Here's a tricky question for Hanson County's Rep. Stace Nelson (R-19/Fulton). Last March he voted against Senate Bill 235, the omnibus legislation that retooled the state's economic development program. This month, under that enacted legislation, Rep. Nelson's county seat, Alexandria, received $50,300 to build new water and sewer out to a new factory.
Alexandria city councilor Owen Reitzel sends me a clip from the Internet-resistant Alexandria Herald explaining that the immediate beneficiary of this state-funded infrastructure will be a new South Dakota company, Sharp Industries, founded by South Dakotans. One Sharp manager, Melvin Waldner, already runs South Dakota Industries, which builds things like steel hog troughs and school lockers at a facility ten miles north of Alexandria. Waldner and Canton partner Leonard Decker of Dakota Steel and Trim started building an 18,000-foot plant in Alexandria where they will make stainless steel doors for agricultural and medical uses. Sharp Industries will put five to eight people to work when it starts production, perhaps as soon as the beginning of 2014. Waldner and Decker tell the Herald they hope to expand to a workforce of as many as 40.
In August, Hanson County had 1,900 workers and 1,820 jobs. If Sharp Industries lives up to its owners' hopes, it would cut local unemployment in half.
Now I have my own qualms about Senate Bill 235 and the state's addiction to corporate welfare. But Rep. Nelson and I will face a challenging question when we look at those new workers in Alexandria, folks bringing home good manufacturing checks (because Waldner and Decker will pay much better than minimum wage for quality work, right?), building houses, paying taxes, and keeping their kids in the local school: is this corporate welfare a net plus for a community like Alexandria?