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.
“In our state, you won’t find the restrictions that hold businesses back in other places,” Noem says in an ad. “South Dakota offers freedom from corporate and personal income taxes, freedom from red tape and regulation, and a business friendly environment that’s second to none.”
Her pitch isn’t new. South Dakota elected officials and economic leaders have been making it since at least the 1980s.
Back then, the pitch came from South Dakota Gov. Bill Janklow. Minnesota Gov. Rudy Perpich shot back at Janklow, saying South Dakota was “50th in everything.” Their war of words made national news and even inspired a song.
What’s new about Noem’s pitch is a veiled reference to COVID-19. Noem has garnered nationwide praise and criticism for her resistance to issuing statewide orders during the pandemic.
“Here in South Dakota, we trust our people,” Noem says in the Minnesota advertising. “We respect their rights. We will not shut them down.”
In a news release about the Minnesota campaign, Noem’s commissioner of economic development, Steve Westra, described Noem as a star.
“Right now Governor Noem is unquestionably our biggest marketing tool,” Westra said. “The national exposure she has received for how South Dakota handled COVID-19 really resonates with business owners.”
The current governor of Minnesota is Tim Walz. His office did not respond to messages from SDPB. But Walz talked to reporters Thursday at a press conference in Minnesota, where he said this about using COVID-19 to recruit businesses: “I don’t think it’s a good sell.”
Public records show the Noem administration hired the Lawrence & Schiller company to create the ad campaign. The contract is worth $49,500.
SDPB is seeking the cost of broadcasting and publishing the ads, plus the funding source. The Governor’s Office has not yet disclosed the information.