New commissioner lays out changes in S.D. economic-development plan

Capitol News Bureau
KELO money 100 dollar bills

PIERRE, S.D. (KELO) — The new head of state government’s efforts to boost jobs says South Dakota missed on millions of dollars in agricultural projects in 2018.

That’s because some county government officials didn’t support various proposals, Commissioner Steve Westra of Sioux Falls told the state Economic Development Finance Authority.

To help counter that, Westra said Monday, the Governor’s Office of Economic Development plans to directly reward counties that approve state-backed projects.

He said business projects would need to agree to assign some types of state grants to counties. “They’ll have full flexibility on use of those funds,” Westra said.

County commissioners would have to explain why they voted against a project when approval would mean a financial gain for the county, he said.

Westra also outlined the Connect South Dakota program that first-year Governor Kristi Noem wants for improving spotty rural-broadband Internet service.

The Legislature earmarked $5 million for it.

He said the state money would be used as part of a mix of funding for areas that can’t qualify for federal “re-connect” aid.

The deadline for applications for the South Dakota pool is May 8 and projects must be completed no later than December 31.

The awards will be announced no later than May 22, according to Westra.

“We’ve had to move quickly,” he said.

The Legislature will be asked to continue the broadband initiative in the 2020 session, Westra said.

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