A shortage of good-paying jobs, especially in our more rural areas, is one of the key reasons many of our young people leave South Dakota. As they and other job-seekers pursue opportunities elsewhere, smaller towns wither away, and our state as a whole loses some of the people who are its single greatest asset.
This problem is not new one, and it is not unique to South Dakota.
Despite all the good things we've accomplished together in the past, though, there's still more to be done. In my conversations around the state, people have explained to me that they'd rather not have to leave their hometowns to seek prosperity elsewhere, but they feel they have no choice. Too often, they feel that good-paying career opportunities are simply not available here. This needs to change.
In December of 2005, I asked South Dakotans to help me take stock of the things we're doing to promote economic development in our state.�I sent out hundreds of surveys that asked what South Dakotans feel our priorities should be and held more than a dozen meetings about this topic in communities around our state.
Based on the information I received through my economic development survey, meetings with community leaders throughout our state, and the analysis of other experts, I have identified a set of four development strategies, or "pillars," that represent my priorities for advancing South Dakota's economic development from the federal level. Together, these pillars make up what I call a "Hometown Prosperity Plan" for South Dakota. The pillars include the following:
First, "Promoting Partnerships," which means encouraging even more cooperation and less competition among states within our region, among towns and organizations within South Dakota, with Indian Country and among leaders at all levels;
Second, "Emphasizing Entrepreneurship," which means placing a greater emphasis on nurturing start-up businesses so we can grow from within;
Third, "Investing in the Public Good," which means nudging private investment toward sectors that benefit South Dakota, and funding federal investments that earn positive re-turns in the form of community benefits; and
Fourth, "Protecting Pocketbooks," which means taking action against rising energy costs, rising health-care costs, stagnant wages, and other things that squeeze finances and sap our economic strength.
Economic development is a "lynchpin" issue in the sense that strengthening our economy leads to progress on many other issues � generating additional resources for education, reducing crime rates, and making it easier for people to provide for their families. This is why economic development is worth focusing on, and it is one of the reasons I developed this plan.
As a member of both the Senate Budget Committee and the Appropriations Committee, I will help determine funding levels for many federal programs that impact South Dakota. In addition, I will have the opportunity to seek "earmark" funding for specific projects in our state. We're also making preparations for a new farm bill, which sets policy not just for agriculture, but for rural development more generally. Together, these and other upcoming legislative developments will present me with opportunities to impact economic development in South Dakota from the federal level.
We have already made considerable progress on economic development, and I believe the strategies detailed in my plan represent a promising proposal for building on that progress. I appreciate the suggestions and ideas from the many people who helped to develop this plan, and I look forward to continuing our work together as we seek to implement its components.
I encourage people to take a look at the detailed plan on my website at http://johnson.senate.gov and continue to send in their ideas.�
By "promoting partnerships," "emphasizing entrepreneurship," "investing in the public good," and "protecting pocketbooks," I know we can bring even greater prosperity to the communities that South Dakotans call home.