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Initiative to recruit SD jobs, workers falls short

SIOUX FALLS (AP) — An initiative by Republican Gov. Dennis Daugaard that was intended to draw 1,000 workers to the state has come up far short.

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Daugaard announced the New South Dakotans initiative in January 2012 and predicted the effect would be "enormous," the Argus Leader reported.

"Those 1,000 families will add more than $120 million to our gross state product, put hundreds of children into our schools, and pay millions of dollars in state taxes," Daugaard said in State of the State address at the time.

Daugaard told lawmakers this week that he would sharply scale back the program after only about 100 employees had come to South Dakota — at a cost to taxpayers of about $1 million.

"What we found was that the program was used a lot more slowly than had been hoped," said Tony Venhuizen, a senior adviser to Daugaard.

Under the program, companies with jobs they had failed to fill in South Dakota could sign a contract with the state. The state would then pick up half the cost of the recruiting fee charged by international recruiting firm Manpower Inc., which signed a contract to find workers.

The failure of New South Dakotans to meet its goals reflected lack of interest from both employers and employees.

Since the launch, only 452 jobs were listed through New South Dakotans and many of those were companies seeking multiple hires. Most of those went unfilled, with only 95 workers so far coming to the state and sticking around for the four months required for the state to pay up.

Rep. Bernie Hunhoff, the Democratic leader in the state House of Representatives, said the initiative was a mistake.

"I never thought it was an appropriate role for state government," he said.