that he's been active in his church and supports the free exercise of religion. Stuck leans libertarian in saying government shouldn't over-regulate how we live our lives. Whether we're talking marriage or medicine, Stuck says we should be "tolerant" and leave decisions to the individuals. Unlike Senator Jensen, candidate Stuck says we have nothing to fear from the gay community.

Stuck doesn't let Dems' low victory record in his neighborhood bring him down. He says he gets good comments from his GOP friends around town. He believes his 30 years of community involvement will help convince voters beyond his Democratic base that he can legislate in the best practical interests of the community.

Haven Stuck faces Robin Page in the District 33 Senate primary on June 3. The Madville Times profiles Page here.

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Joe Lowe knows history is against him. South Dakotans haven't elected a Democrat as their governor since 1974. But Lowe believes 2014 is different. In this interview with the Madville Times, the Democratic gubernatorial candidate says his positions on and plans for economic development, education, emergency response, and Medicaid, combined with the missteps made by current Governor Dennis Daugaard, will help Democrats retake the governor's office.

Economic Development

Lowe sees economic development as a key area where he can distinguish himself from the Daugaard administration. Lowe says South Dakota spends too much time trying to recruit out-of-state businesses. He doesn't want to end such recruitment, but he wants to spend more time developing South Dakota's native human capital. Lowe emphasizes the lessons of this 2013 National Governors Association paper on "Top Trends in State Economic Development," which emphasizes creating jobs by supporting new entrepreneurs in-state. He would like South Dakota to follow Nebraska and Tennessee in using Gallup's Entrepreneur Acceleration System to identify and assist local businesses with the greatest growth potential.

Lowe says the business leaders he speaks to says they have trouble finding skilled tradespeople. Governor Daugaard has apparently heard the same complaints, but for all his workforce summits and recruitment initiatives, the problem persists.

Lowe supports economic development, but he has taken strong positions against two big energy projects promising economic benefits, the Keystone XL pipeline and the Powertech/Azarga uranium mining plan. Lowe wants South Dakota to help America achieve energy independence. He wants to promote wind and solar, but he says fossil fuels are still an essential part of the American energy portfolio. If we found Bakken oil under Harding County, Lowe says he'd be happy to drill and pipe it, as along as it was done safely and promoted South Dakota jobs.

Lowe says that if Keystone XL were piping oil to American uses, and if the steel for the pipe were better, and if it were creating more economic boost, he could rethink his position. But as he understands it, TransCanada is building Keystone XL to ship Canadian tar sands oil to China. (Lowe understands correctly.) The steel for the southern leg of the pipe has already shown numerous flaws. Lowe says the steel isn't coming from U.S. mills; it's from China and India (and TransCanada has already ordered and stockpiling that steel on the Great Plains, so approving the pipeline won't result in a surge of more steel production). The pipeline promises to create a couple thousand temporary construction jobs (how many will actually be South Dakotans? Lowe wonders) but only 30 to 50 permanent jobs spread out from Alberta to Nebraska.

That meager benefit, says Lowe, is far outweighed by the potential for ecological disaster. Lowe says tar sands oil isn't like regular crude. The bitumen in it causes spills to sink, making cleanup much more difficult. A pipeline similar to Keystone XL spilled thousands of barrels of tar sands oil in the Kalamazoo River four years ago, and the riverbed is still a mess. Keystone XL crosses the Missouri River in Montana and the Ogallala Aquifer in South Dakota and Nebraska. The Canadians don't want Keystone XL's risk; why should we take it?

Lowe shows sensitivity to downsides of Keystone XL that will appeal to groups of voters beyond us treehuggers (or, on the prairie, tall-grass-huggers?). He notes that Keystone XL may disturb American Indian burial sites. He recalls that when he was fighting wildfires, he had to bring an archaeologist with him to ensure that his crews didn't dig fire lines through culturally significant areas. Lowe also takes a strong stand against the use of eminent domain for Keystone XL. He said it boggles him that we would allow a foreign company to take land from South Dakota landowners. Hmm... it sounds like Lowe could gain traction with the Indian and cowboy alliance.

Lowe rejects Powertech's uranium in-situ leach mining on the same risk-benefit analysis. From his reading so far on the issue, Lowe concludes mining more uranium from the southern Black Hills won't create a lot of jobs, and the demonstrated risks to groundwater and the land are too great.

Lowe also draws on his experience as state fire chief to highlight another risk in Powertech's plan: what if there's a transportation accident? What if a truck hauling the recovered uranium crashes and starts a fire? Lowe says standard procedure for such a fire would require firefighters to secure a wide perimeter and let the fire burn out rather than risk direct exposure to the spilled radioactive materials. (Bonus danger: throw water on uranium, and you get hydrogen, which is flammable.) Firefighters would also be busy evacuating people downwind from the radioactive smoke plume.

Rather than protecting South Dakota interests, Lowe says the state has too easily given to these energy projects in hopes of making a buck. Governor Daugaard signed a bill in 2011 ceding South Dakota's authority over uranium mining to the EPA; Lowe says he would have vetoed that legislation. Lowe says the state threw tax incentives and rebates at TransCanada for its first Keystone pipeline, even though TransCanada was able and determined to build the project without any state handouts. He says South Dakota's economic developers tried to throw EB-5 money at Keystone XL just to land big commissions.

Given the state's dubious economic development practices, I asked Lowe if he would discontinue the EB-5 visa investment program. Lowe said he can't answer that until we have all the answers about what has happened with EB-5 in the Daugaard and Rounds administrations. Lowe calls EB-5 a "colossal failure" that points to a "culture of corruption" in the state's economic development program. Lowe says EB-5 clearly suffered from a lack of oversight, but we need to understand the full story of that failure. We need to hear from disgraced former EB-5 director Joop Bollen. The Legislature, says Lowe, has avoided its responsibility to dig for answers; Lowe says we need an independent investigation into EB-5 and the Governor's Office of Economic Development to give us the answers we need to proceed with responsible and effective economic development policy.

More oversight is needed in the Future Fund, says Lowe, to prevent corruption. Lowe finds it unacceptable that the governor can hand Future Fund grants to businesses and then receive campaign contributions from honchos in those businesses. Lowe wants stronger, bipartisan oversight of Future Fund grants. He also would like to ban Future Fund recipients from contributing to in-state political campaigns.

Lowe reacts with caution to the idea of flying to China like Governor Daugaard to drum up business for South Dakota. He wants to promote exports for South Dakota, but he says the governor should exercise his muscle strictly in government-to-government contacts to arrange official agreements that can benefit all businesses in the state. Businesspeople accompanying the governor on such foreign trips can serve as experts to help the governor negotiate such agreements, but those businesspeople should negotiate their specific foreign contracts on their own dime.

Education

On education, I asked Lowe how much he thinks a teacher is worth. Quite a bit, said Lowe. We want our kids to compete globally, so we want to have the best teachers. Lowe says drawing the best talent requires offering at least average teacher pay. The national average is $56,383; South Dakota's average is $39,580. Lowe would settle for the regional average: in the six adjoining states, the average is $51,998.

That's a big goal, but Lowe says that where there's a will, there's a way. As Governor, Lowe would establish higher teacher pay as a priority and look for other areas in the budget from which to reallocate money. He'd review existing programs to identify any available efficiencies. If available revenues and other alternatives absolutely could not boost teacher pay enough, Lowe says he would come to the voters, explain the fiscal situation, and ask them to vote on a new funding mechanism, perhaps something like the part-time extra-penny tourism tax proposed by Lowe's neighbor Senator Stan Adelstein in 2011.

Emergency Response

Lowe sees a need for better leadership from the governor on disaster response. Still rankled by what he sees as a weak response to the October blizzard, Lowe says that, given an impending storm, he'd be in contact with the weather service to get a clear picture of the threat and with his cabinet to ensure every department was ready. He'd open the state emergency operations center and be the face of storm response, going on the air to advise citizens of big events like the October blizzard and urging them to stock up on supplies and get off the roads. Lowe says Governor Daugaard failed to take those actions last October.

Lowe says the cost of failure in emergency response is too great. He sees no place for political appointees in emergency response; from top management to front-line fire crews, Lowe vows to hire only top-notch professionals for such jobs.

Medicaid Expansion

Lowe takes emergency management seriously because it's about protecting people from harm. The same concern for people fuels his passion about the Medicaid expansion. He wonders why we would choose to leave 48,000 South Dakotans out of affordable health care. "It's just mean," says Lowe.

Lowe also says it's foolish for the state to pass up the fiscal benefits of the Medicaid expansion. We gladly take federal funds for other programs, like highway construction and pine beetle mitigation. Lowe says turning down federal dollars for health coverage, as well as all the economic benefits that would come with that fiscal infusion, shows that Governor Daugaard is more influenced by his ultra-conservative base than by broader concern for the well-being of all South Dakotans.

Get out the Word, Get out the Vote

Lowe says he meets Dems who had the wind taken out of their sails by the 2004 and 2010 elections. They worked hard for Tom Daschle and Stephanie Herseth Sandlin, only to see those Democrats beaten by half-truths. Those Dems thus hesitate to invest heart and soul in today's Dem campaigns (hmm... sounds like Lowe has been talking to David Newquist).

Lowe says 2014 is different. Lowe tells Dems to look at Daugaard's record on Medicaid, storm response, education, and economic development. Lowe says Dems can win by telling South Dakotans that story, showing them how the current administration has put ideology and cronyism over good management and common interests. Rousing the Irish fight in his genes (his mother immigrated from Ireland), Lowe says he won't let Daugaard evade that record or roll over him with false attacks. Now, says Lowe, he just needs to inspire Dems to lay down the serious cash it will take to counter the GOP money machine, get out his message, and get out the vote.

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Sometimes I wonder if South Dakotans are so desperate for economic development that they'll sacrifice anything—clean air, clean water, decent roads, decent wages—to get it.

And sometimes, some South Dakotans surprise me by drawing the line. Out in Hand County last week, in the heart of cattle country, the county commission voted down a conditional-use permit for a 50,000-head feedlot.

50,000 head of cattle. There are only 3,388 people in Hand County. That's a lot more poop and smell and wear on the roads hauling those cattle in and out. Neighbor Candice Lockner says good riddance:

Candice Lockner, a neighbor and opponent, says she thinks the issue was over, considering that the conditional use required the project to be “compatible with surrounding properties” and that the “industrial size of the proposal” wasn’t acceptable.

“I pray that this ends it,” Lockner says, adding that she thinks the project failed because the estimates of truck numbers and the cost of road improvements, among other things, were “fluid” [Mikkel Pates, "SD County Votes Down 50,000-Head Feedlot," AgWeek, 2014.05.06].

Northern Prime Feeders organizers Steve Munger and sons A.J. and Nate aren't giving up on their plan, which they announced in January 2013. Dad Steve says they'll just take their business elsewhere:

“We’ll go to another community that actually wants some economic growth,” Munger said [Pates, 2014.05.06].

Maybe they can head up to Brown County, which is surely looking for some sort of replacement for the never-realized economic impact of the bankrupt Northern Beef Packers. A.J. Munger should know all about that: he was Northern Beef Packers' Director of New Business Development, Pricing, and Marketing. The Mungers' Eagle Pass Ranch appears to have had a marketing deal with NBP before it went under.

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Lora Hubbel, GOP candidate for governor

Lora Hubbel, GOP candidate for governor

Lora Hubbel says she's running for Governor for the same reason I'm blogging: she just wants to "save South Dakota." And Hubbel and I may not disagree as much as you would think on what South Dakota needs saving from.

Hubbel says she was originally more inclined to save South Dakota by running for U.S. Senate. She was appalled by Mike Rounds's apparent opportunism and lack of true GOP principles. She was also put off by very similar aspects of the Annette Bosworth candidacy (Bosworth was the first ObamaCare doctor in the state, says Hubbel, citing Bosworth's eager fulfillment of the Obama Administration's electronic health records requirements, which Hubbel sees as integral to the ills of the Affordable Care Act).

But Hubbel talked to some friends and fellow pols, prayed about it, and decided she could do just as much good running for Governor against Dennis Daugaard, whom she considers an ideological clone of Rounds. Last year she thought South Dakotans would not elect a woman governor. However, voters she has talked to are changing her mind. She says she's received encouragement from cowboys, old codgers, and others whom she might have thought would be most resistant to putting a woman in charge.

Turning to policy, I asked Hubbel to explain her support for concierge care. In a weekend press release, Hubbel said the model of health care Dr. Merlin Brown is practicing in the Cities would help her kill the Affordable Care Act (which Hubbel consistently refers to as ObamaCare). But in our conversation, she said concierge care, rejecting insurance payments and charging patients directly for primary care at the clinic, could co-exist with the ACA. Whether we want to kill or keep the ACA, Hubbel says we can agree on the following benefits of the Brown model:

  1. Price transparency allows doctors and patients to shop around for the best price, lowering costs through competition.
  2. Payment direct from patients reduces paperwork for doctors.
  3. Rejecting insurance frees doctors to practice as they see fit, without insurers dictating what drugs and procedures they may use.

There's just one political problem with Hubbel's proposal: there isn't really any governmental barrier to South Dakota doctors' adoption of Brown's model of any other model of concierge care. Hubbel says a simple lack of knowledge stops doctors from following Brown's model. Win or lose in the primary, Hubbel says she plans to send information to doctors across the state about concierge care and bring Dr. Brown here to share his experiences and perhaps proselytize. Hubbel doesn't need to be governor to make that happen... although the bully pulpit would help.

Hubbel does see more direct action she could take as governor to stop the implementation of Common Core. She says she would simply veto any funding for the Common Core Smarter Balanced Assessment field-tested in Sioux Falls and across the state this spring. She'd tell her Department of Education to help schools develop cheaper, less intrusive, less time-consuming tests. And she'd find a way to change state law and allow parents to opt their kids out of the state standardized tests.

But then I asked Hubbel just why we need any standardized tests in the first place. She thought a moment (yes, contrary to easy blog punchlines, conservatives like Hubbel do think). She said Chinese kids beat our kids on tests, but our scholars and workers are still beating them on innovation. Maybe tests are just tradition, said Hubbel, not adding lots of value to our schools.

Hubbel wants to get rid of Common Core to give teachers the freedom to teach without following a government checklist (she says the same thing about the ACA and doctors). She also wants to get rid of South Dakota's embarrassing status of paying teachers the least in the nation. Her two-year-old grandson will be going to school soon. She wants him to have the best teachers, and she says we can't get the best teachers by paying them a pittance. She advocates cutting administrative positions by half and spreading that money out to the teachers.

Hubbel is more eager to share some more wealth with teachers than with the crony capitalists favored by South Dakota's current economic development policies. She worries the state will sell out the Black Hills to Powertech/Azarga and its uranium mining scheme. Hubbel says her father, a geologist, studied the Madison Aquifer and found it "fragile". Hubbel says given what she currently knows about the Black Hills, its water, an uranium mining, she would block Powertech's proposal (that makes two gubernatorial candidates against Powertech).

Hubbel says the EB-5 program is another example of South Dakota putting money over our better interests. She shares Senator Chuck Grassley's concerns that EB-5 investors are insufficiently vetted and that the program opens a door for espionage. Hubbel says the program is too corrupt to continue.

Asked whether she would take trips overseas to promote South Dakota businesses, as Governor Daugaard is doing this week in China and Mongolia, Hubbel says no. If a business is big enough to seek business overseas, taxpayers should not foot their bill.

Hubbel says government should simply stay out of business. The temptation to corruption and favoritism is too great. Under such an attitude, it's hard to say what would be left for the Governor's Office of Economic Development to do. Hubbel says if she wins the election, a lot of folks currently in GOED will be looking for different jobs.

I can't agree with Hubbel that South Dakota needs saving from the Affordable Care Act. But she could do much worse to South Dakota than promoting concierge care and transparent pricing.

As for education and economic development, well, dang, we seem to agree that South Dakota would be better off if we tested our kids less, paid our teachers more, and acted like free-market Republicans and kept government out of picking winners and losers in business. And Hubbel even agrees that uranium mining in the Black Hills is a bad idea. (Lora, I know some friends who might like to party with you and Joe Lowe in Custer Saturday night).

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Brookings native Scott Meyer, a brilliant and energetic entrepreneur with the world at his feet, came back to South Dakota in 2009 to build his future. He came in part because he saw the Internet leveling the playing field for rural places like South Dakota:

With equal access to the world’s knowledge thanks to the Internet, South Dakota again looked like the prairie of my great-great grandparents. I could:

  • Access the world’s knowledge on the Internet and sites like Wikipedia
  • Educate myself with online classes and videos
  • Sell products anywhere in the world thanks to sites like Amazon
  • Produce products in my home thanks to 3D printing technology

With equal access to these resources, I wouldn’t have to leave. I could share my brain instead of draining it away. Combined with the knowledge of everyone, everywhere, I could create almost anything [Scott Meyer, "Why the FCC Hates South Dakota," 9Clouds: Digital Homesteading, 2014.04.27].

Meyer sees the FCC's proposed unraveling of net neutrality, allowing the richest corporations to purchase fast lanes on the Internet to make their content more easily accessible than that of small businesses and regular citizens, as a recipe for recharging rural brain drain:

ISPs are excited by the chance to make more money with these special deals, but for businesses in South Dakota or anywhere else in the world trying to get started, this is the same old story.

  • If our website is slower than the larger competitor who can pay for fast access, who will visit our store?
  • If our new song or video can’t load on a mobile phone because we haven’t paid for fast access, who will listen or watch?
  • If our non-profit wants to raise money, but our tear-jerking video doesn’t load fast enough, how will it survive?

An open Internet provides a lifeline to rural communities and businesses. Any entrepreneur can create the next Facebook, the saying goes. They won’t be able to in a world without equal access to all content, a concept known as net neutrality [Meyer, 2014.04.27].

Net neutrality is good for small business and free speech. It is especially good for business and speech in South Dakota.

Eleven U.S. Senators wrote a letter to FCC Chairman Thomas Wheeler this week calling on the FCC to remove "fast lanes" and protect net neutrality. Our neighbor Senator Al Franken from Minnesota signed that letter. South Dakota's Senators Thune and Johnson did not. Senator Thune cheered a court reversal of FCC net neutrality protections last winter He seems more interested in posturing about over-regulation than protecting the real South Dakota interests Meyer identifies. Thune has voted against net neutrality; Johnson has voted to protect it.

Add net neutrality to the list of questions for our U.S. Senate candidates (Thursday, May 15, 8 p.m., SDPB): as you seek to replace Senator Tim Johnson, would you continue his defense of net neutrality, or would you throw South Dakota entrepreneurs like Meyer to the rich ISP wolves?

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The Lake Area Improvement Corporation and Madison Chamber of Commerce took nearly a year to talk about the results of the big retail survey they conducted last spring, and they still didn't manage to edit out all of their cognitive dissonance. They look at the results that confirm what everyone in Madison knows (we want more grocery choices) and say we can't do anything about it:

What shoppers would like to see in Madison is more selection and competitive prices. The recurring theme for what is missing in Madison is another grocery store and more restaurants. Jamison said that businesses make their own decision if they chose to come.

"That's their decision," she said, "out of our control" [Jane Utecht, "City Grants Electrical Contract," Madison Daily Leader, 2014.05.06].

Out of our control? We hand tax dollars to the LAIC and Chamber, but they can't do anything to get businesses to come to Madison? Golly, that's not what Madison boosters are chirping as they pat each others' bottoms over plastic manufacturer Integra's announcement of another plant expansion:

"Why not in Madison?"

That was the question Madison's Dick Ericsson asked Mick Green and Royce Quamen about 25 years ago, when they visited with the Madison lawyer about opening up a plastics business in Spearfish. After working out some details, the businessmen did open their manufacturing business, Integra Plastics, in Madison.

On Tuesday they broke ground -- again in Madison -- for a third expansion of their plant. The pair chose Madison again because of the people, said owner Mick Green.

"This whole event is a tribute to the people of Madison," Green said, who "many years ago took a shot on an underfinanced company that would maybe turn into something" [Jane Utecht, "Integra Chooses Madison for Third Expansion," Madison Daily Leader, 2014.05.08].

The nice people of Madison (i.e., the ones handing out economic development incentives to companies in "need") apparently can take all sorts of credit for bringing businesses to Madison. But when it comes to attracting businesses that lots of working folks would like to see come to town to meet their daily shopping needs, well, golly-gee shrugging-whillikers, there's nothing we can do about that. Dick Ericsson will never just happen to be in Spearfish chatting with a grocery executive who's hoping to expand her empire. Mayor Lindsay will never just bump into an entrepreneur at a food service convention who's looking for a place to launch a new franchise. LAIC chief Julie Gross will never fly to Las Vegas and have a chance to pitch Madison to a developer who wouldn't otherwise have even heard of Madison.

Retail development, like any other component of economic development, is subject to decisions and economic factors that are beyond the control of any one community. But economic development as practiced in South Dakota is predicated on the notion that we can make efforts that will make us the captains—or at least the lieutenants—of our own destiny. Why the Chamber and LAIC would so easily dismiss the idea that they could bring a grocery store or other absent retail and entertainment opportunities to Madison demonstrates a selective blindness to opportunity.

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  • Deb Geelsdottir on "God Under Attack! Us...": Oh, I'm done with this thread now. It seems like i...
  • Deb Geelsdottir on "God Under Attack! Us...": I forgot to address a question Kurt asked me. It w...
  • JeniW on "Debbie Martines Gone...": I am going to write this even though I know I will...
  • jerry on "Debbie Martines Gone...": You seem to be right on the mark Craig with what i...

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