There are many things happening in our state that lead me to be hopeful about South Dakota's future, especially in the realm of economic development. Overall, 2017 was a great year in terms of economic development wins. The Governor's Office of Economic Development helped facilitate deals that total over $735 million in investment and are expected to create more than 1,400 new jobs.
Last year was another tough year for agriculture. After seeing a lack of moisture in the spring, we declared a statewide emergency in June. The drought persisted throughout the summer, and even today, as I write this, over 90 percent of the ground in the state is abnormally dry with almost 60 percent of the state in moderate to severe drought.
As a state, we grapple with many issues. Some are very complex, with no easy fix or single solution. These may require sustained effort over long periods, through different administrations and legislatures and generations of South Dakotans. Drug abuse is one such issue.
The legislative session commenced on Jan. 9 with my final State of the State Address. I began my speech by talking about workforce, which will be a focus in my last year as governor. From the perspective of businesses and employers, our state does not have enough workers in many skilled fields. This is a barrier to economic growth. We have companies that do not expand, or that turn away business, because they cannot hire enough skilled workers to do the work.
If you want to see the Christmas season in full display, make time to visit your state capitol for the annual displays created for Christmas at the Capitol. Each morning, as I walk into the Capitol Building, I am greeted by the rich aroma of pine trees and the sparkling reflection of Christmas lights on the ornaments that decorate those trees.
The Capitol Building was a busy place on Dec. 5 when lawmakers came to town for the annual Budget Address. They packed the state House early that afternoon to hear about our current economic situation and my proposal for the upcoming budget year.
As most people in rural South Dakota can tell you, the wind is almost always blowing. Living on the prairie, windy days are inevitable. It just comes with the territory — which is why it only makes sense for us to develop this fast resource and put it to good use.
Linda and I are thankful for many things this year. We are thankful for our children and grandchildren, for the friends old and new we've made across the state, and for the opportunity to serve as governor and first lady. I am also thankful for a Yankton dinner table conversation that took place 138 Thanksgivings ago. John Andrews recounted the story in a South Dakota Magazine article released prior to South Dakota's 125th anniversary of statehood.
President Trump declared the opioid epidemic a public health emergency. According to the White House, in our country, drug overdose deaths now outnumber fatal crashes and gun-related deaths, with 175 Americans dying each day. An estimated 11.5 million people self-reported misusing opioids in 2016. And the numbers of infants born drug-dependent and children placed in foster care because of parental drug abuse have both increased substantially.
In a rural state like South Dakota, roads are our lifeline. We depend upon the 82,000 miles of roadway in our state to get to work, school, church and the grocery store. Farmers, ranchers, manufacturers and other businesses need adequate roads in order to continue their livelihoods.