Dakota Provisions Chooses to Expand in Huron; More Immigrants Needed for 250 New Jobs

Just days after 150-some Aberdeen residents gathered to hear a California speaker rally them to reject refugee resettlement and the recruiting of immigrant laborers, a major Huron employer that has built its success on refugee and other immigrant workers has chosen Huron over Aberdeen as the site for its next major expansion.

Dakota Provisions thought about investing $39 million in two projects in Aberdeen, Mitchell, and Huron. Instead of expanding in Aberdeen or Mitchell, Dakota Provisions will build new processing and cold storage facilities close to home, creating 250 new jobs in Huron.

Dakota Provisions already employs about 1,000 workers, 600 of whom are Karen refugees from Myanmar and perhaps another 160 are Latin American immigrants. Given its heavy reliance on immigrant labor, Dakota Provisions has pioneered partnership with the federal government to certify immigrant worker status and weed out illegal immigrant workers. Dakota Provisions also owns two retail stores in Huron and Brookings.

Huron faces the same demographic challenges as Aberdeen and much of the rest of South Dakota in filling workforce needs:

Meanwhile, the leaders also talked about the shortage of skilled and unskilled workers in town, and the fact that hundreds of jobs are going unfilled. It’s hard to attract new businesses or for existing ones to expand when they can’t find workers, they said. Beadle County has an unemployment rate of 2.4 percent [Roger Larsen, “Air Service, Postal Facility and Other Concerns Expressed to Rep. Noem,” Huron Plainsman, 2016.08.15].

Huron Superintendent says Dakota Provisions caused Huron’s student population to rebound from a low of 1,900 to the current 2,500. Proportionally, 250 new turkey jobs could translate to another 150 students. Don’t all those foreign kids strain the school district?

The Huron school district has a 49 percent minority enrollment, by far the highest in the state. And 33 percent of the students are enrolled in the English as a Second Language program.

Some came to Huron not proficient even in their native language because there was no schooling in the refugee camps. But now students are graduating from high school here and going on to college [Larsen, 2016.08.15].

Kids may be graduating and going to college, but in the 2014–2015 school year, Huron’s four-year cohort graduation rate was 76.79% and high school completion rate was 83.54%. Those figures are both a little higher than Rapid City’s but lower than Aberdeen’s, Watertown’s, Pierre’s, and Sioux Falls’s. Raising kids from zero formal education to high school graduation isn’t easy, but Huron is rising to the challenge.

Those turkey jobs will bring housing construction—even with the housing that will be freed up when the Dakota Access Pipeline is finished and its all-too-brief economic stimulus disappears, someone will need to buy more concrete and lumber and building permits to house those 250 new workers and their families.

Those turkey jobs may also make up for the loss of 48 U.S. Postal Service jobs that may happen if Rep. Kristi Noem can’t get answers (after over two years of “trying”) about the threatened closure of the Dakota Central mail processing facility in Huron. Even if all of those mail people choose to chop turkeys, Dakota Provisions will still need 200 more workers to staff its expansion. And unless Huron baby boomers want to come out of retirement, persuade their kids to make more babies, or persuade their grandkids to move back to Huron, Dakota Provisions is going to need a community that welcomes immigrants and recognizes New Americans as an essential part of their economic development.


32 Responses to Dakota Provisions Chooses to Expand in Huron; More Immigrants Needed for 250 New Jobs

  1. Maybe a trade could be made for the 150 haters for economic developement. If you only had a Chamber that could rally the business nterests there, progressives, if you will. Brown County has stagnated, like most places in South Dakota with the exception of Huron,what’s up with that? Vote Democratic for the future.

  2. Nick Nemec

    This is the centuries long American story playing out before our eyes. People move to America looking for a better life, early birds tell friends and relatives we’ve found a place that will hire you and values our hard work. Your kids can go to school, graduate and maybe go to college.

    In a few generations those immigrants will be as American as my wife and I are a few generations after our ancestors left eastern Europe. I say welcome to our country, make yourself at home and register to vote the first chance you get. Our country will be richer for your presence.

  3. Roger Elgersma

    Excellent to see that when someone tries it works well. Good for their success. If South Dakota had higher wages we could all do well without having to try so hard, and then the success would be with and for our own grandkids.

  4. Huron economic development office needs to put Nick’s message up on a Welcome to Huron billboard. Immigration makes our community richer. Perfect.

  5. Douglas Wiken

    The diversity makes us richer propaganda is just that. How much extra is it costing taxpayers for education because of diversity? I get very tired of these general statements like “Diversity is good” and “Tribal Culture is wonderful”, etc. with zero factual data to support any specific reasons why diversity is good in any way.

  6. Nick Nemec

    When my grandfather first attended school, in rural Stanley County around 1906 he didn’t know a word of English. He learned English and so will the kids of these immigrants. The faster we can teach them English the faster they will become Americans.

  7. We could use some more economic development in district 17 and USD provides an international atmosphere on the prairie.

  8. Richard Schriever

    Mr. Wiken, There is plenty of scientific research on the benefits of diversity on things ranging from work-group cohesion to problem-solving ability to economic benefits, to task performance, etc., etc., etc. Use the Google, sir.

  9. mike from iowa

    How many of these immigrants get frauded out of a half million bucks and their green cards?

  10. Bill Dithmer

    “Dakota Provisions Chooses to Expand in Huron; More Immigrants Needed for 250 New Jobs”

    At first when I read that headline this morning I thought it was one of Corys attempts at humor. Now I know he was serious.

    Personally, I care less about the immigrants issues then most on here. Not because I dont care, but because I do. We have bigger problems in SD then bringing in immigrant labor. Why arent we discussing that elephant in the room?

    For the last six years, first on Madville, and then on DFP, the talk has been about jobs on all the reservations that have borders with the state of South Dakota. There are a couple of pretty important questions that need to be answered if you want to move forward.

    1. If the LDN tribes have this huge dynamic workforce, why is there even a need to recruit immigrant labor?

    2. Did anyone even go to the LDN leaders, or is this a statement on the total lack of communication between the tribes, the state, the company and the towns?

    3.With unemployment on the reservations approaching 80% either the leaders are completely inept, or the company doesnt want native labor. I suspect a lot of both. If it were some other reason, the man put in charge of coordinating relations between the tribes and the state would have stepped up to the plate long before the meeting that Cory went to. Why didnt that happen? And why are you talking about bringing in immigrants when there are so many in the state that could go to work?

    4 What is the reason that these companies arent perusing native labor? Or are they? And where in the world are the tribal leaders when these jobs are offered?

    Just like every other group of people, the native will have to go where the work is if their tribes refuse to change their worldview on jobs on the res. Either you want to work, or you dont. Lets find out what is causing this problem and fix it.

    Cory went to this meeting to cause trouble.! He was successful in that regard. He didnt change anyones opinion, and they didnt change his. Everyone here knows neither of those things were ever a remote possibility, and yet he did what he did. Did it get him anymore votes? Did he have any other reason to be at that meeting then causing a stir in the lions den for his campains sake? If he really wanted to make a difference, he would hold a meeting of his own and lay out his positions. He would invite both sides on the issue and have the discussion he wants.

    If you start with a confrontation in SD, that is probably where you will end up, in a confrontation. At least give voters a reasonable choice Cory, not the aggressive nutjob you were at that meeting. You went way beyond a comment into tirade. But then that is what you wanted isnt it?

    The Blindman

  11. Doug, note I didn’t say “Diversity is good.” I said “Immigration makes us richer.” I recognize that both diversity and immigration have their limits: we can’t fit everyone on Earth in Aberdeen, and we can’t have all 27,000 Aberdonians speaking different languages.

    But South Dakota is nowhere near maxing out on its capacity to welcome, employ, educate, and integrate new residents. If we’re worried about paying for the schools and other services immigrants will need, we should tax the income everyone earns (workers and the industry chiefs importing this labor) to ensure that we capture the wealth this immigration generates directly to pay for those public services.

  12. Bill D: really? Ron says the UN controls Lutheran Social Services, and you call me an aggressive nutjob? I asked to speak, received permission, and then simply tried to be heard over people who were trying to shout me down before I’d even finished a sentence. You are also mistaken about my intent in attending Thursday’s meeting. I went first to document what happened, so people could see Ron’s Sibbyesque nuttery. I did not plan to speak. I rose only when Ron attacked me personally, accused me of a cowardly retreat from the meeting, and misrepresented the meaning of one of my own blog posts to accuse a neighbor being a racist. I had no idea Ron was going to be holding up things I’ve written as exhibits in his snake-oil show.

    That said, I am perfectly open to your discussion of whether Dakota Provisions and other employers have reached out enough to the tribes for workforce. I would much rather see these 250 new jobs, the hundreds of jobs going unfilled in Aberdeen, and other positions around the state go to South Dakotans who need jobs. If our Lakota neighbors can’t do the jobs, I totally support training programs that will get them the skills for the jobs we have and the jobs they want.

    But if qualified workers don’t want to relocate from Eagle Butte to Huron, and if qualified workers are willing to relocate from St. Paul and Myanmar to Huron, I’m not going to ask that the turkey plant or Huron’s leaders keep pulling at horses that don’t want to drink Huron’s water.

  13. Douglas Wiken

    I put this in another discussion that fell off the bottom of the page, but I support Bill Dithmer’s post above.
    “Why not go to South Dakota reservations where the unemployment rate probably approaches 100% for employable males. That is a short trip and I think any of them can do as good work as any worker from Puerto Rico.”

    Bill’s estimate of unemployment on reservations is closer to correct than my high estimate.

    My son roomed at SDSM&T with a Native American. He was back from California last week. He has a job writing software with a Swedish company expanding into the US. There is employment available and I see no reason why Native Americans can’t do as good a job as any other social or ethnic group. It is a form of bias to assume they are incapable.

  14. BIll DIthmer

    Dont even try to convince me that you went to that meeting without the agenda you t ook with you. Common sense would have predicted those results, and yet you tried to play your game. Thats fine because thats what politicians do, but stop playing the poor me card when you knew in advance what the outcome would be.

    If you didnt, you should of.
    If you didnt, its on you for not knowing.
    If you didnt, you dont have what it takes.

    If you walk into the lions den with a club, dont be surprised if they try to eat you. Thats politics, and thats the biz sweetheart.

    The Blindman

  15. Bill Dithmer, I think it is important to respond to your questions about employing Native Americans. It would seem a simple fix – communities across South Dakota need workers and the tribes, with some of the highest unemployment numbers in the nation, need jobs. On the surface, it would seem to be a win-win situation. Unfortunately there are some pretty substantial barriers to break down and no one has figured out a way to make it happen.

    Our community has tried to open up dialogue with a nearby reservation to bus in workers. To date, it hasn’t worked, but we continue to try. Transportation, child care, substance abuse, cultural pressure both inside and outside the reservation are just a few of the challenges which must be overcome to make an arrangement like this work. There needs to be trust built between cultures coupled with understanding and acceptance of differing backgrounds. Everyone needs to come to the table willing to compromise. I’m not sure the time is right, but I remain hopeful.

  16. Dithmer, you and Mr. Wiken sound historical. I seem to remember your kinds of solutions way back when. In those days,it was called the Dawes Act. You fellers want to re homestead the rez. I say hurrah for Huron and their new love for soccer, game on.

  17. Douglas Wiken

    Jerry, in other words, the situation for Native employment is hopeless?

  18. BIll DIthmer

    Jerry how in the heck did you come to that conclusion? I never said a thing about what your talking about, I am talking jobs!

    Either the tribes want jobs, or they dont. The time for making excuses on both sides needs to come to an end. If any person w a nts to work, we know that there are jobs, if you are any color of the rainbow, there are jobs. Why dont the tribes want their people to work?

    As I’ve said many times before, and have been verbally cussed out for it, here it is. if you want prosperity, a job is the only answer. If you want to bring the suicide rate down, a job is the only way. If you want anything in life it means getting a job. Why are the leaders dragging their feet? Every year means that many more dead kids that might have been saved. Sometimes it looks like the leaders enjoy the publisity of suicide more then they care about those kids because they never get close to finding jobs for their people.

    The Blindman

  19. According to you both, it is hopeless. Your way of thinking though is the same cut of baloney the Dawes Act was born with. How about this? Fully fund the IHS, provide the ways and means for adequate housing, what the hell, fix the roads and improve public transportation wih local employment. You are welcome. You all think that you can simply move the reservation to the jobs, I say the opposite.

  20. BIll DIthmer

    Jerry that will never happen if the tribes want control of who gets hired, and who gets fired. If that was the case it would already been done, but it wasnt.

    You will never change any of those reservations without jobs. Are the leaders scared that their people dont want to work or what. Like I said before, the time for excuses is nearing its end. Doesn’t a hundred years of doing it the other way tell you anything other then that the natives are repressed? Why are you so aginst going off the res for work? Every person that wants a job should have a shot at a job, but very seldom will that job come looking for you if someone is in line right there for that job. And nobody in their right mind would invest in a job creating business if they dont control the business.

    Stop trying to.blame someone else for a problem that has been caused by the people themselves. The res will change when the people get tired of the way it is. Evidently they haven’t reached the right number of bodies yet.

    The Blindman

  21. This is what your Dawes Act did, you benefited greatly from it. See what was done? Now you have solutions? Please, my leg is long enough without you and Mr. Wiken pulling on it. You have no solutions other than removal, that is not a solution, that is a trap. Stop the blame on the Natives, they simply entered into a contract agreement after the grand theft.

  22. BIll DIthmer

    Jerry, then what your saying is, you are ok without the prosperity jobs would bring and you really dont mind all the suicides? To each his own I guess but I’m still going with jobs no matter where and living breathing kids.

    Oh ya, I looked and never saw anything about the act you are referring to in any of my post. What century are we living in again?

    I have given solutions to these problems, both here and on the old Mt Blogmore in some detai if you want to go back and look at Madville and the Mt blog archives. Neither plan would have cost the tribe a penny, only manpower.

    What solutions did you bring to the table? Thats right, same old same old. Hows that been working?

    But I digress. Im not mad because they didnt use my plan. Im mad because they didnt do a darn thing, noyjing! And they are still busy doijg nothing.

    The Blindman

  23. Your plan was a failure, why would they use it? I think they figured out that the Dawes Act made you a millionaire so it is easy to be in that ivory tower and look down.

    The solution, honor the contract that was made. Fully fund the IHS to be able to identify and address the suicides. Provide adequate housing and education, see honor contact. Hire Natives for jobs that pertain to Native issues.

  24. Jerry, thank you for your intelligent responses to Bill D’s uninformed ideas and opinions. Your understanding of the issues are way more informed. Solutions to big complex problems are rarely simple. You made reading the comments to this post worth it.

  25. Douglas Wiken

    Some big problems are solved with small steps. More Native Americans employed wherever is a small step. More IHS money is a band aid that solves nothing. Millions have been spent on housing and education. What jobs pertain to Native issues? Hammering out stone knives and arrowheads?

  26. Mr. Wiken, Donald is on line one for you, pick up. Paging Mr. Wiken your spiritual leader awaits.

    I like the idea of having citizens from PR come here for these jobs. We on the mainland have destroyed thir system, so we welcome them

  27. bearcreekbat

    Wouldn’t it be helpful if we could see each native person as an individual rather than as a member of a stereotyped tribe or tribal member? If a Native individual decides he or she wants to move away from a lifelong home, leaving relatives and friends behind, to find work, whether in Huron or anywhere else, more power to that individual. If the individual wants to remain near family and friends even if local jobs are scarce why shouldn’t that individual have that right?

    Talking about importing workers from Pine Ridge to Huron simply dehumanizes these folks. But they are not slaves nor indentured servants, they are individual human beings with the right to choose where they want to live. There is nothing wrong with posting Huron job openings in every town in the state and on the reservations, but to argue that this solves whatever problems exist in Pine Ridge or elsewhere seems to enforce negative stereotypes.

    Running away from a community’s difficulty is not for everyone. Some folks prefer to stay and try to make life better for everyone locally. Adequately funding IHS, law enforcement, and whatever other programs our treaties and laws have promised would be a great step forward.

  28. Douglas Wiken

    Reservation hopelessness is a cultivated problem.

  29. Maybe you could bequeath your Dawes Act land back to the tribes Mr. Wiken. That would then prove that you are not giving in to hopelessness, but you are embracing your inner self guilt. I say go for it sir, show the way, be a leader to un-cultivate the issue you feel. The RST would come out and give you a hand in this endeavor.

  30. Douglas Wiken

    Stuff it Jerry. I have no reason whatsoever for any feelings of guilt whatsoever. And it is not I who cultivate the hopelessness, it is the specialists in Native American superiority which is so separated from reality that it leads children to suicide.

    It is racist to assume they cannot function in the modern world and need special coddling.

  31. Every person who has done something they deem as being free from guilt, says the same thing as you do Mr. Wiken. Let’s see if I can think of an example…oh yeah, Joop for one. Dillinger said that the only reason he robbed banks was because that was where the money was. You sir are on land that was taken under a false flag of deception. Now, all the original owners want is for you to honor your contract. You know, the same you expect in what is supposed to be an honest deal.

    As for your suggestion, I could say the same, but in your case, your head would be in the way.

  32. I think you all are missing the point! All of that is up to perception, but at the end of the day the real issue is no one wants to work that hard. So, my resolve is for you to pull your boots on and go to work.