Press "Enter" to skip to content

Final Forward Madison Job Tally: 248 Jobs Lost

Lake County finished 2011 with a jump in unemployment. According to the South Dakota Department of Labor, December 2011 unemployment in the county jumped from 4.0% to 4.4%. Following a relatively normal seasonal pattern at the local and state level, both the number of jobs and the number of people in the local workforce shrank.

Five years ago, the Lake Area Improvement Corporation promised it would use $2.3 million in handouts from taxpayers and donors to maintain a status-quo job creation rate of 400 new jobs over the coming five years. In 2006, the average number of jobs in Lake County was 6525. In 2011, the average number of jobs in Lake County was 6277.

In other words, Lake County had 248 fewer jobs when Forward Madison finished than it did when the program started.

Oh, but that darn recession must have thrown a monkey wrench in the Madison works, right? That's the excuse LAIC cheerleaders Jeff Nelson and Dick Ericsson offer. We've had this conversation before, but let's update my September calculations with the full workforce and employment figures for 2011:

Comparison of labor statistics for South Dakota
and Selected Counties, 2006&ndash2011

change in workforce change in jobs
Statewide 3.07% 1.46%
Minnehaha 5.51% 3.45%
Lawrence 4.29% 2.51%
Miner 1.91% 0.70%
Brookings 0.44% -1.12%
Lake -2.03% -3.80%

Recall that the recession never actually happened in South Dakota. But whatever impacts from the national recession may have trickled into South Dakota, the statewide job tally still increased by 1.46% over the last five years. Lake County's behemoth neighbor Minnehaha County was able to grow its job count 3.45%. Even our dusty neighbor Miner County managed, like the state, to increase both its number of jobs and the number of people on hand to fill them.

During a period of growth for the entire state, Lake County saw its workforce decline 2% and the number of jobs available drop 3.8%.

This isn't spin; this is cold hard numbers. Forward Madison sent Madison backward.


  1. Bill Fleming 2012.02.03

    As you might guess, Cory, I watch in awe as people take what should be good promotion budgets and actively use them to destroy their brand.

    It happens all the time. Think of the times you see some bad commercial on TV about a company you've never heard of before and you actually think less of them after you watched their ad than you did before you saw it.

    There are several rules of thumb in our biz about this.

    1. Oftentimes MBA stands for "Murderers of Brand Assets."
    2. The wrong ad campaign can make a bad product fail quicker.
    3. Always do your research BEFORE you make the ad, not after.
    4. A camel is a horse designed by a committee.

    The shame of it is, when campaigns are executed poorly like this, the membe oftentimes becomes "Oh we tried running ads, they didn't work." Actually they usually did. Just not the way you were hoping they would.

    I've seen so many organizations actively invest in their own methodical destruction. Seems to me, somebody needs to drom the hammer in this leadership group. And the sooner the better.

  2. Michael Black 2012.02.03

    I challenge your assumption that the recession did not happen in SD - Lake County in particular.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.03

    Click my link, Mike. Annual GDP did not decrease in South Dakota. That is the definition of recession. We did not satisfy that definition. Growth may have slowed, but South Dakota's economy did not shrink.

  4. Michael Black 2012.02.03

    Certain areas of SD DID take a huge hit. Gehl for one.

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.03

    Michael, the proper question is this: why did Lake County fail to share in the positive trend that characterized the rest of the state? Why if we were making the extra effort fo Forward Madison did we not even keep up with the rest of the state, if not outperform our fellow South Dakotans?

  6. WayneB 2012.02.03

    Careful in your assertions, Cory. There's a long way between saying the LAIC had no impact on job growth and saying the LAIC had a direct negative impact on job loss.

    That's like saying, because we lost jobs after TARP and the $700B Stimulus, they're responsible for the lost jobs.

    That doesn't mean I support the LAIC, however. Refresh my memory: has the LAIC actually pointed to any companies they've brought in? At least our Governor is using a Brookings cheese factory as justification to keep his slush fund around. Where's the LAIC's cheese factory? That would at least give defense that they've slowed what would've otherwise been a worse exodus of jobs from Lake County.

  7. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.03

    Wayne, I'll accept your caution. I cannot establish that Forward Madison caused the loss of jobs. I would love to know what exactly caused the seemingly anomalous job losses in Madison that went against the grain of nominal job growth statewide.

    But the hypothesis we are testing is not "LAIC killed jobs." The hypothesis we are testing is, "LAIC created jobs at a rate that beat the status quo." That's the hypothesis the LAIC is offering to justify handing it more tax dollars. The numbers above, as well as the absence of that cheese factory, suggest that we can reject the LAIC's hypothesis.

  8. Michael Black 2012.02.04

    I noticed that Brookings suffered a decline as well. You are always pointing to their successes. Why would Brookings drop especially with the advantage of SDSU and being located on the interstate?

  9. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.04

    Again, Michael, you don't get it. Madison's leaders would have you believe that Forward Madison actually did a bang-up job and was only held back by the national recession. If their logic held any water, you would give Brookings that same generous pass. But Brookings still outperformed us, as did the state as a whole. Certainly, Brookings leaders should ask why they didn't perform better. But the LAIC"s hypothesis, that they can excuse their poor performance by crying "Recession!" does not hold water.

  10. Michael Black 2012.02.04

    My wife and I own a business. I can tell you that things are not always what they seem. What works one year does not always work the next. What happens other places does affect SD and Lake County.

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2012.02.04

    Michael, sometimes you remind me of wrestling a squid.

    If what happens in other places affects Lake County, then why didn't the job growth happening statewide affect Lake County? If Forward Madison was a uniquely powerful initiative, why didn't it produce better results than the status quo growth seen around South Dakota?

  12. Michael Black 2012.02.04

    Thank you for the compliment!

Comments are closed.