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HEIDELBERGER: Rounds' 'Made in South Dakota' program closes shop

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opinion Mitchell, 57301
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Mitchell South Dakota 120 South Lawler 57301

  By Cory Allen Heidelberger

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Madville Times blog

One more brick has fallen from the rather low wall of the legacy Mike Rounds built as governor. The December newsletter from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development announced the closure of the Made in South Dakota program. The program website will go offline Dec. 31.

Launched in 2004 as part of Gov. Rounds’ 2010 Initiative, the program was intended to “show the world what South Dakota has to offer and support the state’s businesses.”

GOED decided to pull the program because the online marketplace has changed. Local businesses can much more easily set up their own websites than they could 10 years ago. Google and other search engines make it easier for those businesses to get found.

The Made in South Dakota website was thus seeing significantly reduced traffic. GOED thus decided to save a few dollars (I’m still trying to find that line item) by letting its contract with Paulsen Marketing expire at the end of the year.

I checked with three of the artists listed on the website. This is no thorough review of program performance, but those three artists reported no sales related to referrals from MadeinSouthDakota.com.

The closure of Made in South Dakota is an example of South Dakota government having the right idea, but not committing.

MadeinSouthDakota.com is (soon “was,” alas) populated with mostly small, local operations, mom-and-pop/bro-and-sis retailers and artisans hoping to expand their market to tourists and online shoppers. These folks already have their roots sunk into the testy South Dakota turf. For these small but committed businesspeople, the state puts up a website and says, “Go, fish.”

Meanwhile, the state has poured millions into sweetheart deals for big manufacturers, risked national security to solicit millions in foreign investment for big but doomed ag enterprises, and revved up the plane to take leaders from preferred industries on junkets to China.

Helping one sculptor in the Black Hills or one jewelry maker in Watertown may not make the economic splash that a refinery would.

But devoting the same promotional resources to those shade tree sellers that South Dakota currently commits to the Toyota lottery would promote broader wealth and entrepreneurial power in our state.

— Cory Heidelberger is the publisher and editor of The Madville Times, a liberal blog dedicated to South Dakota politics.

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