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Lassle Letter to Legislature: Spend More Time Hunting for 21st-Century Business Opportunities

On their way home from their first big week of the 2024 Session, legislators will perhaps ponder this evaluation of Governor Noem’s State of the State speech Tuesday and South Dakota’s “openness” for business from Jeff L. Lassle, South Dakota ex-pat and California businessman. Lassle sent this essay to legislators this morning:

South Dakota legislators:

Upon watching Gov. Kristi Noem’s speech on the “State of the State”, I honestly had to sit back and ponder if this elected official is for real. Her first statements emphasized hunting and trapping as if that is the only reason South Dakota exists—to support a hobby of sport hunting and trapping that few in the United States would understand. The rest of her speech went in the same direction like her efforts to relocate people into a State that is basically dying due to loss of career opportunities and a populace still living in the 1950’s of the United States.

I grew up in Aberdeen and went to the South Dakota colleges and quickly realized, like almost every South Dakota college student, that you have to leave this state if one wants a career. Unless of course, if your father owned a farm or family company. Other than that, there is little chance for college educated engineers, scientists, and other professions to achieve anything in the State as a matter of a career.

I temporarily came back to propose a mega factory on a Chinese technology, MgO (magnesium oxide) building materials to be built in Rapid City, however have been met with a tsunami of disinterest and opposition because of the mention that China would be in the supply chain on their own technology freely given to us to onshore this tech the United States. Bill after bill passed by a legislature that has no clue on what international trade is and its importance to the U.S. economy nor do they understand that the disinformation the Governor and the legislature have been acting upon is nothing but that, disinformation diseminated by ignorance by a state population kept in the dark for decades.

Since the Trump administration decided it needed an enemy to rile up his MAGA base to garner votes, these attacks on China, Canada, and the European Union on trade wars only resulted in 1) Americans are paying for these tariffs unlike what the Donald stated to the contrary, 2) higher inflation due to Americans paying for the self-inflicted tariffs, 3) a reduced manufacturing base in the U.S based on the costs of these tariffs for intermediate and capital goods needed by U.S. factories to be competitive in the world markets, 4) retaliation by China on U.S. exports of agriculture goods to their country while diluting U.S. farm exports to countries like Brazil and Argentina, and 5) a move by MAGA, under the failed Trump doctrines to become isolationists in the world markets that is contrary to the historic platforms of the Republican party of open markets and free trade.

Governor Noem’s importing of workers into South Dakota at a rate of 2000 is not the workers that most all other states enjoy because their states had foreseen the need for career opportunities decades ago and pushed for their economic diversity while South Dakota did nothing. Governor Noem’s actions, however did see a large increase in illegal aliens that flooded into the state to man slaughterhouses and other jobs that most Americans will not do or have left the state for engineering, science, and other careers that are not offered in South Dakota. The question is why the South Dakota’s research universities even exist when most of the students flee after graduation as I did some 30 years ago because of this lack of careers in the state then, as it still is now. We tried bringing these high paying careers to the state and were rejected by lack of interest and foresight. It’s Chinese technology that we were onshoring. Can’t have that per Governor Noem. Anything to do with China, Noem wants no part of it even though China, in this case, is only a supply chain entity.

Hunting, trapping, and the love of guns are not an activity that holds esteem with the the vast majority of Americans and does not promote oneself in the eyes of others. Governor Noem should be promoting new ideas, innovations, and other worthy activities that advance human existance rather than her love of killing animals for sport.

It’s time South Dakota elect their politicians on what they can do to improve their lives (and their low wages), not how many pheasants they can kill on a weekend hunting trip. I, too, grew up in the hunting craze and regret the time lost having been forced by parents to hunt—for sport. It’s time for South Dakotans to enter the 21st century and leave the 1950’s behind them.

My group tried to interest South Dakota on a new technology and industry in the U.S and North American markets that competes in a US $7 trillion dollar building and building products industry. South Dakota would have been a great place to plant this factory due to its lack of a state income tax, its access to large amounts of renewable energy (wind & hydroelectric) for the plant, and access to engineers and scientists from SDSMT and SDSU that need opportunities other than agriculture once they graduate.

It appears it was a wasted effort.

We are now merging with a UK and a Florida company and the decision for factory placement is no longer my call.

South Dakota needs a new governor, one that recognizes the reality that we live in 2023 and not the1950’s America. The Governor reminds me of the Jerry Browns and Gavin Newsoms of California that had caused so much problems for that state and still are. I know these two well while fighting their nonsensical policies. We did, however, win all the battles against their regime in California, but lost the war. The same can be said for South Dakota on the other end of the extreme in governance. I was even invited to witness the last State of the State speech by Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger for the work in California trying to bring sanity to that extremely left state.

For what it’s worth, South Dakota’s population is .2% of the entire United States and its “values” are not always congruent with the rest of the 99%+ populations where South Dakotans escape to due to lack of opportunities. Think “forward”, not “backwards”.


Jeff J. Lassle


  1. jerry 2024-01-12

    China is the boogie man, so is Russia and Iran to the rubes. To the politicos here, they are the king makers. Show me a soybean farmer that has the hate on for China. The state makes millions off China’s students here, so yeah, the politicos claim they hate, but loves them some benjamins. Mr. Lassle is so correct about the absolute dumbness of wearing a coonskin cap like the prom queen Lewandowski does when she blathers on and on about life on the trail. Idiocracy should be the only movie the legislature should be allowed to see, square peg round hole.

  2. 96Tears 2024-01-12

    The last governor who talked a big game (not necessarily walked the talk as he could have) was George Speaker Mickelson. His rhetoric put the spotlight on economic development as the engine to build an economy that better funds education, and by improving education the state also enhances economic development. All of this has been completely lost on Gov. Kristi Noem. She’s at war with supporting a competent public education system in our state and plays political footsie with frauds like Hillsdale College. She is pathetically uneducable on building our economy and recognizing that a competitive education system that is managed to out-perform other states is an attractant to smart people who run companies. There is zero proof throughout her tenure in Pierre that she has even an inkling how smartly-run state and local governments have the power to push South Dakota ahead. Shallow and empty blather about Freedom™ and who and what’s woke means nothing to anybody with an ounce of competence.

    I’m very pleased to see a South Dakota expat who’s been successful and who’s not an uber-liberal share his viewpoints with South Dakota’s Legislature. The future, now in the 21st Century, is a far better goal than a pandering myth about the 1950s.

    Is there one Republican in South Dakota who can pull state leadership back to goals that move us all forward? No? Why not? They’ve got the votes.

  3. All Mammal 2024-01-12

    I wish I could vote for President Dwayne Elizondo Mountain Dew Herbert Camacho for the office of SD governor.

    Mr. Lassle’s words need to be heard by our leaders. Maybe they will start letting it sink in how deeply and completely they swallowed all the ridiculous hoaxes of the past several years, starting with bans on CRT, LGBTQ rights, medical freedom for women and kids, the cannabis industry, environmental regulations, oh, and we must not forget their votes to legalize Ivermectin.

    Oh, gosh. Those don’t scratch the surface but they are so embarrassing. And these sorts of bills they have passed are not going to age well. SD is going to have to do serious work to redeem ourselves after the slew of bad decisions during the last few governorships and legislative classes.

  4. grudznick 2024-01-12

    Mr. Camacho, a swell enough fellow, clearly doesn’t have the chops to be the Governor of the Great State of South Dakota.
    He is busy at the caucuses in Iowa, anyway. Mr. Camacho is a bit supporter of Ms. Nikki, by the way.

  5. All Mammal 2024-01-12

    Because Camacho knows Ms. Halley’s click might all need colonoscopies. This is hilarious if you don’t think about it. Not sure if it is so good when it makes you laugh your head off.
    Stay focused and do your thing and the rest will come around. SD has awesome inherent beauty. We all do.

  6. All Mammal 2024-01-12


  7. DaveFN 2024-01-13

    Superb observations from Mr. Lassle. Thanks for posting, Cory.

  8. sx123 2024-01-13

    Agree 100000000000000000000%

  9. Eve Fisher 2024-01-13

    Mr. Lassle has summed up South Dakota – still living in the 1950s, and kicking and screaming against any hint that isn’t a good thing.
    I remember attending Business Association meetings up in a small town about 30 years ago – they were still trying to figure out how to STOP people from going to Sioux Falls to buy their groceries, without allowing a new grocery store in the town which might put their old chum (who owned the only grocery store in the town) out of business, because he wasn’t about to lower his prices. Somehow there had to be a way to get the locals to “buy local” no matter what the price was… Meanwhile, of course, they all went to Sioux Falls for their groceries, because they weren’t idiots.

  10. larry kurtz 2024-01-13

    This essay is more evidence that the electoral college needs to be abolished.

  11. Buckobear 2024-01-13

    Remember, voting is like driving. To go forward, choose “D.” To go backwards, choose “R.”
    … and if you happen to have a stick-shift, you move forward progressively.

  12. sx123 2024-01-13

    Noem promotes hunting, trapping, fishing, ammo manufacuring, and rodeo. Like we are supposed to be the Wild West again.

    I like hunting and fishing, but come on…

    Almost 30 years ago I questioned Gov Miller at Mines about why the state is so focused on ag instead of promoting tech as well.

    Almost nothing has changed except now we need plumbers! We do have excellent internet though.

  13. Donald Pay 2024-01-13

    I don’t know enough about Mr. Lassle’s business or whether he was approaching it with the intent of getting state/local subsidies or what have you. If he was, that might have something to do with hesitance.

    I’ve seen good things about the general product category he describes, but there are some negatives, too. The China tie-in is NOT a negative in itself, but China produces about 80% of MgO. Drywall is not a strategic product, but MgO is considered strategic by the Defense Department. Because of various supply chain issues with China MgO the price went up considerably, at least a partial cause of the inflation in new autos and trucks, and probably other products. In the drywall category, gypsum is used for most drywall in the US. South Dakota at one time had a number of gypsum mines (one of which caved in and caused problems in a Black Hawk neighborhood). I think a few are still operating, so there could have been some opposition due to opposition from competitors.

    All that said, I can’t make a good decision on whether Mr. Lassle’s project should have gotten a better reception. I do know that South Dakota businesses do try to elbow out any competition, and they use whatever tactic will get the the results they want. If the China card is available, and it works, they will play that.

    I agree with Mr. Lassle with a lot of what he said about the business climate in South Dakota. I’m not sure what it is, but if it doesn’t stink or have other negative environmental impacts, the business elites don’t want it. If it will drive up wages, the business elites don’t want it. As a result, South Dakota attracts the worst business development, the stuff that other states don’t want. They never think about developing anything new from the smart scientists and engineers and business folks who haven’t moved away yet.

  14. John 2024-01-13

    Lassle’s letter to the legislators would be perfect with the addition of hard demographics.
    This month at his 2d inauguration, the Mississippi governor lamented that his state needs to stop emigrating its youth. Well, begin by having drinkable water. Add, having policies that support and foster families and women’s healthcare go a long way to developing a sustainable population. Dhaa.

    Here’s a developing business opportunity from the Dakota in Minnesota – using hemp, lime, and water as a construction material. Their plant should be running this spring or summer.. But of course, Noem wasted years opposing hemp in South Dakota – rather than progressively seek business opportunities from it. She and Miller are likely the worst SD governors.

  15. Arlo Blundt 2024-01-13

    Good advice from a South Dakotan made good, once he left the state. The lack of a career path in South Dakota led me to leave the state 3 or 4 times to get a good paying job with promotion opportunity. Young people in their career need to find a career with successive positions with more responsibility and more use of technical, or management skills. That can be tough to find here.

  16. Scott Ehrisman 2024-01-14

    Ironically South Dakota’s biggest tourist attraction is from China.

  17. Mark B 2024-01-14

    To Larry’s point, thinks to Wild Bill in addition to hunting and ag, we have loan sharking.. um.. I mean ‘freedom’ for banks.. Our biggest patron saint is loan shark extraordinaire with a suspicious interest in child pornagraphy, and his top lieutenants have their names all over our two D1 colleges

  18. Mark B 2024-01-14

    It is absolutely insane we have 2 senators.

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