I am proud to be from rural South Dakota. It’s where I learned the values of hardwork and self-reliance, where Bryon and I chose to raise our kids, where we started an insurance business and hunting lodge, and where my family has farmed and ranched for acentury. But many small towns like ours are struggling today. Class sizes are dropping. Businesses can’t afford to stay open. And fewer kids are coming home to farm or ranch.
In fact, while South Dakota has grown by more than 100,000 people since 2000, rural populations have diminished. Seeing our larger communities flourish is exciting, but I want to make sure we don’t lose South Dakota’s rural culture either. As governor, I will work to bring more resources in to rural areas, expanding broadband, promoting economic development, enhancing healthcare, and focusing on K-12 schools.
A good internet connection can allow any entrepreneur to sell globally, while hiring locally. By expanding rural broadband and enhancing cell service, area businesses can grow their customer base without leaving town; families can better connect with their doctors; and students can learn from teachers a world away. In many rural areas, however, broadband deployment lags behind, largely because of the disproportionate expense of installation and maintenance.
In the U.S. House, I have pushed the Federal Communications Commission on creating a fairer and more rural-friendly Universal Service Fund formula to accelerate broadband’s deployment in remote areas. This work will continue if elected governor. Additionally, I will look to expand resources in this area, while ensuring state agencies continue to embrace broadband-friendly policies.
To grow families in rural South Dakota, we need jobs in rural South Dakota. As I’ve laid out in my Agricultural Growth Initiative and Build South Dakota Agenda, I will (1) equip students with the skills needed to succeed in ag-related industries, (2) review permitting structures to be sure they promote economic development and respect local control, (3) expand opportunities for value-added agriculture, and (4) improve rural infrastructure.
Local healthcare providers have been relentless in expanding access through a robust network of rural clinics and innovative telehealth technologies, dramatically shrinking the distance between residents and state-of-the-art care. To build on these successes, we must grow the healthcare workforce in rural South Dakota. As governor, I will work directly with state professional organizations to develop forward-thinking recruitment and retention strategies, while also reviewing licensing requirements. Additionally, I will pursue federal waivers and grants, as appropriate, to better customize healthcare programs to South Dakota’s needs.
The school is the life blood of many rural communities, but most struggle to make ends meet, recruit qualified teachers, or maintain enrollment numbers. Under my administration, the Department of Education will work to develop a pilot program to fill teacher shortages in high-need areas, exploring options such as new incentive programs for local working professionals and enhanced mentoring of teachers. While I will also work to improve efficiencies, increase local decision making, and empower schools to share resources, I believe the most sustainable way to strengthen rural schools is to expand economic opportunity. If a family can’t make a living in a rural community, they will pull their kids from the school district and move. I am fully committed to revitalizing South Dakota’s rural culture, so small-town schools and businesses can thrive for generations to come.