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Coming Home

February 10, 2014, 10:21 PM by Brady Mallory

Coming Home

Leah Orsack will make you feel like you have won the jackpot when she greets you at Grand Falls Casino Resort.

"Hi, how are you today?  Are you winning?" Orsack said to a woman named Gladyce, who was sitting at one of the many slot machines.

As the Promotions Coordinator, Orsack sets up promotional games and contests, but her guests rely on her for much more.  Her welcoming, personable demeanor makes her an important, friendly face at Grand Falls.

"People are so much more open here.  They're excited to see you, tell you how their day is going," Orsack said.

Eight months ago, Orsack moved here for the job from Las Vegas.  She did not just roll the dice and bet on South Dakota.  She grew up in Sioux Falls, and that is also where she built up her career in broadcast news. 

"One point, it was time to come back," Orsack said.

She freshened up her resume, sent out numerous cover letters to countless companies and left no website unturned.  She was expecting a relatively low-maintenance process, given the Sioux Falls job market continues to thrive and outshine many similarly-sized cities across the nation.  According to the South Dakota Department of Labor, Sioux Falls' unemployment rate currently sits at 3.1 percent.  Despite the low number, Orsack quickly learned not everyone finds the job they are looking for.

"I just came to learn it was very difficult to get anyone's attention and to get a call back, to get an interview," Orsack said.  "It felt like when they saw Las Vegas as my home address, they didn't want to try because I wasn't technically in Sioux Falls yet."

The companies that did get back to her would not fly her in for an interview unless she footed the bill.  Faced with few job prospects, and positions that would bring severe pay cuts, Orsack felt exhausted and unwanted.

"I wanted to get home, and when you sit and you wait for months on months to figure out if you're even going to get an interview for a job, it feels like you don't have it," Orsack said.

When it comes to finding jobs, there are many resources for people who want to move back to South Dakota.  Dakota Roots links employees to employers.  One goal is to bring workers with large market experience back home.  Orsack, who has a degree in speech communication, radio and TV from Southwest Minnesota State University, utilized the program.  Unfortunately, she still did not find what she was looking for.

"They even admitted, 'We just don't have anything that fits your field.'  They were very nice with the communication in the email, but I just got nowhere with them and I thought the purpose of programs like that were to bring people like me back to Sioux Falls, where they have large market experience, experience in the big city, big jobs, management.  Things like that.  It just felt like it didn't matter anymore," Orsack said.

Director of Communications and Research for the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, Dawn Dovre, said South Dakota, like anywhere else, has certain high demand jobs that are easier to fill than others.

"So what some of those would be are nurses, people in engineering, I.T. jobs, teachers.  We really help educate our job seekers about the high demand, high wage jobs that are available and if they don't have skill sets matching those requirements, we can offer job training opportunities for them," Dovre said.

Since its inception in 2006, Dovre says Dakota Roots has successfully helped more than 3,000 South Dakota natives find jobs and move back home.

"We receive so much good feedback about how people really appreciate the one-on-one service from our departments and a lot of the comments are really, they are surprised for someone who wants to move back, they are willing to go the extra mile to provide customized service for them," Dovre said.

Eventually, Orsack took matters into her own hands.  While visiting her family, she emailed Grand Falls Casino Resort.  She said someone called her back the next day.

"The big joke in my family is she moved away from Las Vegas to work in a casino near Sioux Falls," Orsack said.  "It's just minutes away from Sioux Falls.  It doesn't take long to get here at all."

Though she admits she did not have much luck trying to move back at first, she said the outcome has been worth the gamble.

"My roots were here.  They're here," Orsack said.

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