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Labor Shortage in James River Valley; Solve with Higher Wages

Need work? Got skills? Then head for the James River Valley. A "Workforce Summit" at Mitchell Technical Institute today will address, among other issues, a shortage of more than 500 mostly manufacturing workers.

The James River runs (slowly) from Brown County to Yankton County. How do the latest job numbers look there?

Unemployment: Sept. 2011
Statewide 4.1%
Beadle 3.1%
Bon Homme 5.0%
Brown 3.2%
Davison 3.1%
Hanson 3.9%
Hutchinson 3.2%
Sanborn 3.5%
Spink 3.3%
Yankton 3.9%

Sure enough, with the exception of Bon Homme, every county along the James River has an unemployment rate below the state average. Of course, their current rates are around South Dakota's normal low, non-recession unemployment rates.

The solution to the James River Valley labor shortage probably doesn't require a day-long conversation. You want workers to move to Huron? Pay them enough to make it worth their while. Advertising South Dakota as a low-wage, no-union state may draw some predatory employers, but the 99% are going to look at those conditions on top of the relative isolation of the edge of the High Plains and say no thanks. Raise wages, and your labor force will grow.

p.s.: As Brown County has learned, it also helps to have enough good housing.


  1. Roger Elgersma 2011.11.15

    With farming paying five years in a row the kids will not move off of the farm unless it pays. But when Mitchell made Cabela's lower their wages to come to town, the whole economy took a loss of corporate profits leaving rather than staying in working people's pockets. Changing that attitude of cutting the workers is bigger than a law will change. So now they have to few workers. They worked real hard to get that problem. It may be that South Dakota is a good enough place to live to not move away but not good enough to move here. People all over the country live where they do because they like the people. So we all like our relatives and friends. That is the same everywhere else also. DUH

  2. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.11.15

    There's all sorts of energy potential in the Jim River Valley. But if we aren't paying enough to make the move worth people's while, it'll never get tapped. Roger, Mitchell really got Cabela's to lower wages? Sounds like Madison! Such myopic selfishness misses the key point you make, Roger, that if we pay workers top dollar, more workers come, they spend more money, and they fuel more economic growth.

  3. Stan Gibilisco 2011.11.15

    Cory, your title threw me at first: "Jobs Shortage ... ." You meant to say "Labor Shortage ... ," right?

    As for housing in, say, Huron, I just checked out that town on Trulia dot com, and one can find better bargains there now than ever in recent memory. I mean, houses for under forty thousand dollars!

    Huron was one of the two South Dakota towns I concentrated on back in 2003-2004 when I came out here. (The other place was Deadwood-Lead, where I live now.)

    One might check Mitchell as well. I noticed some good bargains there the last time I looked on Trulia dot com, Realtor dot com, Zillow dot com, etc.

    I wonder: What would a similar analysis of Lead reveal? I just saw a couple of really cool old fixer-uppers here; the whole place could become so hip, so eclectic -- with the help of the right sort of investor, like maybe Intel or Sun Microsystems or even Apple ...

    I've imagined that a high-tech research-and-development company might make use of the Sanford Lab and the School of Mines, and locate in Lead to give the place a little bit more "brain" (like the scarecrow in 'The Wizard of Oz'); one might check out sports venue ideas like a world-class bobsled run at Terry Peak (for the athletes to train on), a world-class ice-climbing park in the Open Cut ... The general makeover would follow "automatically" and Lead would regain its status on the map of human significance.

    Unfortunately, I figure that all this dreaming might be regarded by some of the locals as the mental meddlings of a whipper-snapper who really ought to traipse on back down to one of his old haunts such as Miami or Los Angeles or Kona. Larry (of IP fame) might know more about local attitudes around here than I do, but one thing remains certain: This state of fossilization, this mode of petrification, can't last forever. Sink or swim. Live or die. Our choice.

    One good sign: No one here has actually told me to scram yet.

    And the beauty all my cockamamie dreams and schemes can only become more apparent when we realize that we don't need a penny of government money to pull it all off -- Huron or Mitchell or Aberdeen or Lead -- if we've got the spirit. Private enterprise can take care of it all.

    Sort of an earth-friendly version of the boom up in Williston.

    EOR (End of rant).

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.11.15

    Dang! Good point, Stan. That title should be amended. Done!

    As for cheap housing: those bargains compensate for a good chunk of lower wages. But the fixer-upper market won't appeal to everyone. You've got folks like me who just want a nice place to come home to after work and use as base-camp on the weekend for bike expeditions, not that I'll be stuck fixing all the time. And if wages aren't high enough, I can only afford to do so much fixing-up.

  5. Stace Nelson 2011.11.15

    Good post. Well said Mr. Gibilisco.

    Mr. "H" makes a statement that I even heard industry folks make during a meeting in Mitchell when it was capitol of the day. Raising pay does help; however, they pointed out they then tend to ravage each others labor force. The other problem is attracting folks from out of state for these jobs. When our wages are viewed externally, without the low cost of living understood, they do not incite someone to move here. The other problem is people unable to get out from underneath house loans on home values, where they live, that have dropped.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.11.15

    Wait: so it's o.k. to engage in a bidding war with other states to lure tax-dodging corporations, but it's not o.k. to engage in a bidding war for good workers?

  7. Jana 2011.11.15

    So correct me if I've misunderstood anything. The leaders of Mitchell made Cabela's reduce their pay so as not to ravage each others labor force? Do business leaders in Mitchell work to artificially keep wages low? And that's a good thing?

  8. Steve Sibson 2011.11.16

    OK, here is exactly how government helps big business:

    We use Public Higher-Ed to subsidize research, so Big Business can increase their profits.

    We use Technical Schools to provide taxpayer and employee paid training, so Big Business don't have the costs of training.

    We use the State Government to recruit, so Big Business does not have to bear those costs.

    If Big Business was on its own and not in bed with Big Government, they would have no choice but to raise wages.

    So Cory, why do you still insist on Government being the savior? That was the purpose of the Summit.

    Want to know more about the sponsor of the Summit:

    What else happened in the 1970 Nixon era:

    So now you know why the other sponsors were the Chamber of Commerce and Economic development Corps. This is all tied to the Planned Economy of the New World Order.

    I probably should detail this in a post.

  9. Bill Fleming 2011.11.16

    Interesting. The big discounters are getting extraordinarily low wholesale prices on their SKU's because they are produced off shore by non-American labor forces who work for much lower wages than workers will stateside. Then, in order to continue offering the goods at a discount and still protect a high net profit margin, the companies have to depress their stateside workers who stock and sell the goods wages as well. What's wrong with this picture? Worker exploitation everywhere you look.

  10. Steve Sibson 2011.11.16

    "Worker exploitation everywhere you look."

    Thank the New World Order.

  11. Bill Fleming 2011.11.16

    So Sibby, when's the next General Strike? Are you an OWS kinda guy these days? Or are you still ringing the Tea Party bell?

  12. Michael Black 2011.11.16

    As a business owner I can tell you that we can only pay up to the value of the work provided. When the costs exceed the benefits provided by having an employee then we either have to reduce our services and products, outsource or do it ourselves.

  13. Roger Elgersma 2011.11.16

    Cabela's was going to pay one dollar per hour more than main street was paying their store employees so Mitchell decided that was to much competition. If they had let Cabela's pay more, then their employees would have spent more on main street and main street could have afforded to pay their employees more also. The money would have stayed in town and all would have done better. But NO, the workers spending on main street was not considered. Only consideration was for main street businesses. Selfishness that shot themself in the foot.

  14. Bill Fleming 2011.11.16

    Reminds me of the old story about the Rapid City Hotel and Motel owners not wanting to see Mount Rushmore and Custer State Park be developed because they worried all the tourists would be lodging in Keystone and Custer instead of in Rapid City. At the time, there were very, very few tourists coming to the Black Hills. No one had any idea that they were basically turning up their noses at an annual influx of 4 million plus visitors to our state, many of whom will set up home base, or at least spend their first night in Rapid City.

  15. Steve Sibson 2011.11.16

    "Are you an OWS kinda guy these days? Or are you still ringing the Tea Party bell?"

    I am neither. Both movements are pawns of the elephants fighting over control of the New World Order.

  16. Steve Sibson 2011.11.16


    Your analysis is missing one important point. The reason Cabela's could pay their employees more was because they were receiving government subsidies.

  17. caheidelberger Post author | 2011.11.16

    What? What unique subsidies does Cabela's receive?

    And for Pete's sake, Sibby, we don't need to frame this as a New World Order question to tackle the problem. That framework contributes nothing to practical solutions.

  18. Steve Sibson 2011.11.17

    "What unique subsidies does Cabela’s receive?"

    Cory it should be past tense. I don't remember the details, but the City of Mitchell provided enough to pay for the "Museum" portion.

    And you much not of spent much time at the links I provided if you don't think this issue has nothing to do with the NWO.

  19. Chris 2011.11.17

    Cabela's doesn't play fair, nor do they build a store without huge subsidies, they've made a point of saying that mantra quite openly, as they've received over 500 million in handouts for maybe 20 stores in rural locations, context that Wal-Mart has received a billion in subsidies for 244 stores, anyhow, for more about that,

  20. Steve Sibson 2011.11.17

    Chris , thanks for the link. In addition, the Mitchell Technical Institute, that hosted the Seminar and who has built an empire near Cabela's, bought out Tim's Marine, a small business, and now the only place to repair you boat in Mitchell is guess who...Cabela's. Nice how Big Government help Big Business get even bigger.

  21. Roger Elgersma 2011.11.17

    I am very much against government subsidising the rich big corporation and the little guy losing. This has gone way back to free tax on large parking lots for KMart and now subsidized WalMart has pushed KMart out. They get it to sometimes. But it is not pure capitalism and not fair to the little guy. But if they do subsidize they should at least let the worker get some good out of it. More money in the community does circulate.

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