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Can Inefficient Mall-Rat Marketing Beat Targeted Mail… and Good MN Job Numbers?

Following up on Governor Dennis Daugaard's impending trip to the Twin Cities to steal away the best and brightest of their afternoon mall denizens, I find the South Dakota press is a few days behind the Minnesotans in discussing the big trip. covered the trip last Thursday with more details on our taxpayer-funded efforts to get Minnesotans to give up the bright lights of the Twin Cities for our farther-flung prairie clime:

The recruitment efforts are happening through Dakota Roots, a worker recruitment initiative that South Dakota launched in 2006. It is currently in the midst of a marketing campaign through which roughly a dozen downtown Minneapolis coffee shops are giving patrons coffee sleeves that feature the Dakota Roots website. And just last week, South Dakota representatives spent a morning at Espresso Royale on Hennepin Avenue, where they gave free coffee to customers willing to stop and discuss job opportunities within the state [Christa Meland, "South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard heads to Minnesota, ups effort to lure job seekers,", 2013.05.02].

Hi, we're South Dakotans. What would you like with your coffee?

From 1 to 2 p.m. on May 13, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard will be stationed at a Dakota Roots booth at the Mall of America, where he’ll visit with shoppers, answer questions about career possibilities in the state, and encourage Minnesotans to consider relocating to South Dakota [Meland, 2013.05.02].

The Governor won't be setting out a card table Monday; the State of South Dakota maintains a "Dakota Roots" booth in the Mall of America, right next to the Butterflies, Jewels, and Accessories booth, between Typo, Justice for Girls, Call It Spring, and Hot Topic near the North Garden entrance on Level 1.

According to a three-year-old post, Mall of America rented vendor carts for $2300 a month. ($2,300 x 12 = $27,600/year.) Plus, we've got to be paying someone to man or woman that booth for 77 hours a week... and we aren't getting good representation if we're paying some Twin Cities kid with saggy pants minimum wage. Even if we're getting personnel for $10 an hour, that's $40K in yearly payroll. Add gas money for the Governor and other South Dakota reps to visit the Cities regularly (and hey, the Twins play at home against the White Sox Monday night... and Denny did study in Chicago!), and you can see where a big chunk of the $200,000 our Legislature appropriated to Dakota Roots in 2012 is going.

And hey, do you remember the 3,000 Minnesotans that the South Dakota press was saying have relocated to South Dakota since the Dakota Roots website launched in 2006? Hey, South Dacola! In another example of the difference between what you'll find in the South Dakota press and the Minnesota press, MinnPost's Meland says we got that wrong:

Slightly more than 3,000 Minnesotans registered as job seekers on the Dakota Roots website since it launched in October 2006—534 of whom have relocated to South Dakota. (That compares to 17,224 registrants from all states, 2,790 of whom have found jobs within South Dakota.) [Meland, 2013.05.02]

However many Minnesotans are falling for our propaganda, Governor Daugaard's trip is still an incredibly inefficient use of state resources. Sitting around in a mall waiting for people to walk up to you is about the worst market-targeting you can do. Meland points to Dakota Roots efforts that cost much less per contact:

South Dakota representatives worked with several alumni associations within the state to connect with out-of-state alums who might be interested in returning to the state of their alma mater. Approximately 103,000 South Dakota college alumni received direct mailers containing information about job opportunities (and wildflower seed packets). After that, traffic to Dakota Roots’ website quadrupled and the website has averaged 23 new registrations each day. Dovre said she wasn't sure how many of the 103,000 people are Minnesotans but estimates that a “large majority” are from within the state [Meland, 2013.05.02].

We talk with interested local folks, we get 103,000 potential targets, we send them mail, we get a quick return on our advertising dollar. Governor Daugaard can't be counting on shaking even 1,000 hands in his hour at the mall. The only way his trip boosts web traffic to Dakota Roots, not to mention producing anything close to the number of relocations that the alumni direct mailing might, is through the auxiliary press and online buzz the trip may generate. (You're welcome, Dennis!)

One last problem: Meland notes that Minnesota is regaining jobs lost in the recession faster than South Dakota:

As of earlier this year, however, Minnesota had regained nearly 90 percent of the 160,100 jobs that were shed during the recession. Over the past year, Minnesota has gained 46,400 jobs, representing a growth rate of 1.7 percent, compared with the U.S. rate of 1.5 percent [Meland, 2013.05.02].

South Dakota shed 11,290 jobs from March 2008 to March 2010. As of March 2013, we'd regained 83% of those lost jobs. And from March 2012 to March 2013, South Dakota saw a job growth rate of 0.4%. I would love for Governor Mark Dayton to drop by the Mall of America Monday and ask Governor Daugaard about those numbers.


  1. grudznick 2013.05.07

    I will be mighty upset if we pay any baggy panted fellow to man a booth. Mighty upset. Baggy pants denote libbyism.

  2. SDBlue 2013.05.07

    For the last 30 some years, South Dakota has been ruled by a GOP that does not believe education is a priority. Now the Governor needs to go out of state to find skilled workers. I wonder if he sees the irony?

  3. Nick Nemec 2013.05.08

    This is just another example of state government subsidizing private businesses. If a business can't fill positions they should pay for their own recruitment and consider raising the wage offered. People will live anyplace if you pay them enough.

  4. Troy Jones 2013.05.08

    Sheesh. You guys are unreal. Democrats and liberals should be able to find matters of substance to criticize the Governor on. A day in his life getting free media to remind people who have "Dakota Roots" that it might be time to come home is a bad thing? Eighty percent of what Governor's do is non-partisan. On those matters, can we just once in a while get a "atta boy?" Regardless of party, Governor's and Presidents have a cheerleader role. Doing this has serves two simple goals: We believe in our state as a great place to live and those who were raised here are always welcome back. Maybe on blogs with hyper-partisans, this is an issue that divides us. But, in the coffee shop, it unites us and would regardless of party of the Governor.

    And Nick, if getting people raised and educated here to come home and work is "subsidizing private business", you must obviously think we should get out of the public higher education since that is a lot bigger "subsidy."

    If the big city is one's thing, I'm all for one going for it. But as one who left SD for the bright lights and came back, the grass is not always greener. Having the Governor remind some who are in a rut and needs a nudge (like I got) to come home is good.

    There is something broader than Nick's cynicism. Like it or not, South Dakota values friends and family. Friends and family who live a long ways away are missed. I have a son, six cousins and one sibling working out of state. Any who want to make their living here, I want them to come back. If it takes the Governor, I'm all for it.

    Besides, some who come back might have been infected with that liberal virus in Minnesota and spread it here. Isn't that what you guys want?

  5. Nick Nemec 2013.05.08

    I'll repeat, if private business can't find people to fill the positions they have open they should raise the wage for those positions. Higher wages would go a long ways in luring people to South Dakota.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2013.05.08

    Troy, this is a matter of substance on various levels. It's an ill-targeted, inefficient marketing trip to the mall, an inefficient use of state resources. It highlights exactly what Nick is saying, our willingness to give big business handouts. Why can't the companies that need workers get the word out themselves? Why isn't the free market solving this problem? That's all worth talking about.

    How does a visit from the Governor trump the constant input of family and friends? Are you saying that government is better at telling people how to live their lives than family and friends? That sounds like the same thinking that writes South Dakota's abortion laws.

    On bringing liberals here: seriously? Let's reframe: suppose Fox News viewers had taken Rush Limbaugh seriously and left the country after the 2012 election. Suppose President Obama then went to the Mall of Costa Rica to recruit those conservative expats and other Americans abroad to come back to our shores. How effectively would President Obama reach those conservatives? Now with that example in mind, tell me how Governor Daugaard's selling points of low taxes (read: low investment in public goods) and low regulation (except for uteri) attract a significant number of our fellow liberals back to South Dakota?

  7. mc 2013.05.08

    money money money, Can you think of anything else? I have learned the hard way, sometimes it isn't just about money.

  8. Nick Nemec 2013.05.08

    If it is necessary for state government to lure people to South Dakota a kiosk at the mall seems to be a pretty inefficient. The costs Cory figured are extreme low ball numbers, I'll bet the high school kids slinging burgers at the food court are making more than the $10/hour he used in his estimate. The true cost would be $15/-$20/hour. The Governor manning the booth for an hour is a publicity stunt, more for the Governor and the people back in SD who will see the TV reports than the people in Minnesota this program is targeting because the Minnesota media will no doubt give it minimal, if any coverage.

    Sending letters targeted to SD alumni or people with the skills you need is a more effective method than manning a booth at the mall.

  9. Rick 2013.05.08

    grudz, I have to disagree. Saggy pants is just bad fashion sense.

    South Dakota has maintained a kiosk at the Mall of America for quite some time. It's been 10 years since I moved back to SD from Minneapolis and I remember first seeing the booth back in 2002.

  10. larry kurtz 2013.05.08

    DD's maneuver reads like recruiting brides from outside the colony because inbreeding has rendered the offspring incapable of milking the cows.

  11. Nick Nemec 2013.05.08

    mc for many people living in SD it isn't about money, but money sure makes life easier. My oldest daughter, a Minnesota State grad, had great job offers in Minneapolis after graduation but ended up coming back to SD, marrying her high school sweetheart, and taking a job that payed much less.

    So you're right, money isn't the ultimate trump card, but their life would be much easier with a little more cash to cover the bills and buy a few extras.

  12. larry kurtz 2013.05.08

    Garrison Keillor refers to South Dakota like a human might describe a lichen or a tick.

  13. Rorschach 2013.05.08

    Recruiting people in Minneapolis coffee shops must go something like this: Come to SD where we don't have 25 Caribou Coffee shops within a 25 square block area. Enjoy your coffee break now, because all you'll get in SD is convenience store coffee.

  14. Owen Reitzel 2013.05.08

    "I have a son, six cousins and one sibling working out of state. Any who want to make their living here, I want them to come back. If it takes the Governor, I'm all for it. "

    Cory stole my thunder Troy but maybe the reason they can't come back because the pay is so low. Quality of life here is great-but the pay isn't. Plus this is a Right-to-Work for less state

  15. Steve O'Brien 2013.05.08

    I am with Nick 100% on the wages issue. Beginning from the premise of all this, SD needing to lure people (back) to SD, why? Why do our graduates leave? Why don't more people flock to SD for jobs?

    Outside the usurer industry, whose needs are really met by SD's economic structure?

    I would love to be a fly on the wall when the first Minnesota teacher is recruited at the booth. What is the sales pitch there?

  16. Troy 2013.05.08

    If the Governor going to the Mall to make a statement about SD's quality of life and to consider coming home is "inefficient," so is the President going to a manufacturing plant to extol manufacturing in the US.

    I think both are efficient as they are solid marketing techniques. In the case of the Governor, it isn't how many people he directly talks to who come to South Dakota it is the effect on a larger audience who see him making a personal effort. I won't sell the President's effort as nothing he does needs to be "sold" on this site.

  17. larry kurtz 2013.05.08

    Trolling for Republicans makes sense for both states as does moving red state types closer to the Yellowstone Supervolcano.

  18. Bill Dithmer 2013.05.08

    For those of us that actually live in good old South Dakota maybe this would be an excuse to go to the cities for a couple of days. After all when would we ever get the chance to rub elbows, shake hands, look at the man that wants to cripple educations, right in the face and ask questions?

    Isn't it great that to get a chance like this we have to go out of state? Isn't it extraordinary that our governor has to beg people to come, or come back? After all didn't I hear that we had "the greatest business climate in the nation?"

    I have an idea. Why don't we just find an old dog, put a blanket on him that reads "come on back to South Dakota" turn him loose in the mall, and just drive away. I don't mean to belittle DD, well maybe I do, but an obvious publicity stunt should involve a monkey or a bear, or at the very least a talking parrot.

    One out of three aint bad.

    The Blindman

  19. Tony Simons 2013.05.08

    High quality good paying jobs are few and far between in South Dakota outside of Sioux Falls. My wife and I left South Dakota 2 years ago and moved to SE Minnesota. I am in the education field and my wife is in the nursing profession. We increased our combined salaries by 60%. Yes, we pay state income tax but we pay no tax on food and clothes. If you are lucky enough to get a decent paying job in South Dakota there are few opportunities to improve you career status.

  20. Chuck 2013.05.08

    Where are these jobs and what do they pay? Let us see a list. If they are such good jobs why aren't people moving here already from the unemployed elsewhere or here? Come on, this is Window Dressing. I remember when there was a worker shortage in SF, I was at a meeting SF Development sponsored. A local executive of a large health care organization thought the best way to get people to SF was to bus them here from Sioux City. GOP logic: Do anything but pay a competitive wage, including using subsidies from the government they hate so much.

  21. Douglas Wiken 2013.05.08

    South Dakota of all Places.

    I wonder who thought that slogan was a good idea.

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