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South Dakota 26th Best Place to Make a Living: Good for Recruiting Business?

The Displaced Plainsman features another economic scorecard that doesn't fit Governor Dennis Daugaard's portrayal of South Dakota as a great place to do business... or maybe it does. Mr. Kallis finds this list of the ten best states in which to make a living, a list that South Dakota does not make:

South Dakota wasn't first on this list. That honor went to Washington state. South Dakota didn't make the top 10. Neighboring Minnesota ranked 3rd, North Dakota 7th, and Nebraska 10th. Scrolling down the list, two of our other neighbors were in the top twenty: Iowa ranked 15th and Wyoming 17th. Montana made it into the top 50 half of states coming in at 22.

South Dakota didn't make the top half. When it comes to earning a living, South Dakota is the best of the worst, coming in 26th. I'm not a marketing guru, but I doubt most people respond well to invitations to be "art of the best of the worst". Further, "Come Work in South Dakota; Earning a Living Here Is Only Slight More Difficult Than It Is In Montana" doesn't have much of a ring to it and it doesn't fit on a bumper sticker [Leo Kallis, "South Dakota Worst State In Region To Earn A Living," The Displaced Plainsman, 2014.06.24].

If Governor Daugaard is hanging around the Mall of America trying to convince regular working Minnesotans to move here, those stats won't help much. If he's trying to recruit CEOs who want squeeze labor for greater profits while they keep their villas in Wayzata, knowing that their labor market competitors in South Dakota aren't pouring on the wages could be a cynical plus.

But South Dakota already has among the the lowest unemployment rate in the country. New companies moving in need to bring more workers into the state. So even those profiteering CEOs have an interest in being able to turn to applicants from Minneapolis, Fargo, and Lincoln and to say, "Yes! Moving to our new factory in Mitchell will be a step up for you and your family." The stats Mr. Kallis shows us challenge business leaders and the Governor alike to make that claim with a straight face.

Update 12:03 CDT: That didn't last long: CNBC has taken away South Dakota's "Best State for Business" ranking after just one year. In the newest rankings, South Dakota falls from #1 to #11. Minnesota ranks #6, a fact about which Minnesota is entitled to razz us mercilessly... or at least ask that we remove our big #1 banner from the Minneapolis airport.


  1. owen reitzel 2014.06.25

    Daugaard or Rounds for that matter have never said that South Dakota is a great place to make a living (unless your a CEO).
    Behind close doors that's what the Governor is promoting. Low wages and no unions (a.k.a. Right to Work law).

  2. Jenny 2014.06.25

    SD was just listed as the cheapest state in the nation to live according to an article from the Argus Leader a few days ago. Anybody ever rent an apartment in Sioux Falls, it's right up there.

  3. larry kurtz 2014.06.25

    The Argus Leader article is bunk: New Mexico is a way cheaper state in which to live than South Dakota is.

  4. Jenny 2014.06.25

    C'mon Monty, Ellis and Lalley get your article dates correct!

  5. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.06.25

    Oh, and did someone say South Dakota was #1 for business? CNBC says we are now #11... and Minnesota is #6.

  6. Bill Dithmer 2014.06.25

    Missouri. About 20% cheaper for food, a twenty pack of Bud for ten bucks, propane a buck cheaper then what SD had when we left, and medical marijuana next year.

    The Blindman

  7. Steve Howe 2014.06.25

    To back up Larry's New Mexico comment. I just moved to Albuquerque from Vermillion. For the same size house (1,800 sq ft) at the same price point (within $500) property taxes are half. Home insurance is hundreds less annually, car insurance is less, phone and internet service is less, produce is laughably less in some cases, etc, etc. Yes, there is an income tax, but after anticipating income and deductions, the estimated cost for us overall is still less, and the public amenities are amazing in comparison. Parks, paths, available services, and public art are unquestionably, inarguably better. It's too early to tell if New Mexico will be a better place to live in the end, but it is cheaper in my experience.

  8. mike from iowa 2014.06.25

    New Mexico ain't got pheasants. Take that.

  9. Lanny V Stricherz 2014.06.25

    Well folks, while the picture is not much better nationwide, you will have go go back to the three year stats from 1998/2000 to find a three year moving average of household income lower than that registered in 2010/2012, for the State of South Dakota.

    If you take into consideration the expansion of the healthcare industry, and their resultant higher pay, thus raising the average for the State average since 1998, it goes to show that the folks below the median have fallen even further behind than they were in 1998. It is so nice to walk (as I do since I got rid of my car last year) past a used car lot and see used SUVs for 60k and to see new homes and high end real estate developments going up all over the place and to see the sales tax collections increase every year even in the down years when the State cut teachers pay by 6 1/2% instead of the 10% that the 2010 newly elected governor asked for.

  10. Joan Brown 2014.06.25

    In the late 90's/early 2000's I worked in a staffing service and worked with several people that had relocated here from the cities and further East. The reason they had relocated was because they had heard the cost of living was so much cheaper, and they hadn't heard about the low wages. Most of these people were going back east because they thought the cost of housing here was extremely high compared to what they had been paying for comparable or better housing where they had previously lived. Then there was also they matter of poor hours the city buses run. No late night service for night workers, and no weekend/holiday service for people that have to work those days. All in all I didn't get any good comments about SF from any of these people.

  11. Tim 2014.06.25

    28 years ago my ex-wife's parents conned me into move us here. Have never made enough since then to be able to get out. My wife now marvels at how cheap food is back home whenever we go back to visit, I don't have the heart to tell her the property tax rate there.

  12. Stan Gibilisco 2014.06.25

    All these analyses are bunk.

    The one that put us No. 1 ... the one that puts us No. 50 (or 51 if you count D.C.) ... all baloney.

    And I ought to know baloney when I see it. After all, I reign as the Supreme Overlord of ...

    P.S. Larry, please provide evidence for your claim that New Mexico is cheap for living. And then, tell me, to they like hobbits?

  13. Stan Gibilisco 2014.06.25

    Cathy, I did see the analysis that you mention ... and in this case, I do in fact believe it.

  14. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.06.26

    I couldn't answer many questions about living in New Mexico, but on my two visits there I can tell you that it is beautiful country. And the art ! ! ! ! ! Oh my god.

    BUT, my understanding is that global warming is really clobbering the Southwest. Argh.

  15. Stan Gibilisco 2014.06.26

    Thanks for that note. Extreme and prolonged drought with no relief in sight.

    Corruption at the state level is one thing.

    Dying of thirst is quite another.

    And I, a swimmer ... Well.

  16. John 2014.06.26

    Given that a key element executives deem as, "must have" are vibrant, cutting edge schools - South Dakota will not be a leading state for recruiting business until the state vastly improves its education resources, delivery, and results. Doubt it - check into the experiences of Aberdeen which lost numerous business opportunities for decades upon showing the executives and spouses the 1930s-era Central High. The evidence is in - for business recruiting taxes barely matter; schools can make or break a recruiting deal.

  17. Deb Geelsdottir 2014.06.26

    I think there is a new high school in Aberdeen on the southeast corner of town. I'm not positive that it was a high school, but I'm sure someone else knows.

  18. caheidelberger Post author | 2014.06.27

    Yup, Deb! Nice new HS, nice theater, commons, library. Now I'll admit, I have a fondness for old high school buildings with wood floors and character... but I recognize, as John points out that most folks are looking for newest and shiniest. I'd rather spend money on academics and activities than on brick and mortar... but I recognize that the physical plant serves as a symbol to first-time viewers of the investment we are willing to make in our schools.

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