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Aberdeen Sees Higher Wages Trumping Higher Cost of Living in Worker Decisions

You know that argument South Dakota Republicans like to make that South Dakota's purportedly low cost of living makes up for South Dakota's low wages?

That argument is working for workers, says the Aberdeen Development Corporation, discussing the problem of recruiting workers in northeastern South Dakota (NESD):

Compounding this challenge is the difficulty we face retaining future stakeholders in our community who are graduating from our colleges and regional technical schools. A large portion of these individuals have the desire to stay in NESD, but are not finding competitive salaries for knowledge-based jobs available in NESD. Therefore, they leave for higher paying jobs in larger cities in other states, regardless of the cost-of-living increase they may encounter. Even those who may be unskilled leave NESD for higher paying manufacturing jobs in other states due to higher wages, but also because of the opportunities available to them including free/less costly education or additional technical training to advance their careers. Once they have left and settled into careers in other states, it becomes quite difficult to recruit them back to South Dakota [Aberdeen Development Corporation, Community Incentives Matching Program application, November 2014].

The state is granting the Aberdeen Development Corporation $60,000 to work on research, marketing, recruitment, newcomer integration, vo-tech classes, and graduate retention. Not included in the grant proposal: an initiative to promote higher wages.


  1. John Tsitrian 2015.01.16

    Just spent a couple of weeks in the Bay Area, where the ultra-high cost of living hasn't deterred people from flocking into the region because the money is so good. H*ll, the Uber drivers out there are making $10k/month.

  2. jerry 2015.01.16

    Who says you cannot get educated on the blogs? Not I. In reading the section on the cost of living here in South Dakota, I could not agree more. In all my travels, there seems to be the same pricing here for food and goods as the rest of the country. What really surprises me always is the cost of fuel. The difference is very noticeable with the west river prices, quite a difference. As a young graduate, paying off a student loan, you cannot make a decent living here for the most part. Too many expenses for too little of wage.

  3. Keryl Brady 2015.01.16

    I ran into the myth of SD's lower cost of living while standing in the taxi line with my sister at Jazz Fest in New Orleans a few years ago. A guy from Portland was "educating" us about this. Once my sister & I had told him how much she was making as a state-employed social worker vs. the cost of groceries, housing, and regressive taxes, he couldn't wait to get into his taxi, especially after his comment about SD not having any income tax.

  4. John 2015.01.16

    There is more to it than wages alone. SD manufacturing companies are often nasty places to work, been there and done that. Locations that offer multiple job opportunities but in different companies or industries provide an employment safety net of sorts. It is also more likely that, if a couple, both can find a reasonably good job.

  5. Nick Nemec 2015.01.16

    Supply and demand. If you can't entice enough people to work for you increase your wages. If you build it they will come.

  6. JeniW 2015.01.16

    Wages are certainly a factor, but there are other things to take into consideration, namely the community.

    Aberdeen is a nice town, but what do they have to offer besides the small town South Dakota major form of entertainment of the 3 B's, that is Booze, Bowling, and Baseball?

    Also, I suspect that some people, particularly those with young children look at the schools, and educational opportunities. They also look at housing options.

    When people have the option of going to other places that offer more opportunities and the pay is about the same, or better, many will select to go where there are the more opportunities.

  7. CLCJM 2015.01.16

    Small towns are nice but if you can't make a living, afford a home or get yourself or your kids a better education, nice isn't enough to hold people, let alone attract new people.

  8. Mike B 2015.01.17

    Aberdeen is a very expensive place for housing.

Comments are closed.