More than half of tourists to South Dakota come from nine states, with Minnesota far in the lead, according to a study published by the South Dakota Department of Tourism

Minnesotans accounted for 11 percent of visitors to the Rushmore State in 2015, followed by Texas (6.7 percent), South Dakota itself (6.3 percent), Missouri (6.1 percent), North Dakota (5.4 percent), Colorado (5.1 percent), Nebraska (4 percent), Iowa (3.9 percent) and California (3.7 percent). 

Nearly half -- 49 percent -- were people who had not been to South Dakota in at least five year, qualifying them as "new visitors." Thirty percent were visiting friends and family, while 70 percent were on "marketable" trips, meaning a leisure vacation during which visitors were far more likely to stay in hotels. Those "marketable" trips are concentrated during the summer months, while the visits to friends a family a spread throughout the year. 

The internet is the dominant trip-planning tool for South Dakota tourists, with 81 percent using online tools to plan their trip. However, just 4 percent use social media to plan trips. A third rely on advice from friends and family, while 30 percent rely on preview sites such as TripAdvisor and 26 percent use the state's tourism website, Five percent get information from chambers of commerce and 7 percent have called the state's toll-free number to request information. 

Twelve percent of South Dakota's visitors arrived by airplane while the rest drove a vehicle -- ranging from a motorcycle to an RV -- or rode in a motorcoach.

Nearly three-quarters -- 72 percent -- visited the Black Hills and Badlands region, followed by 28 percent to the Southeast region, 19 percent to the Glacial Lakes and Prairies region and 11 percent to the Missouri River region. 

Most visitors report high satisfaction with their excursions to South Dakota, with 89 percent ranking them "excellent" (51 percent) or "very good" (38 percent). Another 10 percent ranked their visits as "good" and 1 percent "fair." 


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In 2015, 13.7 million tourists visited South Dakota, and they spent $3.8 billion. Almost half of that went to pay for food/beverages and transportation (think gas money), according to a study of tourism's economic impact released by the South Dakota Department of Tourism

The categories of food/beverages and local transportation each accounted for 22 percent of total tourist spending in 2015, equaling 44 percent when combined, according to the report. Those categories were followed closely by retail spending (21 percent), then by recreation and entertainment (14.8 percent). Air travel accounted for 1.6 percent of spending.

While visitor spending was flat in 2015 -- up 2 percent without adjusting for inflation -- the report notes that reflects increased spending to make up for gas prices lower by about $1 per gallon than in 2014. Take transportation spending out of the equation, and tourist spending went up 5.5 percent without adjusting for inflation. 

Spending on transportation dropped 8.5 percent while spending on lodging was up 9.3 percent, up 6.6 percent on food and beverages, up 3.7 percent on recreation and entertainment, up 2.4 percent on retail sales and up 0.4 percent on air travel. 

The month of July was noteworthy, as a record number of hotel rooms were sold (630,000), a record number of people stopped at the South Dakota Information Centers (700,000) and more than 1 million visited national parks in the state. 

Visitors from other states accounted for the lion's share of spending in 2015, $2.8 billion of the $3.8 billion total. South Dakotans themselves accounted for $869 million while international visitors accounted for $115 million.

The report finds that the tourism industry directly generated $1.2 billion worth of gross domestic product and had a $2.4 billion economic impact on the state.

The tourism industry directly accounted for 32,337 jobs and, indirectly, a total of 52,166. The number of directly supported jobs has grown for six consecutive years and was up 1.3 percent year-over-year in 2015.


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Monday, 04 April 2016 00:00

Growth of SD Tourism Tax Slows

After two years of impressive gains, South Dakota's taxable tourism sales leveled off in 2015 and posted modest growth, according to data from the state of South Dakota

Statewide, tourism sales grew 4.5 percent from 2012 to 2013 and another 6.8 percent from 2013 to 2014, going from $655 million in 2012 to $732 million in 2014. Then sales grew 0.5 percent from 2014 to 2015, which brought $735.5 million in tourism sales. All figures have been inflation-adjusted to 2015 dollars. 

In 2015, the tourism tax collected was $5.5 million from the Black Hills region and $11 million from all of South Dakota. 

For the past three years, growth in the Black Hills region has followed the same trend but exceeded statewide growth. The region accounts for nearly half of the state's tourism sales. (Data for Oglala Lakota County is available only for 2015, so the following list includes data from the Black Hills counties of Butte, Custer, Fall River, Lawrence, Meade and Pennington.)

  • 2012-2013 -- up 6.2 percent to $331 million
  • 2013-2014 -- up 8.7 percent to $360 million
  • 2014-2015 -- up 0.8 percent to $363 million 

The Black Hills growth rate fell behind the state recently when the region suffered declines for two straight years (2010-2012), dropping a total of 14 percent to $312 million in 2012. At the same time, statewide, tourism sales slid from 2010-2011 by 2.6 percent, to $655 million, then held steady into 2012 before taking off on two years of healthy gains. 

Black Hills Counties Dominate

While the Black Hills has enjoyed more growth and suffered bigger declines than the state as a whole, the region dominates taxable tourism sales in South Dakota, accounting for between 47 percent and 54 percent of the total over the past seven years. 

And within the Black Hills, Pennington County -- home to Mount Rushmore and Rapid City -- leads both the state and region with nearly twice the tourism sales of No. 2 Minnehaha County (home to Sioux Falls) and more than three times No. 3 Lawrence County, home to the Wild West and gambling town of Deadwood. 

From the Black Hills region, only Butte County did not rank among the state's top 15, instead coming in 27th among 66 counties. Statewide, each of the top 15 counties is either in the Black Hills, along the Missouri River or along Interstate 90 or Interstate 29, with the exception of Brown County, home to the state's third-largest city of Aberdeen.

Here are South Dakota's top 15 counties for taxable tourism sales in 2015: 

  1. Pennington -- $204 million
  2. Minnehaha -- $103 million
  3. Lawrence -- $64 million
  4. Meade -- $43 million
  5. Custer -- $27 million
  6. Oglala Lakota -- $25 million
  7. Hughes -- $20 million
  8. Brown -- $20 million
  9. Davison -- $17 million
  10. Codington -- $10 million
  11. Brookings -- $9 million
  12. Lyman -- $8 million
  13. Brule -- $8 million
  14. Yankton -- $7 million
  15. Fall River -- $6.5 million

Lodging Top Industry for Tourism Tax

When broken down by business type, lodging and campgrounds account for more of South Dakota's tourism sales than any other business type combined. In 2015, the $408 million from lodging and campground accounted for 55.5 percent of all of South Dakota's tourism sales.

Here's how tourism sales broke down by business type in 2015: 

  • Lodging and campgrounds -- $408 million, 55.5 percent
  • Shops and markets -- $89 million, 12 percent
  • Visitor attractions -- $58 million, 7.8 percent
  • Recreational services/rentals -- $41 million, 5.5 percent
  • Other visitor businesses -- $27 million, 3.6 percent
  • Restaurants -- $25 million, 3.3 percent
  • Spectator events -- $1.5 million, 0.2 percent


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Monday, 07 March 2016 00:00

SD Ranked No. 2 Retirement State

South Dakota's low taxes and the happiness of state residents earned a No. 2 ranking as a retirement hotspot from

South Dakota has one of the nation's lowest tax burdens at 7.1 percent, or an average of $3,318 per resident. That level of taxation ties South Dakota with the No. 1 retirement state, neighboring Wyoming. Only Alaska, with a tax rate of  6.5 percent, is lower.

Bankrate used data from Gallup-Healthways Well-Being Index, the Agency for Healthcare Research and Quality and other sources to rank all 50 states based on factors important to seniors: cost of living, quality of health care, taxes, crime and overall well-being.

Four of South Dakota's neighboring states also were ranked in the top 10. Besides No. 1 Wyoming, Montana ranked No. 6, Iowa ranked No. 8 and Nebraska ranked No. 10. 


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South Dakota’s economy grew faster than any other state in the union in the third quarter of 2015, according to new figures released by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. With an enormous contribution from agriculture, the state’s economy expanded by 9.2 percent in the quarter.

Agriculture accounted for nearly two-thirds of South Dakota’s economic growth and led other grain belt states to the top of the state rankings. Kansas, Iowa and Nebraska all finished in the top five states as well.

South Dakota also saw healthy increases in construction, retail trade, durable-goods manufacturing, finance and insurance, health care and professional services. The only sector to suffer a significant decline was wholesale trade, which was down 0.42 percent.

South Dakota’s third quarter growth reflects a positive turn in the somewhat volatile pattern of the economy in late 2014 and 2015. After declining by 2.1 percent in the fourth quarter of 2014 and by 14.8 percent in the first quarter of 2015, the state’s economy bounced back in the second quarter of 2015, growing by 5.8 percent, before surging in the third quarter.



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White South Dakotans have substantially higher rates of employment than do their counterparts of color, with the gap being nearly double between Native American adults and whites, according to federal data

Between 2010 and 2014, an average of 79.8 percent of whites ages 16 to 64 had jobs, compared to 44.9 percent for Native Americans and 67.6 percent for other people of color. Overall during those years, an average of 76.1 percent of South Dakota adults were in the workforce. 

The federal government considers people to be “working” if they:

  1. did any work at all during the reference week as paid employees, worked in their own business or profession, worked on their own farm, or worked 15 hours or more as unpaid workers on a family farm or in a family business; or
  2. were “with a job but not at work,” that is, those who did not work during the reference week but had jobs or businesses from which they were temporarily absent due to illness, bad weather, industrial dispute, vacation or other personal reasons. 

Members of the military on active are not considered to be working, and those who volunteer only are not counted. 

Among South Dakota's nine American Indian reservations, the Lake Raverse reservation in northeast South Dakota recorded the most working adults while the Pine Ridge reservation in southern South Dakota recorded the least.

American Indian Reservations
  1. Lake Traverse -- 67.4 percent
  2. Yankton -- 63.1 percent
  3. Flandreau -- 59.2 percent
  4. Cheyenne River -- 53.6 percent
  5. Lower Brule -- 51.5 percent
  6. Crow Creek -- 50 percent
  7. Standing Rock -- 46.9 percent
  8. Rosebud -- 46.3 percent
  9. Pine Ridge -- 39.6 percent

On a county-by-county basis, rural areas where agriculture is a leading industry dominated the 10 counties with the most adults working, while counties home to American Indian reservations dominated the bottom 10. 

Top 10 South Dakota Counties
  1. Jones County -- 87 percent
  2. Stanley County -- 85.8 percent
  3. Lincoln County -- 84.2 percent
  4. Hyde County -- 82.8 percent
  5. McCook County -- 82.5 percent
  6. Codington County -- 82.4 percent
  7. Douglas County -- 81.8 percent
  8. Davison County -- 81.5 percent
  9. Miner County -- 81.5 percent
  10. Kingsbury County -- 81.4 percent
Bottom 10 South Dakota Counties 
  1. Oglala Lakota County -- 35.4 percent
  2. Corson County -- 46.6 percent
  3. Todd County -- 47.3 percent
  4. Ziebach County -- 52.9 percent
  5. Dewey County -- 53.8 percent
  6. Bennett County -- 54.3 percent
  7. Buffallo County -- 54.7 percent
  8. Bon Homme County -- 59.3 percent
  9. Mellette County -- 60.7 percent
  10. Jackson County -- 61 percent

Among the 11 metropolitan and micropolitan areas inside South Dakota's borders, the Watertown micropolitan area leads the pack while the Vermillion micropolitan area ranks the lowest. 

South Dakota Metropolitan and Micropolitan areas 
  1. Watertown micro area -- 82.4 percent
  2. Mitchell micro area -- 81.5 percent
  3. Pierre micro area -- 81.3 percent
  4. Sioux Falls metro area -- 80.9 percent
  5. Aberdeen micro area -- 80.9 percent
  6. Huron micro area -- 78.3 percent
  7. Rapid City metro area -- 75.1 percent
  8. Brookings micro area -- 75 percent
  9. Spearfish micro area -- 74.1 percent
  10. Yankton micro area -- 72.9 percent
  11. Vermillion micro area -- 65.2 percent

 Read more about South Dakota's workforce on the South Dakota Dashboard


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Median household income grew 3.55 percent in the Sioux Falls metropolitan area from 2013 to 2014, outpacing statewide growth of 2.5 percent and further outpacing the Rapid City metropolitan area growth of 0.8 percent, according to federal data

In the past decade, the four-county Sioux Falls metro area has experienced much bigger swings, both up and down, in median household income than the rest of South Dakota. (All calculations have been done using figures inflation-adjusted to 2014 dollars.) Even with a drop exceeding 10 percent in one year, the Sioux Falls metro area continues to post household incomes thousands of dollars above the rest of the state.

The one exception was 2012, when the median income in the Rapid City metro area was at $51,941 and the median income in the Sioux Falls metro area dipped to $53,345.

Median income by metro area in 2014

One of the Sioux Falls metro area's four counties -- Lincoln County -- maintained its No. 1 rank for median household income in 2013, at $78,567, nearly $12,000 ahead of No. 2 Union County, at $66,831. Furthermore, when much of the rest of the state suffered economic setbacks as the Great Recession took hit 2008, Lincoln County's median household income grew 7 percent, going from $71,992 in 2007 to $77,066 in 2008 (in inflation-adjusted dollars). The county's household income has hovered just below $80,000 ever since, coming in at $78,567 in 2014. 

For the other three counties in the Sioux Falls metro area -- McCook, Minnehaha and Turner -- median household incomes have hovered closer to $50,000 (in inflation-adjusted dollars) since the recession. 

Here's a look at changes in median household incomes since 2006: 



(inflation-adjusted to 2014)
2006  $60,264  N/A
2007   $57,419 -4.7% 
2008  $62,545


2009  $55,725 -10.9% 
2010  $56,488 +1.4% 
2011  $58,527 +3.6% 
2012  $53,345 -8.85% 
2013  $56,841 +6.55% 
2014   $58,849 +3.5% 



(inflation-adjusted to 2014)
2006  $51,912  N/A
2007  $50,753 -2.2% 
2008  $49,220 -3% 
2009  $51,029 +3.7% 
2010  $51,088 +0.1% 
2011  $53,007 +3.8% 
2012  $51,941 -2% 
2013  $49,413 -4.9% 
2014  $49,808 +0.8% 



(inflation-adjusted to 2014)
2006  $50,241  N/A
2007  $49,582 -1.3% 
2008  $50,607 +2.1% 
2009  $49,705 -1.8% 
2010  $49,818 +0.2% 
2011  $50,856 +2.1% 
2012  $49,858 -2% 
2013  $49,724 -0.3% 
2014  $50,979 +2.5% 
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From 2013-2014, median income for South Dakotans 65 and older dropped more than $1,600, which does not appear to be a trend in other states. The drop puts the state in last place among its neighbors and 43rd nationally for median income for older residents, according to federal data

However, an even more significant drop in median income for this subset of the population in the Rapid City metropolitan area appears to be a factor in the statewide decline. Statewide, median income for that age group went from $36,931 in 2013 to $35,240 (in inflation-adjusted dollars). At the same time, income dropped more than $7,500 in the Rapid City metro area -- from $43,877 to $36,319 -- while it dropped only about $500 in the Sioux Falls metro area to $39,423.

For South Dakota's metro areas, median incomes for those 65 and older are either below 1999 levels or nearly even, in inflation adjusted dollars. Statewide, income for this group is up since 1999. 


  1999 2014
 Rapid City metro area  $41,400  $36,319
 Sioux Falls metro area  $39,238  $39,423
 Sioux City metro area  $36,205  $32,647
 South Dakota  $33,791  $35,240


Here's how South Dakota's income for senior citizen stack up regionally and nationally. The list is in the order of the largest drop in income to the largest gain, between 2013 and 2014.

  • South Dakota -- $36,931 to $35,240 (-$1,691)
  • Wyoming -- $41,584 to $40,773 (-$811) 
  • Nebraska -- $37,936 to $37,174 (-$762) 
  • Montana -- $36,020 to $35,710 (-$310)
  • Iowa - $37,273 to $37,099 (-$174)
  • United States -- $38,448 to $39,186 (+$738)
  • Minnesota -- $39,143 to $40,041 (+$898)
  • North Dakota -- $35,853 to $37,196 (+$1,343)


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Strong growth in the finance and insurance industries led South Dakota to the No. 2 spot nationally for growth in gross domestic product during the second quarter of 2015, according to the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. The state's GDP growth was 5.8 percent during that quarter. Washington state ranked first nationally with GDP growth of 8 percent, Oklahoma ranked 50th with -2.4 percent.

The finance and insurance sector grew 12.4 percent nationally and was the growth leader in 28 states. In South Dakota, the industry grew 2.42 percent during Q2 2015, putting the Rushmore State behind No. 1 Delware, with 2.42 percent growth, and ahead of No. 3 New York, with 2.16 percent growth. 

In South Dakota, growth in all other sectors was less than 1 percent, with three industries reporting negative growth -- mining, educational services and agriculture/forestry/fishing/hunting. (See tables attached to this post.) After finance and insurance, the real estate industry grew the most in South Dakota, at 0.74 percent. 

Drops in energy prices continued slumps in neighboring states of North Dakota and Wyoming, which ranked 47th and 49th nationally after recording negative GDP growth rates of 1.2 percent and 2.3 percent respectivally. Other neighboring states fared better, with Minnesota 14th, 4.5 percent growth; Iowa 16th, 4.5 percent growth; Nebraska, 19th, 4.3 percent growth and Montana 38th, 3.2 percent growth.

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While South Dakota's population center's ranked high in some sub-categories, it was neighboring counties that led the state in a national ranking for overall investment in communities. The financial firm Smart Asset researched four factors for each county in the nation and created state and national rankings.

Here are South Dakota's top 10 locales for investment, based on the equally weighted categories of GDP growth, business growth, new building permits and municipal bonds per capita.

  1. Hanson County, west of Sioux Falls
  2. Custer County, south of Rapid City
  3. McCook County, adjacent to Sioux Falls
  4. Union County, in extreme southeast South Dakota
  5. Butte County, experiences a high volume of traffic related to the North Dakota oil fields
  6. Lake County, home to Dakota State University
  7. Aurora County, county seat is Plankinton
  8. Minnehaha County, home to Sioux Falls
  9. Jerauld County, county seat is Wessington Springs
  10. Kingsbury County, county seat is De Smet

While Hanson County recorded no new businesses in the last two years, it led the state for the amount of municipal bonds taken out per capita in the last five years -- $107,876. McCook was second in this category at $76,939. By comparison, several counties had no municipal bonds, while the high-population counties of Minnehaha and Pennington had $1,792 and $1,592 repsectively.

And while Hanson County ranked 24th among the state's 66 counties for building permits, at six per 1,000 homes, Custer County led this category with 24.9 permits for every 1,000 homes. Union County ranked No. 2, with 17 permits per 1,000 homes, and Minnehaha County ranked third, with 15.9 permits per 1,000 homes. 

Some of the state's smallest counties fill nearly every slot in the top 10 for the category of business growth, with Mellette County ranking No. 1 after logging 17.4 percent growth. Harding County, just across the border from North Dakota's Bakken oil region, came in No. 2 with 14.7 percent business growth. And Oglala Lakota County (formerly Shannon County) on the Pine Ridge Indian Reservation took the No. 3 spot with 12.9 percent business growth. Of note, Minnehaha County logged a 1.1 percent decline in business growth. 

In the category of GDP growth, South Dakota's population centers rank in order - Minnehaha County, home to the state's largest city of Sioux Falls, ranks No. 1. Pennington County, home to No. 2 Rapid City, is second. Brown County, home to No. 3 Aberdeen, is third. Then it's No. 4 Lincoln County, also home to part of Sioux Falls and bedroom communities, and No. 5 Coddington County, home to Watertown.

They are followed by Lawrence County, home to fast-growing Spearfish and Black Hills State University plus Deadwood and Lead, then Brookings County, home to Brookings and South Dakota State University, and Davison County, home to Mitchell, Dakota Wesleyan University and Mitchell Technical Institue.

Rounding out the top 10 for GDP are Yankton County, home to Yankton and Yankton College, and Meade County, home to Sturgis and the fast-growing Interstate 90 corridor that includes Summerst, Piedmont and Black Hawk. 

Nationally, five of the top ten counties for incoming investment are in North Dakota's Bakken oil region, two are in eastern Texas, two are in Georgia and one in California, No. 8 Los Angeles County. 

Of note, seven of the top ten counties for municipal bonds are in states that neighbor South Dakota -- four in Minnesota, two in North Dakota and one in Nebraska. Four of the top ten for business growth are in North Dakota's Bakken oil region. 



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