PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The Governor’s Office of Economic Development wants more information for judging potential meatpacking projects and is willing to spend up to $100,000 for an outside consultant’s advice.

GOED’s finance director, Travis Dovre, discussed the feasibility study last week with the state Board of Economic Development.

The goal, according to Dovre, is to better answer the question of whether small facilities can work, whether for beef, pork or both. “We’ve seen these projects come and go in our history of economic development,” he said.

Jeff Erickson, a Sioux Falls banker who chairs the board, said state government has a value-added fund and GOED’s staff wants to get the financier’s point of view.

“Hopefully this will be a new perspective for us to gain as a board,” Erickson said. “So we can for, lack of a better term, differentiate between fact and fiction.” 

GOED issued a request for the consulting proposals on August 10. The timetable calls for written submissions no later than September 8. The decision on selecting a consultant would come no sooner than October 11.

South Dakota state government became deeply snarled in efforts to open a beef plant in Aberdeen that began during the mid-2000s, when U.S. Senator Mike Rounds served as governor and Richard Benda was state commissioner of tourism and development.

Foreign investors put money into the project, known as Northern Beef Packers, through the federal EB-5 program, and some of them later sued. The company filed for bankruptcy, Benda died in 2013 by what was officially ruled a shotgun suicide, and Joop Bollen of Aberdeen in 2016 pleaded guilty to a Class 6 felony for his role and was sentenced to two years of probation and a fine. The resurrected plant now operates as DemKota Ranch Beef.

NOT FADE AWAY: On August 5, the role of South Dakota National Guard adjutant general changed hands from Jeff Marlette to Mark Morrell.

Governor Kristi Noem had appointed Marlette as adjutant general in 2019, succeeding Tim Reisch.

The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee honored Marlette near the end of its meeting on July 26. The panel’s co-chairs, Republican Rep. Mike Derby and Republican Sen. Jean Hunhoff, led the lawmakers’ standing ovation.

“I truly believe I’ve got the best job in South Dakota. I truly do,” Marlette responded. He added, “I’ve just loved every day of it.”

As to his professional future, Marlette said, “I don’t want another job, but I want to do something where I continue to serve.”

CO2 UPDATE: The South Dakota Public Utilities Commission plans to decide September 6 whether to grant a route permit to the Navigator Heartland Greenway carbon-dioxide pipeline project.

Five days later, the commission digs in for round two, with a hearing on the route application from SCS Carbon Transport for its CO2 pipeline.

The SCS hearing starts at 9 a.m. CT on September 11 and is scheduled to run 13 days. It will be at the same place — the Casey Tibbs South Dakota Rodeo Center in Fort Pierre — as was the Navigator hearing.

But the commission’s chair, Kristie Fiegen, won’t be participating. She recused herself from the SCS docket because of a conflict of interest. Instead, State Treasurer Josh Haeder will replace her, joining commissioners Chris Nelson and Gary Hanson.

Have a news item or tip about state government? Contact KELOLAND Capitol Bureau reporter Bob Mercer at 605-280-7580 or bmercer@keloland.com.