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Noem’s workforce recruitment campaign under scrutiny

Joshua Haiar/SD Searchlight
The Legislature’s Appropriations Committee meets Nov. 13, 2023, at the Capitol in Pierre.

PIERRE, S.D. — Some lawmakers expressed frustration Monday upon learning the state’s $5 million workforce recruitment campaign — which includes television ads featuring Gov. Kristi Noem — is not directly measuring how many workers it recruits.

Members of the Legislature’s Appropriations Committee heard a report from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development that included information on the Freedom Works Here campaign. The campaign ads feature Noem taking on the roles of high-demand workers, such as plumbers or welders, while inviting them to the state.

Finance Director Travis Dovre said the campaign has focused on neighboring states, plus California, Colorado and Nevada. He said the campaign’s social media posts, commercials and other marketing efforts have generated more than 800 million “impressions” — a measurement of the number of times an ad has been seen — while 7,568 people have requested more information on South Dakota.

A slide in his presentation said 1,900 people “are in the final stages of finding their career here.” Under questioning from legislators, state Department of Labor Secretary Marcia Hultman said that’s the number of out-of-state people who have asked for a state-assigned job adviser to help them find work in South Dakota.

Dovre said attributing an exact number of those people to Freedom Works Here is difficult because what makes someone move to a state is complicated.

“We will probably never be able to have an exact number,” he said. “Website traffic is up, click-through rates are above national averages, so whatever we’re doing with those ads is getting people’s attention.”

That didn’t satisfy Rep. Chris Karr, R-Sioux Falls.

“Is there any other way you intended to measure the success of this campaign, quantitatively?” Karr asked. “Something more accurate than how many people are coming to the state, for whatever reasons? Because people were coming to the state before this campaign.”

Dovre said the data to do that is not available, and the campaign is “a long game.”

“So, the answer is no.” Karr said. “I think you guys can figure this out. You hire all these national companies that have all this experience. I imagine one of them might have an idea.”

The $5 million contract for Freedom Works Here went to a politically connected Ohio firm, Go West Media. The firm is a subsidiary of The Strategy Group, whose CEO Ben Yoho also manages Vivek Ramaswamy’s Republican presidential campaign.

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Margaret Sumption was recognized by SDFU for her service to rural youth as a volunteer, with the esteemed Minnie Lovinger Award. Sumption is pictured here with Aeriel Eitreim (left) Senior Advisory Council member from Sioux Falls and Cadence Konechne, (right) Jr. Junior Advisory Council member from Kimball.


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