OPINION: More jobs needed in the right places
Inviting more stoners to town, as the Flandreau Santee Sioux Tribe intends to do with its pot lounge, would be tourism.
That is, until the federal government sends in bulldozers, as happened Oct. 23 at the hemp farm of the Menominee Tribe in Wisconsin.
Meanwhile the governor's Blue Ribbon task force on K-12 schools wants the state sales tax increased, so South Dakota can pay teachers more and get out of last place nationally.
At the same time, essential businesses throughout much of South Dakota struggle to find qualified employees to fill vacancies.
Several places where I've eaten many times have recently closed because good help couldn't be hired.
Yet tens of thousands of people live in parts of South Dakota where there aren't jobs for them.
We don't have a public policy—state, federal or tribal—for economic development on and around reservation areas.
More people working would mean more people buying more goods and paying more in sales taxes.
How can the jobs get there?
Start with four-lane highways, technical institutes, distance education degrees, more support for existing colleges and universities serving reservations, prisoner-built housing, more nursing and medical training programs, transit buses, 100-year and 500-year leases, a state development authority, investors and people who want to sell goods and services.
Government assistance funds that flow into reservation areas don't turn over much in the local economies.
Instead, much of the money flows off reservations into cities that have the kind of stores where a person can buy much of life's daily basics under one roof.
That's largely a one-and-done economy. The salaries paid to store employees in those cities typically don't find their way back to the reservations.
Instead, the employees spend much of the money the second time in that city's economy and in paying off loans. There is some further re-spending that follows in the local economy.
But it appears much of the profit often leaves South Dakota.
The same is true regarding many people's retirement-fund investments. The money leaves South Dakota for decades.
Many public employees, for example, give up 12 percent annually (their 6 percent and their employer's 6 percent) and it goes somewhere outside our border to be invested.
Creating a state development authority to focus on reservation-area economies would help fill a giant gap in South Dakota.
With the right personnel, the authority could be an agent for change.
The authority would need sources of funding. One could be EB-5.
During the past decade, partly because it was semi-secret, no one used the immigrant-investment program for projects in S.D. reservation areas.
EB-5 investments are a device for someone from another nation to buy permanent residency in the United States. The residency applies to the investor's immediate family.
EB-5 was used to help turkey processing at Huron, open a Deadwood casino and hotel, finish the beef plant at Aberdeen and build electricity projects in several counties.
Currently the U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services agency wants to kick South Dakota out of the EB-5 program because of past problems.
Run right, EB-5 could have an important second life.
- South Dakota
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