South Dakota gets rosy rural report

South Dakota State Roundup

Published October 1, 1992  | October 1991 issue

Growth in manufacturing in small communities during the 1980s helped fuel an economic resurgence in South Dakota's rural areas, according to a recent report by the South Dakota Department of Labor.

Rural manufacturing employment increased by 44.3 percent from 1980 to 1989, outpacing all urban areas, and employment in the trade industry rose by 11 percent. Other sectors increased at smaller rates. Statewide, employment growth was 18.8 percent, or 33,000 jobs (statewide manufacturing jobs totaled 6,240).

"The largest rural growth, by far, was in manufacturing," says Merle Aske, Department of Labor analyst. "Much of these gains came from the formation of small companies, and that's just what South Dakota needs in its rural areas." For example, while urban areas saw decreases in food manufacturing, rural areas experienced significant growth; products include processed meats such as sausage, cheeses and noodles.

The reasons for rural South Dakota's upsurge in manufacturing, Aske says, are its favorable business climate and the state's various programs to aid businesses that are either expanding or moving to the state.

The only employment sector decrease in rural South Dakota for the 1980s came in the finance, insurance and real estate industry. "Some of the larger banks are closing their branches in small communities," Aske says, and leaving automated teller machines behind as they consolidate in nearby communities. Most finance sector growth has come in non-depository firms, such as Citibank's credit card office in Sioux Falls, he says.

With just two dominant urban areas, Sioux Falls and Rapid City, Aske says that the labor growth of the state's rural areas is important to South Dakota's overall economic health. "Using employment in our industries as a barometer, we can see that rural America in South Dakota is not only alive and well, but is in fact the glue that bonds our state together."

David Fettig