Storytelling Won’t Solve Sioux Falls Workforce Shortage; Try Higher Wages

Jodi Schwan talks with retiring Sioux Falls Development Foundation workforce development specialist Mary Medema about what it takes to meet the demand for labor in Sioux Falls. Whatever efforts Medema and the Foundation have made appear not to have stopped the local labor market from going in circles:

JS: So, nearly 19 years. Do you remember what the biggest workforce-related issue was here when you started the job?

MM: The tight labor market and a shortage of workers — almost exactly what it is now — skilled workers, most particular for manufacturing, construction and other trades like that. In 1999, the year-end unemployment rate was 1.9 percent in our area, less than it is today, so I’d say I’ve been through three major cycles [Jodi Schwann, “A Workforce Development Wish List,” that Sioux Falls paper, 2016.07.23].

Storyteller Schwan at least acknowledges that we won’t recruit workers by telling more stories:

Stop saying — and believing — that most of our workforce woes will be taken care of if we just do a better job of telling our story. I advocate storytelling as much as anyone — and this community does have a terrific story — but that alone will not stack up against some of the other vibrant cities in the marketplace. Getting us there takes real investment in downtown, parks, recreation, education at all levels, the arts and housing diversity. We’ve done a lot. We need to do more [Schwan, 2016.07.23].

Neither Schwan nor Medema mention the one factor that could beat all others in recruiting and retaining workers: higher pay. Neither Schwan nor Medema mentions the word wages or salary in their printed conversation. Sioux Falls businesses are apparently willing to plunge millions of dollars into marketing and turning our schools into their training facilities. But they won’t turn from their Rube Goldberg machine and hand that money directly to the employees who create their value. Thus, they face the same workforce shortage they did nineteen years ago.

46 Responses to Storytelling Won’t Solve Sioux Falls Workforce Shortage; Try Higher Wages

  1. Looks like Mayor Huether’s smiling billboard and website campaign are a complete failures. Just like almost everything else we have to deal in the big town. Hype and rule cheating abound but little stable, strong growth under our form of government led by this mayor.

    This administration operates the city like a third world country, don’t ask questions, don’t question the system and get out of the way or we might have to hurt you.

  2. “Insanity: doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results.” – Albert Einstein

    The model which Medema and, apparently, Schwan continue to use is the model which was deemed outdated and useless in the 1990s. Smokestack chasing with a bag of tax dollars to bribe or coax people to pull up stakes in another state and come to South Dakota was long ago proven to be futile. Bigger states with bigger sacks of cash win that contest every time.

    What do workers want? The same as employers. A history of commitment to a first class public education. Universities that take their missions seriously and get strong support from legislatures and communities. They want a competitive pay system that keeps food on the table, allows them to buy a decent home, send their kids to college or tech schools, competent health care and economic security to be able to retire in dignity. They’re not expecting a handout, but they are expecting to find leaders who know what they’re doing.

    Sustainable success doesn’t bubble up overnight, but it does require a discipline and dedication that is absent in Sioux Falls and in the State Capitol. South Dakota needs to evolve beyond the “get lucky” mentality that, like the Black Hills 1876 gold rush, never happens. Voters need to expect more than gimmicks and excuses from elected leaders. Maybe that kind of honesty needs to start with the press.

    Perhaps Jodi would be better served by making a clear-eyed, honest appraisal of why Gov. Mark Dayton’s state economy is far more robust and durable than South Dakota and its weak tax base. Maybe she could examine why Wisconsin is another failed petri dish of supply-side economics which David Stockman, one of its strongest advocates and architects under then-President Ronald Reagan, has declared brain dead and lacking in logic and reason.

    Some day, Sioux Falls will elect a bright mayor who is a real progressive. She or he might change the leadership and opinion shapers in Sioux Falls to put it on a competitive trajectory that results in a dynamic regional economy. Until then, Sioux Falls will resemble the Underwear Gnomes from the South Park series, forever expecting profits without having figured out how to generate them.

  3. Indeed, Bruce and 96, it would seem that both the Mayor and the Foundation have failed to change the cycle of workforce shortage in Sioux Falls. The best claim they can make is that all of their efforts are necessary to keep the workforce problem from being even worse, but we have no benchmarks against which to measure that claim, do we? It seems to me we need to quit the shell game, gut the back-patting marketing consultancy, and plunge every spare private dollar into directly compensating labor.

  4. Until Sioux Falls and South Dakota quit playing with the big out of state companies and figures out a way to help cultivate homegrown talent we will never succeed. Look at the track record of stable businesses brought in to harvest profits on the backs of low wage jobs. Once there is a new third world wage structure, the out of staters bolt. Look at the empty Capitalone and emptying out Citibank complexes.

    Keep dumbing down the education systems with tricks to take us back to the 1800 and we will be back there. Continue thinking only out of staters have the ability to save us and we might as well take down the fences and let the buffalo roam again.

  5. It’s still better than MARS!! ;-)

  6. Richard Schriever

    My direct experiences are this.

    1. I discovered my undergraduate education in South Dakota was first class when I went off to grad school in California. I was miles ahead of my fellow grad students from the start – in terms of what I had already been taught/exposed to. The question I have is, “Why aren’t our graduate programs equally as advanced?”

    2. I discovered after grad school, there is almost no employment support for people with graduate educations in SD – beyond education and health care. This reinforces the notion that our education system is structured as a training/support system to maintain our business system’s status quo rather than to improve it’s performance.

    3. I discovered that you don’t have to even go that far (cross one state border), or engage in any specialized training to find employment that is equivalent to South Dakota’s in skill and ability requirements – but pays twice as much. Go a little further and the wage disparity grows even more. For example, A $16-18/hr. construction job in Sioux Falls pays $32-50/hr. in Minneapolis, and $42-78/hr. in Los Angeles.

  7. mike from iowa

    but…but…higher wages make jobs disappear….

  8. Darin Larson

    I like Mike (Mayor Huether that is). I heard him speak on Friday at the Democratic Forum and his passion and energy for moving Sioux Falls forward is moving. He has gotten a lot of things done for Sioux Falls that needed to get done. He has endeavored to operate city government like an efficient business. I could go on . . .

    He specifically talked about the low unemployment rate and the effect that when the unemployment rate is low wages are pushed up. He seemed to think that was a good thing which I agree with.

    Mayor Mike talked also about workforce development. One big thing on his list is the development of community colleges in Sioux Falls that would be more of a stepping stone to an eventual four year degree. Some people don’t need a four year degree and some need technical training.

    I have made the point many times on here that education and development of home-grown talented entrepreneurs should be emphasized over trying to “bribe” companies from out of state to come here. I think Mayor Mike is moving on all fronts and I urged him to take his talents to Pierre.

  9. Darin, a guy like him would rot in that cesspool in Pierre.

  10. Darin Larson

    Tim, he negotiated with the big bad RR and the Feds to get the railroad yard to be moved out of downtown Sioux Falls which will open up the east bank of the river and spur a huge amount of economic development there. It took years and years and many people thought it was dead at certain points. But he and others got it done. He is tenacious, bipartisan, personable, and smart. He won’t be beholden to anybody in Pierre and I think he could open the doors and windows and let the sunlight into Pierre’s closed door decision making apparatus.

  11. RIchard, didn’t someone at the GOP convention say something about $50/hour construction jobs? I heard that and thought, “Where? In South Dakota?”

  12. RS: it’s all you wrote and worse.
    -my undergrad education, which I too often attended at the Xerox machine copying classmate notes because I had to work 2 & 3 simultaneous jobs to support a too-soon family (which remains intact) and graduate in 4 years; that education (and my folks work ethic) catapulted my out-of-state, often out leadership and management to earn recognition as best-in-class by government and a non-profit advocacy groups. Returned “home” in large measure to care for declining parents and no one in SD government or private industry gave a tinkers damn that I’d led/supervised 400 exceeding all agency standards, performance objectives, and earning highest accolades; or been a 5%-er selected to and completing a funded master’s program.

    -To your: “Why aren’t our graduate programs equally as advanced?” – because SD systemically could care less. My son and daughter-in-law were accepted carte blanche to grad school at the engineering tech school (it’s not a university) after their exemplary undergrad performances – and declined it – in part because the systemic feedback was a combination of either, the folks attending grad school a) couldn’t get a job, or b) couldn’t actually do anything. And that’s a prevailing attitude from the state’s engineering tech school. Second, SD refuses to pay for high quality, high performing faculty. Needless to say their jobs and subsequent jobs are outside of the salary/opportunity hell of South Dakota.

    -My grandfather was the youngest of 8, his father died when he was 5, early learned the value of education through his mother who raised 8 – long before social security. My grandfather and his barely older brother were the first in the family to earn bachelor degrees. During the summers during the Depression my grandfather left his family to earn his masters and doctorate, earning the latter in 1937 – to make a better life for his family and self. It’s no surprise his elder son became a supreme court justice (albeit in a progressive state) and his younger son earned a medical doctorate. Education and work ethic are a proven way out of fatherless poverty – a lesson not lost on some of his grandchild and great-grandchildren — but not a lesson embraced by his adopted state.

  13. It’s bewildering that Schwan and Medema wouldn’t mention low wages as part of the problem. Sioux Falls, and the whole state for that matter,is in denial; they suffer from some of the most pitifully low wages in the country and that that is a large part of their workforce problem.
    Wake up Sioux Falls, wake up South Dakota, you’re not fooling anyone.

  14. If you want to make more money, here is the key. Work harder, people. Stop whining for everything to be handed to you on a plate of silver. Work harder. Get more money. It’s easy.

  15. Nick Nemec

    It never ceases to amaze me that the business people of SD and the politicians who cater to them don’t understand the concept of supply and demand. Raise wages and workers will beat a path to your door. Raise them enough and you will reduce your turnover thereby reducing your training costs.

    Maybe someday our state will have a governor willing to speak that simple truth. Money spent on workforce development and worker recruitment could then be spent on something that actually makes a difference, something like education.

  16. Funny how it works…or doesn’t. When we wanted to attract more banking we made it obscenely profitable to move charters here. How can we apply the same logic to a workforce?

    I still marvel at how the GOP thinks that they can defy the law of supply and demand…it seems to be more of a suggestion than a law when it’s convenient for them.

    How’s that working out so far?

  17. Grudznick@21:14
    “Work harder” I know some people who work pretty hard in this heat 12 hours a day, 14 hours a day work hard because that’s all they know how to do, bring home more money? Nope, some years even less, “work harder may work other places, but not so much SD, always a cap as to what is being made… the agriculture industry .

  18. I understand that the Sioux Falls Development Foundation can’t raise wages itself (although it manages to hire staff and divert money to consultants). As a creature of business, SFDF isn’t going to turn around and criticize its own paying members.

    I also understand that the Legislature can’t raise most wages. We can protect the minimum wage and other basic labor protections. We can raise pay for teachers and other public employees to regionally competitive levels and hope that sets an example for private industry. But ultimately, the market has to solve this issue. Ultimately, private businesses need to get sick of baning their heads against a nearly constant shortage of workers and pay wages that will recruit and retain talent… or they need to settle for second-best.

  19. Each month when the finance director of SF does his financial report, he shows us 3 things. Sales tax revenue, unemployment rate and building permits. This past month he finally got called out. We are growing our sales tax at half of what we did in previous years, even though we are growing in population. He blamed the internet. He was asked WTH does building permits have to do with city finances, he admitted ‘not much’. Then it was pointed out our low unemployment rate is actually hurting growth. As I have told the city council and mayor for several years, we don’t have a ‘jobs’ problem we have a ‘wage’ problem.

  20. Troy Jones

    I know it is fun to live in a world of perceptions that feed your preconceived notions or biases without regard to accuracy. But, it is still living in a fantasy.

    The median US hourly wage for a Welder 1 (lowest skilled level) is $18.20 per hour. In Sioux Falls, beginning welders are getting hired for that hourly wage or the promise to make that much or more after passing training/certification/probation which is often 90 days. Most experienced Welder 1’s here are making over $21 per hour which is in the nation’s 75% percentile.

    This is also true for fabricators, machine operators, and machinists.

    It is easy to say “just raise wages” but increased wages add to operating costs and there becomes a point when a company becomes non-competitive with its competition (local, national, and international).

    Sorry to present facts which conflicts with your world view.

  21. mike from iowa

    The only viable solution is for the lege to extend the hours in each day by 15 or 20 so the less well off can work several more part time jobs. South Dakota certainly has the votes to do this one weird trick to make everybody wealthy. Duh!!

  22. Richard Schriever

    Troy – nice job on picking those cherries. You cite ONE job title – and want us to infer that all SD wages are the same as that?? Then you choose the ever deceptive “median” wage (vs. average, or mean). You realize of course that means that wage is HIGHER in half of the other states (the percentage higher is irrelevant to a median). In theory then, SD wage for that ONE job could be $18, while those 24 states with a higher wage could have none below $25. It also “means” that all of the 24 states below that median might be around $17.50. The median wage for ONE job title is a less than meaningful way to break-down the data in this case.

  23. mike from iowa

    Entry-Level Welder Salary (United States) – PayScale…/Entry-Level
    An Entry-Level Welder earns an average wage of $15.14 per hour.

    How much money do entry level welders make?
    Entry-level positions averaged $24,490 per year, or $11.78 per hour, while the top 10 percent of welders earned $55,240, or $26.56 per hour. Welding skills are highly transferable, so a welder can readily move from one area or one employer to another in pursuit of better wages or more agreeable employment.

  24. Richard Schriever

    Better numbers:

    But still, these are only averages, and not necessarily reflective of what is actually paid in a given location. The best measure is the “prevailing wage” which is a rate that is required by law to be paid to any/all Federal contractors in a given city/state.

  25. @ Troy – I don’t think anyone is suggesting wages are raised to the level we might see in a major metro area, but no matter how you look at the numbers it is clear we have a wage problem in South Dakota – and in Sioux Falls.

    I know from first hand experience it is difficult to recruit employees to Sioux Falls when that same employee, working for the same company in the same position can make 15-30% more money by living in California, Arizona, or North Carolina. Now one might argue that cost of living is more in those areas and yes that is true, but not enough to offset the increase in wages. This is why we don’t see a massive influx of educated talent in Sioux Falls. Quite the contrary in fact – we export these types of employees each and every day.

    Same holds true for unskilled labor as well (although I’d like to go on record as most of the jobs that fall into this category are anything but ‘unskilled’). Whether it be carpenters, truck drivers, cashiers or line cooks at the local Applebees, those people can make more by moving. This is why we have had low unemployment rates for the past decade and why we will continue to have low unemployment rates for the foreseeable future – because many of the people who might have taken those jobs have moved on.

    Sioux Falls will continue to grow – but we aren’t about to see a major boom while wages continue to stagnate.

  26. Troy Jones

    You guys are hilarious.

    Median means that half the people in that job make more and half make less. It has nothing to do with states or their average. There will always be a median.

    Mike from Iowa, in Sioux Falls, I will be surprised there is a Welder 1 making $11.78 an hour because people are getting hired to be welders without experience and training at roughly $15 an hour. All they have to do is pass a aptitude test which shows they have the mental and dexterity skills with which to be trained to become a Welder 1.

    Pick a skilled manufacturing job (welder, fabricator, machinist), see what the median wage is in this country and see how many companies are hiring at that level in Sioux Falls. I don’t care which you pick and the answer is pretty much the same. Asserting we are have low wages in Sioux Falls for skilled manufacturing jobs is a myth.

  27. Sorry Troy – you can’t just pick one small job or one small sector and pretend it means there isn’t a wage issue. The jobs you describe *might* do better than some other areas because they are jobs required to be local – you can’t outsource a welding job to Kansas City or Casper. However, on average, Sioux Falls wages rest well below our peers.

    Just look at the real data and the percentages that local wages are below national averages. There might be a few areas where local wages are higher than average, but taken as a whole we are well below average. This is a fact – and unemployment will continue to be a problem for employers when people in certain industries can move across a border and make 20-30% more money for the same job.

  28. While we are at it – and to preemptively address any statements regarding “cost of living being so much less in South Dakota”, let’s do some comparisons here.

    Living wage calculator shows one adult needs $9.50/hr to have a living wage in Sioux Falls. That same adult needs $11/hr in Minneapolis, $10.42/hr in Kansas City, $11.61/hr in Denver and 9.82/hr in Omaha.

    This tells us if someone wants to have the same standard of living in Omaha as they do in Sioux Falls they need to make 3.3% more money. Yet the BLS tells us Omaha residents make 8% more on average than Sioux Falls residents.

    Same is true elsewhere. If you want to live in Kansas City you’ll need to make 9.7% more income, but they make 14.4% more income on average. If you prefer Minneapolis, you’ll need 15.8% more money, but the great news is wages are 28% higher on average.

    Is there any wonder why people continue to move and why it is so hard to recruit talent into the area?

  29. Richard Schriever

    You’re right Troy – median means half the people earn more and half earn less.

    Let’s examine how that works. Let’s say there are 100 employees. The “median wage” is $18.00 Let’s say 75 people make $18.00 exactly and the other 25 make $400.00. Do you know what the “median wage” is? It’s $18.00.

    See how it works?

  30. Richard Schriever

    And Craig – I can tell you that:

    1.) Cost off living in SD is almost exactly the mean (average) for the entire US – it is not “low”.

    2.) I can tell you as well from personal experience, Cost of Living in LA is higher – but ONLY in regard to real estate/rent. Other regular every day to day costs are essentially the same and for some commodities LOWER to SD.

    3.) Here’s a real life example of the impact of wage and COL differences between SD and CA mean to an individual. When I moved to LA – I got the exact same jo that I’d had in SD. It paid twice as much. However, my rent was also twice as much. What does the math tell us the impact of that was on my discretionary income (after rent)? It tells us I had TWICE as much left form car/gas/food and so on.

  31. I agree Richard and I’ve seen the same myself. For most goods and services the cost differences between SD and other areas isn’t significant. Food, gasoline, clothing, furniture…. it all pretty much costs the same in most areas.

    The major difference (as you cited) is real estate, but for someone buying a property that works out to a net positive since that real estate will continue to appreciate (it is an investment vehicle to some degree). Other areas where costs are often higher include transportation (because people in metro areas spend much more time in their vehicles and often work much further from home), and utilities (because energy rates are often much higher in cities than they are in rural SD).

    That said, as you noted when someone makes considerably more income, even when they account for increased costs in housing etc. they will still have more discretionary income that they can use for whatever or save for retirement.

    I know a lot of SD residents have family ties or other reasons to remain living here and those people aren’t going anywhere, but we will continue to suffer from brain drain and continue struggling to find workers willing to move this direction and that is due in no small part to our below national average wages.

  32. Troy Jones


    What you said is incorrect: Let’s say there are 100 employees. The “median wage” is $18.00 Let’s say 75 people make $18.00 exactly and the other 25 make $400.00. Do you know what the “median wage” is? It’s $18.00.

    If there are 101 employees (makes the math correct), list the hourly wage of all 101 employees and the median is the wage of the 51st employee. Maybe on welder makes the median or 50 welders make the median is not known. The median is a definable and non-interpretative statistic easily determined by anyone who can make a list.

    If you had looked at the information I provided, 50% of Welder 1’s in the US make less than $18.20 an hour. In Sioux Falls the % of Welder 1’s who make less than $18.20 is alot lower than 50%. The assertion Sioux Falls is a low wage city relative to the nation is false.

  33. mike from iowa

    In Sioux Falls the % of Welder 1’s who make less than $18.20 is alot lower than 50%

    Sez who?

  34. “The assertion Sioux Falls is a low wage city relative to the nation is false.”

    No it isn’t Troy! The BLS statistics prove it and you are trying to cherry pick one occupation out of hundreds and suggesting it means we are not a low wage city.

    You are entitled to your own opinion Troy – not your own facts. Read the BLS statistics again and tell me Sioux Falls isn’t a low wage city.

    I’ll even quote the BLS summary:

    “Workers in the Sioux Falls Metropolitan Statistical Area had an average (mean) hourly wage of $20.01 in May 2015, about 14 percent below the nationwide average of $23.23″

  35. mike from iowa

    Soo Foo wages don’t fare well versus other cities according to BLS.

  36. South DaCola

    Apartment rents in Sioux Falls are way above national averages. I was telling my brother who lives in a suburb of Seattle what apartment rent was and he said it was pretty high. He pays about $600 a month + utilities for a house.

    The city just gave Hidden Hills apartments on North Cliff some TIFs and some federal grants for supposed ‘affordable housing’ cheapest rent is $680 a month for a one-bedroom, 600 square foot apartment. And these are pretty bare bones, and not the best part of town (a few blocks from stinky John Morrells). The developers that are building these structures are making a fortune.

  37. Troy Jones


    I agree high rents (due to growth in housing units not keeping up with growth in jobs) is a major problem with regard to the worker shortage. And, it is not just apartment shortage. Finding employees who are willing to move to Sioux Falls for skilled manufacturing jobs is not that big a problem until they find out one of two realities related to housing: They can’t find available houses for them and their family (skilled experienced workers are more likely to come with a family as gaining the skills and experience means they are older) or the cost is higher than where they are leaving (impact of high demand for housing vs. where they are coming from may have a glut of houses).

  38. Troy, I refer to my December 23, 2015, post showing that 35 of the 38 South Dakota jobs listed on a Department of Labor and Regulation holiday infographic pay average wages lower than the national average.

  39. Richard Schriever

    You don’t have to be “old” to acquire welding skills. I took a 3 week course at my employer’s back in the ’70’s (Load King @ Elk Point) to become a certified welder (so-called welder-1) at age 21.

  40. Richard Schriever

    BTW – you will note that @ Load King back in the 70’s, they provided on-the-job training to build their work force’s skill level. IMO – that’s the way it ought to be, no reason for tax payers to be paying for employer’s work force training.

  41. Troy Jones


    Three things:

    1) I would like to see the methodology for the computation of average just to understand. Not doubt its accuracy.

    2) I don’t doubt the average in SD is lower than the national but I don’t think Sioux Falls is lower than the national, especially for skilled manufacturing jobs. In fact, SD might be a bit over the national average in these areas.

    3) Despite skilled manufacturers paying more in Sioux Falls, many people who have these skills in our smaller cities and rural areas don’t move to Sioux Falls. Some because they are part-time working with family on the farm. Some because of other ties to their community. And some (maybe alot) don’t like their housing options in Sioux Falls (size/cost proposition, local property taxes, availability, or gross cost) relative to what they have.

    My real point is meaningful policy requires good information and lumping together the reality of Sioux Falls with the rest of the state results in bad information and the challenges are different.

  42. mike from iowa

    Not doubt its accuracy.

    In fact, SD might be a bit over the national average in these areas.

    Despite skilled manufacturers paying more in Sioux Falls,

    Just so no one has to doubt your accuracy about pay for skilled manufacturing jobs in Sioux Falls…..

  43. Troy Jones


    First, asking for methodology isn’t a criticism of accuracy or value. It’s math.

    Second, Good catch and thanks for pointing it out. I meant to say In #2 SF might be a bit over the national average.

    Third, Sioux Falls manufacturers pay more than other manufacturers in the state. And, having some direct exposure to those with most employees in skilled categories, their beginning pay (sometimes after probation) is higher than what is reported as the national median.

    All, keep in mind this post was a criticism of Sioux Falls development folks using state-wide data. Their issues, strengths, weaknesses don’t parallel exactly that of the state as a while, especially in certain goals.

  44. Troy:

    (1) Methodology was Bureau of Labor Statistics, same as for stats cited by Richard, Mike, and Craig. BLS says it uses wage data from its National Compensation Survey, Occupational Employment Statistics Survey, or the Current Population Survey.

    (2) BLS reports Sioux Falls mean hourly wage is behind the national average in all but two of its 22 major occupational groups. Average shortfall is 14%; range is 1% down in Personal Care and Service to 28% down in Legal; exceptions are Farming, Fishing, and Forestry, where SF average wage beats national average by 25%, and Sales and Related, where SF avg beats nat’l by 3%. Production avg wage is 10% below national.

    (3) Numerous factors beyond income affect individual relocation decisions. Family and community ties will keep some people in smaller towns, but obviously not all of them. Those ties are organic factors that no economic development chief or corporation makes happen. Good pay draws workers. So do housing, education, culture, and recreation. But you’re going to have more housing, education, culture, and recreation if your employers pay higher wages, which will turn into more disposable income, more sales, and a bigger tax base (and donor base) for better schools, bigger parks, and a nice opera every now and then.

  45. Troy Jones


    Got it. They are doing a mean and lumping in all production workers into one group.

    The original comments with which SF Development Foundation in specifically commenting on are jobs in construction manufacturing. The data you reference includes the jobs at Morrell’s which is a different skill level than those that I’m talking about (welders, fabricators, machinists). Thus, to large degree our comments are about apples and oranges.

    I pretty much agree top to bottom with your comments in #3. My main point is I don’t think SF Development is “going in circles” but addressing the challenges properly because, especially in the skilled positions, pay is very competitive relative to the nation, people are moving here in those job categories, but what is holding more from coming is less about wages and more about housing options, a challenge which takes years to implement (opening up new developments, getting permissions, installing infrastructure (public and private), getting contractors and then actually constructing the units (house or apartment).

    What people outside Sioux Falls need to realize is the area adds a “new Madison” in population every year. People moving here live in apartments for up to a year until they get a house they want and can move their family (I know one such person who came from Norfolk Virginia who I think says he is a Master Welder or whatever the highest classification is). Some people just aren’t willing to do that no matter the wage (within reason).

  46. Troy, you and I agree on my #3: there’s more to economic development than wages. But wages are at the base of economic development. Jodi Schwan and Mary Medema’s not mentioning wages in a discussion of workforce recruitment is like my not mentioning writing in my discussion of teaching English. If employers salve their workforce worries with phrases like, “less about wages and more about housing options,” they cede a great deal of the field of competition for workers. An economic development strategy that says, “Let’s expand housing options!” will help, but not as much as a strategy that says, “Let’s expand housing and let’s raise wages!”