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Small businesses are vital to local economies. At the Beacom School of Business, fulfilling the mission of strengthening and leveraging relationships with businesses, governments and communities is paramount. That work is accomplished in part through economic development outreach centers – South Dakota Small Business Development Center, South Dakota Manufacturing & Technologies Solutions and Prairie Family Business Association. These outreach centers use the resources of the USD Beacom School of Business combined with external support networks to provide comprehensive services for small businesses throughout the state and Midwest region.

South Dakota Small Business Development Center

Small businesses are a critical building block to the economy of any state. In South Dakota, 99% of all businesses meet the definition of a small business and are responsible for almost 60% of the employment in the state.

Mark Slade
Mark Slade

According to the Small Business Development Center (SBDC) State Director Mark Slade, “The primary focus of the South Dakota SBDC is to assist entrepreneurs in making good business decisions. Often, this relates to business plan development and budgeting. A larger percentage of clients are referred to us by banks and economic development programs for assistance with putting together the financial projections.”

The impact on South Dakota is immense and measurable. Historically, the SBDC in South Dakota works with around 1,200 projects per year. Of these 70% have been startups and 30% are existing businesses. 

“Since 2009, the SBDC in South Dakota has helped our clients raise over $1 billion in capital to start, grow or purchase a business–an incredible number for a state of our size,” Slade explained. “Each state has an SBDC program and here in South Dakota we routinely rank in the top three for client capital raised when calculating on a per capita basis. Our team of consultants is networked to their regional lenders, loan programs and economic developers and can help guide the entrepreneur through the process.”

Since small businesses provide employment opportunities both for the self-employed and for members of their communities, small business is essential in the smaller towns and rural areas of South Dakota in order to keep local economies thriving. Small businesses buy goods and services from other small businesses within their community, which keeps people employed and generates a tax base to support the stability of a community. 

Fortunately, the COVID-19 pandemic has had a minimal impact on the businesses it serves. Slade says startup entrepreneurs remain undaunted and are still looking to start new businesses. “The percentages on new projects coming in the door has remained relatively unchanged,” he said.

South Dakota Manufacturing & Technologies Solutions

South Dakota Manufacturing & Technologies Solutions (MTS), a division of the South Dakota Small Business Development Center, is dedicated to creating significant, lasting economic impact and job creation in South Dakota. 

Don Cuperus
Don Cuperus

Specifically, MTS helps manufacturers prosper and thrive through training, consulting and events, offering training including Lean 101, Lean Certification, Lean Leadership for Supervisors, ISO consulting and Training Within Industry. “With our tools and expertise, we can help manufacturers save time, reduce waste and increase their bottom line,” explained Don Cuperus, center director. “We can help manufacturers through every step of their automation journey.”

MTS bolsters the state economy by helping manufacturers reduce their costs, increase sales and invest in new equipment and technology. Last year, the organization helped South Dakota manufacturers achieve $66.9 million in new and retained sales, $63.2 million in new investments and $15.8 million in cost savings. 

MTS is also focused on building the talent pipeline. With a program called “What’s So Cool About Manufacturing?” MTS engages, educates and excites middle school students about careers in manufacturing.

MTS’s technology adoption program, which operates from its Sioux Falls office, houses an automation lab that manufacturers can visit to see live demonstrations of equipment and explore the possibilities of integrating automation. Automation experts on staff can provide an automation readiness assessment by touring facilities at no charge.

Prairie Family Business Association

For 29 years, Prairie Family Business Association (PFBA) has provided family businesses across South Dakota and beyond with education and resources to help them survive and thrive. More than 200 businesses across South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska employ many individuals and give back to communities through their employees’ time and through philanthropic investments. 

Stephanie Larscheid
Stephanie Larscheid

“Prairie Family Business strives to do all we can to keep the business moving forward in their respective communities and even help facilitate growth,” explained Stephanie Larscheid, executive director of the PFBA. “By keeping the business owned and operated by the family, we create opportunities for  young people to return to their hometowns  to be part of their family and community legacy. Family businesses are able to offer job retention and job growth for communities across South Dakota directly contributing to economic development.

“We know how important family businesses are to communities, especially smaller communities outside large population centers,” said Larscheid. “If a family business were to sell, relocate or go out of business, that could be damaging to the entire community.”

Throughout the pandemic, PFBA delivered real-time, applicable information to families. In the early weeks of the pandemic, weekly Zoom calls were hosted where best practices and insights were shared among members. An average of 50 people logged in each week to learn from each other and share documents. The SBA shared information about government relief measures—a vital contribution during these calls.

“We were able to provide value to family businesses across the region, which is our mission whether or not we are in the midst of a pandemic,” said Larscheid. “We’ve retained and grown our membership through this pandemic because of the value we continue to provide.”