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Noem Supports Mitchell’s Plan to Bribe People to Move to Town

Governor Kristi Noem is endorsing Mitchell’s offer to pay (entice, bribe…) people $1,000 to move to the home of the Corn Palace. (That big new soybean plant for which the Governor just moved some ceremonial dirt could achieve the same goal simply by offering 50 cents more per hour for a 250-day workyear to the 85 workers it will need.)

Mitchell is competing with several locales in the nation that are offering more money for more talent:

Tulsa Remote, a program funded by the George Kaiser Family Foundation, is probably the one that’s best known. It offers $10,000 to people who work remotely to move to that city. More than 2,000 people have taken advantage of the offer. Being backed by a gigantic foundation certainly helped this one to do well — and generate publicity around the program in the national press.

Most of the other programs are much smaller, or just are getting started. But they all seem to show promise. One of them has been Ascend West Virginia. This one is also philanthropically funded, with a $25 million grant from former Intuit CEO Brad Smith.

Ascend WV offers $20,000 worth of incentives to people relocating to the state. This includes $12,000 in cash, a year of free recreational activities and outdoor gear rental, a free co-working space, and social programming to help newcomers connect to their new communities. The program is targeting five specific communities or regions: New River Gorge, Morgantown, Greenbrier Valley, the Eastern Panhandle and Greater Elkins. This allows Ascend WV to generate community readiness to welcome these new residents.

…Eastern Kentucky’s Appalachian region has also begun experimenting with remote work incentives, offering a $5,000 cash payment to people who relocate, with an additional $2,500 for anyone who moves with a spouse who works in education or health care. SOAR, the nonprofit running the program, hopes to see 25 initial relocations through this program [Aaron M. Renn, “Pay People to Move to Your State or Region? Maybe It’s Not Such a Bad Idea,” Governing, 2023.09.19].

I’m pleased to see that Mitchell is at least starting to treat people like corporations in terms of giving out government largesse, though $1,000 seems a paltry sum compared to the millions we hand out to corporations. But the long-running bidding war of tax breaks and other handouts for corporations results in a mostly futile race to the bottom that depletes public coffers and populates the industrial landscape with fly-by-night corporations seeking to maximize their profits with little investment in their desperate bribing communities. Will offering handouts to individuals for moving to Mitchell produce similar detrimental effects?


  1. larry kurtz 2023-09-23

    It’s difficult to imagine a worse town in South Dakota than Mitchell. Mobridge and Aberdeen maybe but Sturgis is horrible, too.

  2. larry kurtz 2023-09-23

    Lemmon is hideous but so are Pierre and Watertown.

  3. LCJ 2023-09-23

    This from the guy who lives far away and hasn’t been to these towns for a long, long time.

  4. grudznick 2023-09-23

    grudznick, in the era where I got around a bit more, would avoid the tragically insaner and mundaner places of Midland, Belle Fourche, and Edgemont. Hot Springs and Hermosa, of course, are garden spots.

  5. jakc 2023-09-23

    Dear Mitchell

    I’m sure you could get 500 or 1,000 refugees just by asking, and get them work permits by asking nicely. Think of the new restaurants and extra state and federal money for ESL classes! Heck, they might even be willing to stay in Mitchell, unlike Mitchell HS grads.

  6. larry kurtz 2023-09-23

    Winner is loathsome but so is Philip, for that matter.

  7. larry kurtz 2023-09-23

    Huron sucks but Yankton and Spearditch are every bit as sucky.

  8. jkl 2023-09-23

    Larry Kurtz, you’re funny.

  9. jkl 2023-09-23

    It has been interesting to watch Mitchell grow at the east interchange as more and more downtown buildings are condemned, torn down, and turned into parks honoring veterans.

  10. jakc 2023-09-23

    My guess is that 90%+ of current South Dakotans have never been to Lemmon, Edgemont or Phillip, three towns with 2,600 people and a population decline of more than 2,600 since 1960.

  11. P. Aitch 2023-09-23

    Cory asks, “Will offering handouts to individuals for moving to Mitchell produce similar detrimental effects?”
    Yes and No. Positive and negative, just like a battery.
    A thousand-dollar sign on bonus will:
    – Attract talent
    – Address labor shortages
    -Boost the local economy
    A thousand-dollar sign on bonus will also:
    – It may not be enough to retain employees
    – It will be costly to the plant’s budget
    – It may create disparity among employees

  12. jerry 2023-09-23

    NOem gives $10,000.00 and a used car from the zit if you move to Polo metro area.

  13. Rick 2023-09-23

    2023-09-23 08:56
    Dear Mitchell

    I’m sure you could get 500 or 1,000 refugees just by asking, and get them work permits by asking nicely. Think of the new restaurants and extra state and federal money for ESL classes! Heck, they might even be willing to stay in Mitchell, unlike Mitchell HS grads.

    This MHS grad knows plenty of fellow grads who remain or who have returned to Mitchell and live happy, productive lives. There’s nothing wrong with moving away from ones hometown to experience life elsewhere.

  14. A.S.Embree 2023-09-23

    Of course it will deplete the coffers. Santa Claus , the tooth fairy , or whatever mythical gift giver you subscribe to , isn’t bring money to fund this. This money will be taken from another budget , or taxes will have to be raised to cover it. It was predicted last yr that states would be competing for workers and jobs using taxpayer money to outbid each other.

  15. jakc 2023-09-23

    Rick, I’m glad you’re a proud MHS grad. I imagine most adults in Mitchell are proud MHS grads. But that’s kind of the problem. The city isn’t drawing people from other parts of the state and enough MHS grads leave and don’t came back that the growth in Mitchell is in older demographic cohorts, not school age demographics. Michell HS is likely to show no growth in the next ten years unless the city attracts workers with families. 1/3 of the population is 55+, which is to say people who have retired or will be retiring soon. Without some changes, Mitchell might grow by the 2030 census, but it will be due to the aging population.
    Compare that to Harrisburg and Brandon, where school age populations are significantly larger than the retired/ready to retire population. The HS there have grown larger than Mitchell and look like they will have significant growth. Both towns either keep more of their college grads, or attract more replacements, and by the 2030 census, both are likely to be larger than Mitchell.
    Consider Huron for a moment, which had long seen declining population until it started attracting Karen refugees and Hispanics. Right now, Huron HS is smaller than Mitchell, but it looks like it will be larger than Mitchell HS in 6 or 8 years.
    Mitchell isn’t unique in ts demographic problems. It’s a common problem in small midwestern towns and the ones that seemed to have reversed this trend seem to be ones that have welcomed immigrant populations

  16. Todd Epp 2023-09-23

    Throw in a beater from Zit and call me Mr. Mitchell!

  17. Nick Nemec 2023-09-23

    Noem should lobby her fellow Republicans to change immigration laws to make it easier for immigrants to get green cards. But she would never do that, she prefers to complain about brown people rather than help them find jobs and get settled into the community.

  18. Rick 2023-09-24

    jakc, I don’t know why you are interested in the population and age trends of Mitchell and I couldn’t care less. Every city/town in South Dakota has pros and cons. Mitchell doesn’t have a “problem”, its citizens are happy and thriving just fine. It does have immigrant residents. You should spend some time there before you offer your opinion.

  19. jakc 2023-09-24

    Rick, my point to you is that most SD towns and cities outside of SF are facing a serious demographic crisis. They aren’t doing just fine. Any growth is aging growth not the growth of younger populations. Without growth in younger demographics, how do you expect to replace workers in 20 years? How do you expect to pay for the costs of an elderly population as it continues to grow?

    SD politicians and younger South Dakotans ought to be more concerned about these trends. The state and places like Mitchell need younger families

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