South Dakota

South Dakota Office of Economic Development Bags Lehigh Defense For Rapid City

Bullet and ammunition manufacturer Lehigh Defense, LLC has announced plans to establish a new facility in Rapid City, SD.

Lehigh Defense

Lehigh Defense

The new facility will open by the end of the year, creating seven jobs within a year, and a total of 14 jobs within three years.

The company’s history dates back to 1999, when it began as Millennium Manufacturing, a company specializing in the design and production of components used in the firearms, electronics, medical and aerospace markets. The firearms components and projectiles division was spun off as a separate company in 2011 due to significant growth.

The new company, Lehigh Defense, started off manufacturing Swiss CNC machine Match Solid Bullets for use in competitions. They created the Muzzleloader industry’s first Controlled Fracturing bullet, originally developed for Knight Rifles. Their Subsonic bullet, developed to match or improve upon the terminal performance of a high velocity bullet, delivers unparalleled terminal results.

The company’s steady growth has necessitated a need for this latest expansion. The Quakertown, PA-based company considered locations in South Dakota, Texas and Minnesota before deciding to expand to Rapid City.

Lehigh Defense Owner David Fricke said in a release that business can be done just about anywhere, and he took that into consideration. “But ultimately I decided South Dakota had the best business climate for my business to succeed,” said Fricke.

Fricke’s first contact with South Dakota economic development staff was earlier this year in January at the Shooting, Hunting, and Outdoor Trade (SHOT) Show in Las Vegas, when he met with a representative from the SD Governor’s Office of Economic Development. He was then invited to attend the Governor’s Annual Buffalo Roundup in September.

“I was, and still am, impressed with how people here welcome new businesses to the state. This is going to be a good thing for our company,” added Fricke.

Governor Dennis Daugaard said in the release that it goes without saying, when it comes to the shooting, hunting and outdoors industry, South Dakota is an ideal state to run a business. “But more than that, our reasonable business climate allows businesses to not only earn a profit, but keep it,” added Gov. Daugaard.

Rapid City Economic Development Partnership President Benjamin Snow noted that Lehigh Defense is a natural fit in Rapid City and the Rushmore Region, since they’ve already done work with several companies in the region’s established firearms industry. “Our skilled workforce and workforce development programs will ensure that David will find and train the right employees,” added Snow.

Life Floor Shifts Manufacturing to Madison, SD Facility

Life Floor, a company that is leading the way with a new type of resilient flooring, has opened its first U.S. manufacturing facility in Madison, SD.

Life Floor

Life Floor (photo –

Supported by the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development, Lake Area Improvement Corporation, REED Fund and the Heartland Rural Electric Fund, the company has opened its manufacturing unit within the Falcon Plastics manufacturing facility in Madison.

Life Floor has been shipping its products from a manufacturing location in Vietnam. Their decision to open a new U.S. manufacturing facility for domestic customers will not only have an impact on South Dakota economic development, but will also enable job creation at the company’s headquarters in Minneapolis, MN.

In a release announcing the opening of their South Dakota facility, Life Floor CEO Jonathan Keller said it became clear that this was the best move for them, citing the skill of South Dakota’s workers and the decreased environmental impact of no longer having to ship their product across the ocean.

Keller also mentioned the speed with which consumers can now get Life Floor. The factory in Madison is using lean manufacturing and JIT (just in time) processes to deliver their product straight from the factory floor to customers, thus reducing lead times and eliminating the need for warehouse space to store inventory.

The story behind Life Floor’s resilient flooring product is also actually quite interesting. A flip-flop maker in Vietnam came up with a new type of revolutionary foam that made their flip-flops tough and wear-resistant for years. It wasn’t a good idea to use it for footwear, but the technology made its way to theme park and pool flooring in the U.S.

Life Floor was founded in 2011, and the company’s aquatic flooring products are now being used by everyone from Disney Resorts to Six Flags and the YMCA. The tiles improve comfort and safety in pools, bathrooms, spas, patios and just about any place where people are around water.

The company picked South Dakota for its U.S. manufacturing operations because they needed a partner who could help them get started quickly and provide expertise on how to streamline the manufacturing process. That’s where Falcon Plastics comes into the picture. Falcon has three molding divisions in South Dakota, and they were interested in helping Life Floor establish manufacturing operations for their innovative resilient flooring products.

Keller added in the release that there are a lot of opportunities ahead of them right now, and expressed confidence that they’re in great shape to take advantage of these opportunities.

Ellsworth AFB Enhanced Use Lease Program Attracts Advance Health Jobs to Rapid City, SD

Healthcare technology company Advance Health will open a new site at Ellsworth Air Force Base in Rapid City, SD.

Ellsworth AFB

Ellsworth AFB (photo – USAF)

Supported by the federal Enhanced Use Lease Program and the Rapid City Economic Development Partnership, the company expects to create more than 300 new jobs in South Dakota during the next three to five years.

This makes Advance Health the first private sector company in South Dakota to partner with Ellsworth AFB under the Enhanced Use Lease Program.

The EUL program, authorized by Congress, allows federal agencies and departments such as VA and the Department of Defense to lease underutilized property on federal facilities to developers, who can then make improvements and lease it to private businesses. The property remains under U.S. government control, and the federal facility in question receives rent or in-kind services.

It has become a useful economic development tool that assists communities trying to diversify local economies after being impacted by base closures or defense spending cutbacks.

Governor Dennis Daugaard said in a release announcing the project that through the EUL Program, Advance Health gains turnkey office space and the Air Force is able to lower the base’s operating cost by adding a tenant.

The Governor noted that this is a win-win for South Dakota business and the base, and added that they are optimistic that other companies will soon be forming partnerships with the Air Force Base, as well.

This will be Chantilly, VA-based Advance Health’s third location. The company chose Ellsworth AFB after an extensive site selection process that considered sites across the nation to determine the best location for this project.

Advance Health CEO Brian Wise said in the release that they think Rapid City, SD offers a talented workforce, a great cost of living and beautiful site to expand to. Advance Health COO Kevin Davis added that they’re looking forward to growing and becoming part of the community within South Dakota.

Rapid City Economic Development Partnership President Ben Snow said in the release that they are delighted to welcome Advance Health as the newest member of the region’s business community.

Advance Health’s presence may also help improve the region’s health care services and industry. The company provides health assessments and care coordination for seniors and others in need of acute care, and they provide care directly into a patient’s home.

Snow noted that Advance Health represents advances in both healthcare and technology, two of the region’s key growth industries. He added that the Advance Health jobs will offer great wages and benefits, which he said will provide upward mobility for many individuals in their workforce.

Sensico Regional Hub in Vermillion, SD Brings Promise of Economic Development

Healthcare technology startup Senscio Systems, Inc. is planning to create a regional hub in Vermillion, SD. While there was no announcement of an immediate investment or jobs being created, the company’s decision reflects their intent to explore the possibility of establishing manufacturing and service facilities in South Dakota.

Senscio Systems

Senscio Systems (photo –

To this end, the company’s partnership with Vermillion economic development organization VCDC begins immediately.

Boxborough, MA-based Sensico Systems was founded in 2010 by PhD physicists Dr. Piali De and Dr. Hugh Stoddart. Their idea was to make use of artificial intelligence to mimic the cognitive process that experts apply to interpret data. Their first product, IbisCare, is a healthcare technology platform that integrates this unique artificial intelligence platform with remote patient monitoring systems, to be used for managing patients with multiple chronic conditions.

Last year, the company raised $1.5 million in seed funding from investors, and received a $650,000 Emerging Technology Fund loan from Massachusetts economic development agency MassDevelopment. Sensico has been using that funding to procure hardware for facilitating early deployment of IbisCare, and for adding to its workforce with strategic new hires.

As they start shipping IbisCare and expand the reach of this innovative new data-driven healthcare technology platform, the company will soon be looking at the next stage of commercialization with a permanent manufacturing facility that makes the IbisCare hardware. They will also need back-end service facilities such as customer service centers. This is where Vermillion and the I-29 corridor in South Dakota come into the picture as a location for Sensico’s regional hub.

The company is also looking to target South Dakota’s rural communities for Ibis deployment, and to grow their sales and operations presence in the state.

In a release announcing Sensico’s partnership with the Vermillion Chamber and Development Corporation, Governor Dennis Daugaard said that he appreciates that Dr. De and her team see the value of expanding to South Dakota, and added that it’s a privilege to welcome such an innovative company to Vermillion.

VCDC Executive Director Nate Welch likewise noted that they are delighted to bring a forward-thinking technology company to Vermillion to create a strong base for operations and growth. Welch added that the University of South Dakota, its medical school and social work programs make Vermillion an ideal regional hub for Senscio Systems.

Senscio Co-founder and CEO Dr. De said in the release that they believe their regional hub in Vermillion, and some early and large-scale partnerships with providers in South Dakota, will be a springboard to building a manufacturing and customer service base in South Dakota.

Sioux Falls Foundation Park Megasite in South Dakota Billed as Economic Development Juggernaut

The Sioux Falls Development Foundation (SFDF) and the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) announced the creation of Foundation Park as the state’s first megasite.

Video – SFDF

Foundation Park, covering more than 800 acres, is located in northwest Sioux Falls at the intersection of Interstates 90 and 29. The location is just minutes from Sioux Falls Regional Airport, and gets full service by the BNSF railroad.

The Development Foundation has been involved since the 70s in the creation of nine industrial parks in the region. However, this megasite still required a partnership of South Dakota and Sioux Falls economic development organizations including SFDF, GOED, and Forward Sioux Falls, in addition to the City of Sioux Falls.

SFDF President Slater Barr said in a release that the magnitude of the project, in acquiring this much land and developing it for the state’s largest potential new businesses, required the cooperation of all of their active economic development partners.

The first phase of Foundation Park’s development is zoned for larger manufacturers, many of whom will need rail service. The second phase will focus on a single mega-project.

Governor Dennis Daugaard said in the release that “Paired with South Dakota’s unparalleled business climate, Foundation Park gives our state the opportunity to attract larger national and international projects.”

In fact, the origins of the megasite go back to one such effort three years ago when the SFDF was trying to recruit a large international manufacturing project that needed a site of several hundred acres with rail service. With Sioux Falls as one of the prime contenders for the project, the SFDF optioned acreage for it.

That project was put on hold indefinitely, but the Development Foundation and the Governor’s Office of Economic Development realized the location’s potential in helping attract future large projects. So South Dakota got its first megasite, created with the addition of more contiguous lands to the optioned acreage.

Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether said in the release that Foundation Park will prove to be an economic development and job creation juggernaut for Sioux Falls and South Dakota.

Well, they’re off to a good start, because Foundation Park already has a $70 million project lined up for the first building that will be constructed in the park.

This will be a 600,000-square-foot temperature-controlled warehouse that will shared by Logistics Buddy and The Fruit Club. The companies have signed a letter of intent to purchase nearly 34 acres in Foundation Park and build the huge warehouse to cover about 15 acres under one roof.

Barr added that this massive facility is the perfect initial project for the state’s first megasite, and noted that the two companies involved in the project have already been successful in the Sioux Falls area and this new warehouse facility will enable both companies to grow significantly.

South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development Draws NanoBlood

NanoBlood LLC, a biotech startup that shows great promise in revolutionizing transfusion medicine, announced that it is relocating to the South Dakota Technology Business Center in Sioux Falls, SD.


NanoBlood (photo –

Supported by South Dakota economic development funding and the University of South Dakota’s GEAR Center resources for its clinical trials, NanoBlood is targeting FDA fast track approval and breakthrough designation.

If the clinical trials are successful and the FDA approves it, NanoBlood subsequently plans to construct a manufacturing plant in Sioux Falls.

NanoBlood LLC is a spin-off that originated from Irvine, CA-based pharmaceutical R&D company SynZyme Technologies, LLC. They are developing a nanoparticle called VitalHeme, a multifunctional nano red blood cell (nRBC) for which NanoBlood has been awarded a patent.

This nRBC, made from outdated banked blood and from donor bovine blood, is supposed to be a life-saving therapeutic that helps restore oxygen delivery and blood flows in critical care patients and those who need blood transfusions.

In a release announcing NanoBlood’s relocation to Sioux Falls, Governor Dennis Daugaard said that “this is the kind of science that rewrites medical history, it’s the kind of novel drug that saves lives and it is happening right here in South Dakota.”

Gov. Daugaard added that it is his pleasure to support the translation of nano red blood cell from bench-to-bedside for unmet domestic and global medical needs.

NanoBlood LLC Chairman and CEO Carleton J.C. Hsia responded that he was very grateful and appreciative of Gov. Daugaard’s support of commercial development of nano red blood cell in South Dakota.

The South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development has funded NanoBlood through two proof of concept projects for further commercialization of nRBC. The company plans to use the USD Graduate Education and Applied Research Center’s aseptic Good Manufacturing Practice services to fill its product for clinical trials.

South Dakota Technology Business Center Vice President Tom Stengrim said in the release that SDTBC is excited to be the new corporate location for NanoBlood, and added that they look forward to supporting this exciting development of a lifesaving drug for the U.S. and global market.

Once they get FDA approval, the company plans to build a commercial manufacturing plant in the USD Discovery District. The Discovery District is the name for the master plan of the university’s research park, which is currently under development. The NanoBlood manufacturing facility is expected to create several hundred jobs in Sioux Falls.

USD Discovery District President Rich Naser said in the release that this is a great demonstration of how the USD Discovery District will help bridge the gap between bench research and industry to grow South Dakota’s economy.

South Dakota Workforce Development Campaign Tries to Attract Mars Colonists

If you’re one of the thousands of people who signed up for a one-way trip to colonize Mars, you might want to take a look at a workforce development campaign video put out by the South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED).

Video – SD GOED

The state unveiled the ‘You Can Live in South Dakota’ campaign at the Governor’s Economic Development conference held last week in Sioux Falls, SD.

The state had to do some solid research first to find out what it would take to attract people to South Dakota, and what the messaging should be.

Their research showed that people don’t picture themselves being able to live in South Dakota because they don’t know enough about the state. Lacking salient images, people think the state lacks development and a forward economy.

This is what the new marketing campaign focuses in, with a theme of “South Dakota: You can live here.”

GOED Commissioner Pat Costello said in a release announcing the campaign launch that their goal is to build brand awareness of South Dakota not just as home to Mt. Rushmore, but as home to thriving industries, job growth opportunities, recreational opportunities and more.

“In other words,” said Commissioner Costello, “we need to show people they could have a great life in South Dakota.”

As part of the campaign, GOED plans to put up unscripted videos showcasing individuals who recently moved to South Dakota seeking employment opportunities. One of these videos is already available on GOED’s youtube channel.

But they also plan to tap into trending topics that are in the news, and link the workforce development campaign to it.

The first such effort is the Mars video above, which starts off describing the inhospitable nature of Mars and then segues to exhorting the people who signed up for colonizing Mars to come to South Dakota instead, in the process describing all the good things about the state.

The tag line – “Why die on Mars when you can live in South Dakota?”

Commissioner Costello notes that they think Mars has what South Dakota wants – thousands of people lining up to live there, and so they decided to have a little fun with it.

Campaign ads on television, banners and social media efforts will drive people to a new website that highlights the lifestyle and job opportunities in South Dakota. The Live in South Dakota workforce development campaign will officially be launched on May 1.

SD Governor’s Office of Economic Development Partners With EPSCoR on IT Academy

The South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development and the Board of Regents are partnering with the state’s EPSCoR program to sponsor an IT Academy in the spring and summer to develop high-demand computer programming and IT skills.

SD EPSCoR IT Academy

SD EPSCoR IT Academy (photo –

EPSCoR (Experimental Program to Stimulate Competitive Research) is a program established by the National Science Foundation (NSF) in 1980 to assist states in establishing a self-sustaining academic research enterprise capable of contributing to the state’s economic development.

Including South Dakota, there are now 31 states and territories (Puerto Rico, Guam and the U.S. Virgin Islands) which have their own EPSCoR programs.

SD EPSCoR is focused on strengthening STEM education and research to increase science literacy and promote science-based South Dakota economic development.

Their partnership with GOED and the South Dakota Board of Regents public universities has enabled the creation of the Information Technology Consultant Academy offering four undergraduate courses and an internship to provide participants with a unique credential while entering an IT profession.

The spring term will include a course on introductory computer programming, followed by four computer science courses during the summer through which students will gain in-depth knowledge and skills in professional areas including software engineering and database management.

The courses will be offered online and taught by partnering institutions’ faculty. Students who successfully complete the undergraduate certificate program will be eligible to apply for a paid internship. The SD EPSCoR program provides South Dakota companies $2,000 in matching funds for providing the internship opportunities to students.

All credits earned by participants during the summer training courses count towards their degree program, putting students on track towards graduation and ready to join the workforce.

In a statement announcing the State’s partnership with the EPSCoR program to sponsor the IT Academy, Governor Dennis Daugaard said that it’s no secret that the state has been experiencing workforce shortages in a number of fields, including IT.

Gov. Daugaard added that the Academy will help them address the shortage of IT professionals by giving South Dakotans new opportunities for attaining IT skills at a substantially reduced rate. The Governor added that the IT Academy training program will save students almost $4,000 in tuition and fees.

South Dakota has received tens of millions of dollars for STEM education, research and economic development through competitive capacity building grants from the EPSCoR programs of the NSF, NASA, NIH, DOE, and USDA.

South Dakota Economic Development Office Fires Back After Chicago Airport Ad Rejection

The South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) is firing back at Chicago officials after being told to take down business recruitment advertising messages at Chicago O’Hare Airport.

The whole thing started in August when GOED launched the next phase of a South Dakota economic development and branding campaign in the Chicago and Minneapolis markets.

As part of the “Where Big Things Happen” campaign, GOED bought space on three large tension fabric banners right outside a security area at O’Hare.

The initial messages on the banners were a play on TSA checkpoint hassles – ‘No Government Pat Downs,’ ‘Keep Your Change in Your Pockets’ and ‘We’re Hands Off When it Comes to Business.’

Chicago airport authorities asked GOED to submit new messaging that did not conflict with TSA regulations. GOED complied and provided new messages.  Two of them were ‘Our Economy is First Class’ and ‘Prepare Your Business For Take Off.’

It’s the third message about ‘keeping your profits’ that was still causing a problem. After that, GOED was told by their airport ad representative that Chicago city officials were no longer allowing South Dakota or any other state’s economic development or tourism entity to advertise at the airport.

According to a release issued by GOED, the ban was later revoked but the three messages had to be replaced again. GOED submitted three more new messages, which have now been approved by the City of Chicago and will go up on the banners early next year.

The new messages will read – ‘Our Economy is First Class,’ ‘Prepare Your Business For Take Off’ and ‘Build Your Business in South Dakota.’

South Dakota also put this experience doing business in Chicago to good use by taking out a full-page ad in the Chicago Tribune that shows the ‘keep your profits’ ad that was rejected, along with some of the back-story behind the ad.

In a release explaining the newspaper ad, Gov. Dennis Daugaard says that “They thought ‘Keep The Change in Your Pockets’ was too aggressive so we resubmitted the ad with the message ‘Keep Your Profits.’ When we were told our ‘Keep Your Profits’ banner was not acceptable, we decided it was the perfect opportunity to showcase exactly why companies should move or expand to South Dakota.”

“We want companies to know that doing business is easy in South Dakota. Our experience in Chicago has made us realize just how important that is,” added Gov. Daugaard.

South Dakota, Indiana Offer Economic Development Incentives for Sapa Expansions

Oslo, Norway-based aluminum extrusion giant Sapa Group is expanding its Sapa Extrusions operations in Yankton, SD and Elkhart, IN.

Sapa Extrusions facility in Yankton, SD

Sapa Extrusions facility in Yankton, SD (photo –

In Yankton, Sapa Extrusions, Inc. is expanding an existing facility to add 54,000 square feet of space for another extrusion press.

The company plans to add 50 new full-time jobs at the Yankton plant over the next three years, adding to the existing 400 employees.

The South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development (GOED) has approved $24,280 in state incentives to support the expansion. The incentives will be provided under the South Dakota Jobs grant program.

GOED Commissioner Pat Costello said in a statement that the ultimate goal of the SD Jobs grant program is to expand operations or upgrade equipment, and GOED is happy to award these funds whenever they can financially assist a company looking to create jobs.

John Clifton, plant manager of the Sapa Extrusions facility in Yankton, said they are pleased with the support they have received from the State for the expansion, adding that it clearly shows the state’s commitment to businesses and job development in the community.

The City of Yankton and a Yankton economic development organization (Yankton Area Progressive Growth) worked closely with the company on infrastructure improvements, land use matters and other issues related to the expansion.

The company considered other existing locations for this expansion, but ultimately chose Yankton and another existing aluminum extrusion facility in Elkhart, IN.

In Elkhart, Sapa is investing $6 million and plans to create 25 net new jobs by Sept 2017. These are jobs with an average wage of $15.85 per hour that will generate more than $12,360 in local income taxes annually.

The Elkhart City Council is considering approval of a three-year tax abatement requested by Sapa for the project. If approved, it would save the company nearly $94,000 in personal property tax savings and $152,235 in real property tax savings over the three-year period.

Sapa AS, headquartered in Oslo, Norway, is the world’s largest aluminum extrusion company and a leading provider of precision tubing and aluminum-based building systems. The company has 23,000 employees and over 100 production sites spread across more than 40 countries around the world.

Chicago, IL-based Sapa Extrusions Americas, a part of this global network of Sapa AS operations, has 23 facilities in the U.S. and Canada and is the leading producer of seamless and structural aluminum pipes and tubes in North America.

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