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Tuesday, September 29, 2009

August Unemployment: Lake County Nearly Double Brookings

Elisa beat me to the local unemployment numbers on Friday. According to the South Dakota Department of Labor, Lake County's jobless rate crept back up a couple ticks from 6.1% in Jult to 6.3% in August. The change came not from loss of jobs—there were 6,365 folks at work both months. The slippage came with a whole ten more people joining our workforce. (Hang in there, you ten: something will come up!)

Meanwhile, up the road, Brookings County continues to look like Shangri-La. In August, 150 people joined the Brookings workforce, and Brookings managed to create 160 jobs, thus shaving one more tick off their enviable unemplyment rate, to 3.5% in August.

Now don't get too big a head, my Brookings friends: there are a whole 14 counties who kept their unemployment below 3% in August (the champs: Stanley County at 2.1%). And fellow Madisonites, don't despair: there are still eleven counties with worse unemployment rates than ours (Dewey, Buffalo, Shannon, Todd, and Ziebach are all in double digits... and I'm thinking the state is underestimating the figures for the reservations).

But I'm still waiting for someone to tell me what Brookings is doing that Lake can't.


  1. Here's something to consider. Perhaps we need to join with Minnehaha and Lincoln County, whose Economic Development Associations are led by former Madison resident, Jeff Eckhoff, and form our own Development Corridor. Maybe Brookings County would participate also.

    It may serve us well to coordinate efforts with major area employers, banking and insurance firms who need additional call center and service center employees who can actually work at home. There may be industrial and manufacturing opportunities too with employers like Larson Manufacturing, Daktronics, 3M and others.

    Doing the same thing over and over again, expecting a different result, is not working in Madison. The past five years have been fruitless for Madison's economic development efforts.

    Maybe, instead of trying to land the big fish on our own, we may see better results and new jobs by supporting those businesses that already exist in the surrounding larger communities of Watertown, Brookings and Sioux Falls. Madison has a lot to brag about in terms of "quality of life" advantages that employers want for their employees.

    We're down several employers and almost 700 residents in the past ten years. As a community, we need to turn a corner and reverse the trend.

  2. Always boosting the call centers, Rod! I might make a G20 argument: one of the problems that brought us the current economic mess is that the U.S. saved less, made less, and imported more, while China, Germany, and other countries saved more, manufactured more, and made beaucoup bucks on exports. The G20 leaders agreed that we need to fix that trade imbalance by having the U.S. Produce more exports and other countries buy more. On a global strategy scale, we need to make more actual stuff to sell to other countries (not to mention keep our souls from turning to goo).

    Of course, after five years of failed local economic development policy, we probably need to take whatever we can get.

    Cooperative regional economic development -- you sound like a Munsterman man! He's all about regional cooperation. And that may not be a bad idea... if we can get Sioux Falls to play nice with us little guys. (Wait: cooperation... isn't that socialism?)

  3. Take heart Cory. My oldest daughter and Madison resident has been called back to work. She was laid off last spring and after spending the summer on the unemployment lines has been re-hired by her former employer.

    I don't know if her former work for them will count toward seniority. Oh wait, it's a non-union shop in a right to work state. There are no employee rights.

  4. I love Rod's idea, because we should think of ourselves as regionally interdependent. Madison has not been a stand-alone community for many years.

  5. How would Sioux Falls/Brookings benefit by partnering with Madison? Don't they view Madison as community that leaches off possible residents?

  6. I know that Rainbow just laid off people again (second time in a month) and it doesn't look good for the factory in Brookings remaining open.

    My gut feeling is this Corey. With such a large work pool to draw from because of the college and the availability of multiple manufacturers and the boom in construction there Brooking is pretty protected when it comes to loss of jobs.

    Even summer employees are immediately replaced by incoming college students.

    Brookings also remains a hub city for many of the smaller towns around it. Despite Madison being closer to Flandreau then Brookings all the people I know in Flandreau do their out of town shopping in Brookings.

    Brookings is a regional town for shopping, culture, entertainment and medical, the town has created itself to be as protected from economic downturns as well as any town I have ever seen in South Dakota.

    Just my two cents my friend.


  7. But I'm still waiting for someone to tell me what Brookings is doing that Lake can't:

    Nothing of course. Granted Brookings has a larger university and freeway access, but basically it's a different mind set. We have a protectionist mentality, which even you Cory, have internalized to some extent.

    Remember the show with Jack Nicholson, "As Good As It Gets"? Certain things are quite embedded. Probably it's wiser to go where there are like minded people. That said, Madison is a stable and very livable community, my home town, and I'm fond of it in many ways.

  8. John. What is Brookings doing differant? Well they give TDF's. They aggressively pursue new employers. They built a new entertainment center. They host and continue to host a HUGE arts festival. They at one time owned or controlled all utilities in their town. They embrace the college students making the town hospitable for them. Brookings aggresively advertises in the smaller towns.

    I have lived in both and loved my time in Madison more than Brookings but Brookings is now and has been the more viable economic town.



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