President Benjamin Harrison knew a rivalry would be afoot 125 years ago when he signed North and South Dakota into statehood. He even had the names hidden and the admission papers shuffled so no one would know which joined the union first.
So two weeks ago, when Cities of Promise wrote about the Promise exploration of Fargo, N.D. , we suspected that a South Dakota story was soon to follow. And we were right.
That’s because the Sioux Falls Public Schools Education Foundation is exploring the concept of offering college funding to all of its students. And like Fargo, the economic interests of the city are at the center of the examination. Sioux Falls is interested in having more learning opportunities for its young people, but it wants to retain those future college degree holders.
The Foundation’s chairperson, Amy Scott-Stoltz, told Patrick Anderson of the Sioux Falls Argus Leader, “It’s tough to keep young people in South Dakota and Sioux Falls.”
Fellow board member Vernon Brown had read that similarly-sized cities in the Plains — Lincoln, Neb.; Rochester, Minn.; and rival Fargo — had a higher percentage of local residents holding college degrees. He pitched the idea to the board by asking, “What’s that big audacious goal we should be striving for?”
And while creating a college-going culture and retaining young residents would be tremendous, beating Fargo to the punch would make it even better.
Usually when a conversation about Promise programs begins, it is focused on education. But the notion of economic development has been drawing interest and catching up as a sidekick to the education component.
But in a recent story in Prairie Business Magazine, the idea of starting a Promise program is mentioned as a way to attract workers to fortify and grow the local economy in Fargo, N.D. Education appears to be an afterthought.
In the forefront of the discussion is the “massive competition in every industry,” said Craig Whitney, the president of the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce. One anecdote is that jobs are so plentiful in the region that UPS drivers have been lured away from their job while making deliveries, abandoning trucks with keys and packages inside.
So in conjunction with TIP Strategies of Austin, Texas, a consulting firm conducting a six-month study of the area’s workforce, everything is on the table. That includes mention of a Promise program to bring workers to the area with the lure of education benefits for their children.
“Part of this study that we’re embarking on through this consulting firm may give us some ideas of what can be done to retain and recruit workers,” he said. “We just don’t have enough people to support the growth.”
* Here is the story of this reference.