Since 1988 the governors of Iowa, Nebraska and South Dakota have been meeting every other year here in Siouxland to talk about issues that impact all three states.
They met again Monday in South Sioux City for the 17th event, which comes off of a year of historic unemployment and this year's conference focused largely on workforce development.
"We have seen employers across the state of South Dakota increase their wages so they could get the doors back open," said South Dakota's Kristi Noem. "So that's good, families are grateful for that, they are ready to get back to work."
Governor Kristi Noem, the Republican governor from South Dakota, says tourism is her state's 2nd largest industry and they are looking at retirees to fill those positions.
"Because our busy season is summer and early fall, we've been recruiting some of those folks who are retired who still enjoy interacting with people and hosting them," Noem said about filling the tens of thousands of jobs open in the state. This is largely due to a record number of people moving to South Dakota post-pandemic.
Gov. Noem spoke extensively on bringing people to South Dakota and keeping them here. She says the state has seen a dramatic increase in new residents in recent months and they aren't just moving to the state's biggest cities, like Sioux Falls and Rapid City, but small towns, too.
In her lunchtime remarks, she noted that three new families have recently moved to the small South Dakota town where she grew up, stating that this was something the small community of fewer than 100 families hadn't seen in decades. Now, she says, the challenge is keeping people in the Rushmore State.
"Our biggest challenge is going to be adapting quickly so we don't miss out on this opportunity," she said during the conference. "It's not very often that people pay attention to South Dakota and they are right now so we are going to use that to set us up for success for the next 40-50 years if we can."
Aside from bringing people to their respective states, all three governors are focusing on school-aged kids and exposing them to career paths as early as possible to help bolster the state's workforce years down the road.
In Nebraska, Governor Pete Ricketts, also a Republican, says he is focusing on kids as young as middle school, introducing them to possible career options and areas of study.
“We're really focused on a career pipeline that starts in middle school, and then seventh, eighth grade with our developing new talent initiative. The idea is to take that into a career academy, such as they've got here in the Siouxland area, then follow that up with post-secondary education.”
Gov. Ricketts says the state is working on registered apprenticeship programs as well as career scholarship programs to help students across the state.
"Whether it's going to be registered apprenticeship program, or through our career scholarship program which applies to community colleges, state colleges, University of Nebraska, private colleges.," Ricketts continued, "So it's really about creating a talent pipeline to develop our folks and really reduce the cost of that education.”
Governor Kim Reynolds also praised her state's apprenticeship programs and bringing work-based learning to all Iowa students.
"We’re being bringing business and industry into the classroom, we're taking the classroom and inserting those students into the various industries to really give them a taste of what that job looks like," the Republican governor said. "It really helps them figure out where they have a passion, and most importantly it connects them to the tremendous opportunities that exist right in their communities.”
Reynolds and her predecessor, Terry Branstad, created the Future Ready Iowa program in 2014 and is using that initiative as a bouncing off point for other programs in the state to increase Iowa's workforce down the road.
"Future Ready Iowa was the other initiative that we started back in 2014, quite a while ago, but it has the goal of having 70% of Iowans in the workforce have either education or training beyond high school by the year 2025," the Republican governor said. "And so we're at about 68% right now. I think we've made significant progress, but again it's about reskilling, retooling, and helping really maximize the potential of Iowans.”
Reynolds, Ricketts and Noem also discussed pandemic recovery, saying the Midwest came out better because of how they faced the virus.
“I think it's an attitude of the Midwest, we're resilient, we show up, we take care of ourselves, we put our trust in our people, and they, they didn't let us down," Reynolds said.
Governor Noem echoed that, saying, "We draw people to us by our optimism and our hope and that's really what we are supposed to do as a country but we just don't talk about it enough. That's what I think we can do as governors and these two next to me have done as well. You didn't see them getting up on TV and talking about how there was no hope and we can't get through it. It was always 'we can get through it and we will'."
All three governors were given a Sioux City Musketeers military appreciation jersey as a gift from the conference, complete with the Muskies official tri-state logo. This year, the Muskies raised over $50,000 for the Midwest Honor Flight program by auctioning off those jerseys.
SEE THE VIDEO
Web articles from my time at Siouxland News.