Seth Tupper

Business and Economic Development Beat

Seth Tupper is SDPB’s business and economic development reporter. He is based at SDPB’s Black Hills Studio in Rapid City.

Raised in Wessington Springs and Kimball, and a graduate of Kimball High School, Tupper earned his bachelor’s degree in journalism from South Dakota State University.

He most recently reported for the Rapid City Journal, where he spent five years covering politics, Black Hills-based natural-resource management, county government and numerous other topics. Prior to his tenure at the Journal, Tupper worked for The Daily Republic in Mitchell and The Daily Globe in Worthington, MN.

Tupper wrote the 2017 book Calvin Coolidge in the Black Hills (Arcadia Publishing), about the president’s eventful three-month stay in 1927.


South Dakota’s 2020 Small Business Person of the Year bought a meat locker in Clark in 2009 and expanded it into a meat-retailing and restaurant operation called Dakota Butcher.

The company has five locations in eastern South Dakota and employs 70 people. Owner Randy Gruenwald said he and his wife, Karen, believe in a simple philosophy.

SafeGraph, Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis

Business improved for some hotels and restaurants this summer after pandemic-related disruptions during the spring, but representatives of the hospitality industry say they’re still suffering.

Bob Fuchs owns restaurants and a winery and brewery in the Black Hills, including the Firehouse Brewing Company. He testified virtually Monday to the Legislature’s Joint Commerce and Energy Committee.

Courtesy photo

Four years ago, Russell Graham was the lead author on an exhaustive, 200-page report. It was a history of mountain pine beetle damage and control efforts in the Black Hills.

For him, the research was personal. He grew up in Sundance, on the Wyoming side of the Black Hills. He knew the importance of the national forest to the culture and economy of the region. He wanted people to use his research, to make better decisions about the tree-killing bugs.

But how do you get ordinary people to read a research report?

Seth Tupper / SDPB

A citizen panel wants Black Hills National Forest officials to write a new master plan.

The Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board unanimously approved the recommendation Wednesday. Drafting a new forest plan would require several years of research and public engagement.

Board member Greg Josten, who serves as South Dakota's state forester, hopes the Forest Service’s national office will ease the financial burden.

SD Public Utilities Commission

A tax on internet service ended this summer, resulting in modest savings for South Dakota consumers and big holes in government budgets.

Meanwhile, governments are spending billions to expand high-speed internet access across the country, even as politicians grow increasingly resistant to imposing any internet taxes or fees that could pay for the expansion.

Gov. Kristi Noem welcomed the tax repeal.


The Legislature’s Ag and Natural Resources Committee wants some pandemic relief aid directed to local meat processors.

The committee heard from several processors and ag-industry representatives Monday. It was part of a series of legislative hearings about proposed uses of remaining relief funds.

Cindy Tolle of Sturgis Meats said small processors are struggling to keep up with new demand created by the pandemic.


Bullfighter Gus Kronberg said he lost jobs at 16 rodeos that have been canceled during the pandemic.

That’s cost him more than $10,000. And he said people throughout the rodeo community are reeling.

“It’s hard for me to understand and wrap my mind around the kind of loss our whole industry has suffered," Kronberg said.

State of South Dakota

South Dakota businesses affected by the pandemic could soon have another opportunity to get help. 

Gov. Kristi Noem wants to use federal money for up to $400 million in business grants.

The money would come from $1.25 billion in aid that South Dakota got from the federal government at the beginning of the pandemic. 

Noem has already designated large chunks of that money for schools and local governments. Spokesman Ian Fury said the governor is now asking legislators for feedback on her business grant proposal. 

Seth Tupper / SDPB

Scattered around the Black Hills, tucked away in the forests and meadows, there’s a curiosity: privately owned vacation cabins on public land.

One of the oldest is the Durst cabin. A logging family built the cabin in a meadow along Flynn Creek around 1911.

Eight years later, Custer State Park was born. Its boundaries soon wrapped around the vintage cabin, with its dark wood walls, screened-in porch and outhouse. Today, the cabin still stands within the park.

Farmers Business Network

Some farming methods are better for the environment, but they don’t always come with a big or immediate financial reward.

A quickly growing ag-technology company with an office in Sioux Falls wants to change that.

The six-year-old Farmers Business Network collects data from thousands of farms. Company executive and South Dakota native Devin Lammers said the company analyzes that data and feeds it back to farmers, who use it to improve their operations.

City of Sioux Falls

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken said a viral photo perfectly illustrates a problem called digital equity.

The photo shows two young children sitting on a curb with their laptops near a Taco Bell in California. They were reportedly using the restaurant’s free wi-fi to do their homework.

“It was a stark reminder that not all kids and not all people in our community have the same access to connectivity," TenHaken said.

Seth Tupper / SDPB

Almost every state in the nation produces more solar energy than South Dakota, but that hasn’t stopped a South Dakota company from becoming one of the nation’s top solar contractors.

GenPro Energy Solutions began selling solar water pumps for livestock in 2003. Seventeen years later, people at the company’s growing Piedmont plant are doing all kinds of energy-related things.

SD Banking Commission

Governor Kristi Noem says South Dakota has recovered most of the jobs it’s lost during the pandemic, but an analyst for the FDIC has different numbers.

Two weeks ago, Noem tweeted that South Dakota has regained 80 percent of its job losses.

Cornell University

A leading economist told an online Rapid City audience Wednesday that the power of one person’s example can be harnessed to spread mask-wearing during the pandemic. 

South Dakota Department of Environment & Natural Resources

The owner of the only active, large-scale gold mine in South Dakota has to post millions more in bond money.

The Wharf Mine is near Lead, in the northern Black Hills. Coeur Mining is the Chicago-based company that runs the mine.

South Dakota requires Coeur to post bonds. That's in case the company ever goes bankrupt. If that happens, the state could use the bond money to clean up the mine.

The amount of the bonds is $64 million. But the state Department of Environment and Natural Resources said it's reviewed the amount, and it’s too low.

Black Hills Cave and Nature Conservancy

Getting to Dahm Spring Cave takes a cross-country trek with somebody who knows where they're going – like a few members of the Paha Sapa Grotto caving club.

To reach the cave earlier this week, club members David Springhetti, Nick Anderson and Ken Steinken picked their way across thick patches of grass and brush. They headed down the side of a canyon, where the only footing was loose rock, erodible dirt and slippery pine needles.

SD Bankers Association

The head of a South Dakota banking group says Congress should make it easier for small businesses to get pandemic loans forgiven.

Curt Everson is president of the South Dakota Bankers Association. He’s also on the state Council of Economic Advisors. The council met Tuesday by Zoom.

Rapid City Area Schools

As districts around the state prepare for a return to the classroom – whether it’s in person, hybrid or virtual – schools have new money to spend.  

South Dakota schools have access to more than $40 million in coronavirus relief money, and few strings are attached. 

City of Sturgis

Sturgis city leaders thought attendance at this year’s motorcycle rally might drop by half, but it doesn’t look like attendance fell nearly that much.

The rally ended Sunday. Traffic devices counted about 8 percent fewer vehicles in Sturgis through Friday. Arrests and citations ran close to last year’s numbers. Five people died in traffic accidents, compared to three last year.

Dave Nicks / Via National Weather Service

A farm economist says the severe storm earlier this week was so big, it could affect the entire farm economy.

The storm was a fast-moving, straight-line windstorm. Meteorologists call it a derecho.

It started in the Dakotas on Monday. Then it picked up speed and blew all the way to Ohio. Wind speeds reached about 100 miles an hour. Farm fields were flattened.

Josh Haiar / SDPB

Traffic is down but accidents are up at the Sturgis motorcycle rally.

Captain Jason Ketterling of the South Dakota Highway Patrol says there’s an explanation for that.

“You know when the roads are a little bit more open, people tend to drive a little bit faster I think," Ketterling said.

There have been 76 traffic accidents in western South Dakota during the rally this year. That’s 14 ahead of last year's pace. One of the accidents resulted in the only two traffic deaths of the rally so far.

Custer County Sheriff's Office

A June wildfire in Custer State park was accidentally started by park workers, according to an origin and cause report. 

The report says workers routinely pick up ashes and pieces of wood from campfire rings. They soak everything down and dump it on a debris pile near the park maintenance shop. 

Sioux Falls Development Foundation

Sioux Falls is abuzz with rumors about one of the world’s biggest companies possibly coming to town, but the company itself isn't talking.

The South Dakota bank that issued stimulus debit cards on behalf of the federal government says about one-third of the money remains unspent. 

MetaBank, headquartered in Sioux Falls, issued 3.6 million cards loaded with a total of $6.42 billion beginning in mid-May. 

Seth Tupper / SDPB

The Black Hills National Forest is littered with dead trees knocked down by vicious weather, but some of those trees damaged in recent storms could have new life as lumber. 

Ron Schell is one of the loggers making it happen. 


South Dakota Congressman Dusty Johnson is both encouraged and disappointed by an investigative report on cattle prices. 

The U.S. Department of Agriculture published the report Wednesday.  

Josh Haiar / SDPB

Gambling surged last month in Deadwood, but casinos ran into a problem when the calendar turned over. 

License fees were due July 1 on gambling machines, and some casinos could not afford to pay up. 

Governor Kristi Noem is trying an old South Dakota tactic: inviting companies to relocate from Minnesota to South Dakota for a better business climate. 

Noem is featured in ads running through Labor Day in Minnesota. 

Seth Tupper / SDPB

A water development group is putting together a coalition to bring Missouri River water to the Rapid City region. 

Early estimates indicate the project could cost billions of dollars. 

Seth Tupper / SDPB

A work group in the Black Hills is doing some math that could influence the long-term health of the Black Hills National Forest and its timber industry. 

The Timber Sustainability Work Group consists of six members from the 32-member Black Hills National Forest Advisory Board.