South Dakota, which has been recruiting Minnesota job seekers for the past few years, has ramped up its efforts in recent months — and its governor plans to visit the state next month to personally discuss career opportunities with potential transplants.
“We’ve been reaching across our borders a little bit because we have more jobs than people,” Dawn Dovre, director of public affairs for the South Dakota Department of Labor and Regulation, told Twin Cities Business, adding that the state has increased its out-of-state recruitment efforts within the past year.
The recruitment efforts are happening through Dakota Roots, a worker recruitment initiative that South Dakota launched in 2006. It is currently in the midst of a marketing campaign through which roughly a dozen downtown Minneapolis coffee shops are giving patrons coffee sleeves that feature the Dakota Roots website. And just last week, South Dakota representatives spent a morning at Espresso Royale on Hennepin Avenue, where they gave free coffee to customers willing to stop and discuss job opportunities within the state.
From 1 to 2 p.m. on May 13, South Dakota Governor Dennis Daugaard will be stationed at a Dakota Roots booth at the Mall of America, where he’ll visit with shoppers, answer questions about career possibilities in the state, and encourage Minnesotans to consider relocating to South Dakota.
According to Dovre, open jobs run the gamut in South Dakota, where the unemployment rate was 4.3 percent in March (lower than Minnesota’s 5.4 percent). South Dakota jobs considered to be both “high demand” and “high wage” include IT positions, engineers, nurses, accounting and finance professionals, teachers, mechanics, truck drivers, welders, non-retail sales representatives, and office and administrative staff. Meanwhile, those deemed most difficult to fill are IT positions, engineers, welders, and health care workers.
The South Dakota Legislature in 2012 appropriated $200,000 of general funds for Dakota Roots’ marketing efforts, which appear to have gained traction within Minnesota. Slightly more than 3,000 Minnesotans registered as job seekers on the Dakota Roots website since it launched in October 2006—534 of whom have relocated to South Dakota. (That compares to 17,224 registrants from all states, 2,790 of whom have found jobs within South Dakota.)
A total of 471 Minnesotans considered to be “active job seekers” are now registered with Dakota Roots. More Minnesota residents have both registered with Dakota Roots and moved to South Dakota than residents of any other state, Dovre said.
According to Dovre, Daugaard’s trip to Minnesota will be the first recruitment effort of its kind. It comes shortly after South Dakota representatives worked with several alumni associations within the state to connect with out-of-state alums who might be interested in returning to the state of their alma mater. Approximately 103,000 South Dakota college alumni received direct mailers containing information about job opportunities (and wildflower seed packets). After that, traffic to Dakota Roots’ website quadrupled and the website has averaged 23 new registrations each day. Dovre said she wasn’t sure how many of the 103,000 people are Minnesotans but estimates that a “large majority” are from within the state.
Unlike South Dakota, which Dovre said “didn’t feel the effects of the recession as much as the rest of the nation did,” Minnesota was hit hard by the economic downturn and many employers shed jobs during the worst of it, although Minnesota’s unemployment rate has consistently been lower than that of the United States as a whole; the national unemployment rate was 7.6 percent in March.
As of earlier this year, however, Minnesota had regained nearly 90 percent of the 160,100 jobs that were shed during the recession. Over the past year, Minnesota has gained 46,400 jobs, representing a growth rate of 1.7 percent, compared with the U.S. rate of 1.5 percent.
After seven consecutive months of consistent employment growth, Minnesota employers cut 5,200 jobs in March—although state officials are calling the setback a likely “pause” in growth, rather than a long-term negative indicator, and it’s one they attributed to unseasonably cold weather.
Despite the fact that many Minnesotans are seeking jobs, some local employers have reported hiring difficulties.Twin Cities Business’ latest quarterly economic indicator survey found that, while overall business optimism is increasing in the state, employers are concerned about finding the talent they need.
That could be due in part to a perceived “skills gap,” although a new report from the State of Minnesota found that in just 15 percent of cases did employers attribute their hiring difficulties solely to a skills mismatch between the job and the available candidates. (Click here to read a story from the May issue of Twin Cities Business that explores the skills gap and looks at whether training is the solution.)
This article is reprinted in partnership with Twin Cities Business.