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A sheep rancher in a corral with sheep.
Farmers and ranchers across South Dakota, including Butte County sheep producer John Erk, Newell, S.D., shown here in 2020, are always looking for ways to expand opportunities to sell their goods. (Bart Pfankuch / News Watch file photo)

Think Global: New South Dakota Group To Push Trade

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. – As a former national security adviser to former Vice President Mike Pence and a woman who grew up in small-town South Dakota, Army Col. Andrea Thompson of Sioux Falls is uniquely positioned to serve on a new coalition that will put a Rushmore State focus on political and economic issues of global importance.

Thompson will be one of about 75 thought leaders statewide who will serve on the new South Dakota advisory committee of the U.S. Global Leadership Coalition (USGLC), a bipartisan national group that seeks to define and strengthen America’s role in worldwide governmental, economic and diplomatic affairs.

The South Dakota state advisory committee of USGLC is the 33rd state chapter to advise the national group. It hopes to usher in new opportunities for the state and its leaders to expand knowledge and understanding of global affairs and the worldwide marketplace. The panel will also seek to provide South Dakota businesses and individuals with opportunities to expand into new international markets.

The new state chapter will launch during a global affairs conference in Sioux Falls on Wednesday, March 27. Speakers include U.S. Sen. John Thune, former South Dakota Gov. Dennis Daugaard and Col. Thompson.

“This is really just another resource for our community leaders, our business leaders, our political leaders to gain insight on areas of the world that we might not now be familiar with,” Thompson said.

Access to new opportunities

Thompson grew up in Pierre, attended the University of South Dakota and spent 28 years in the Army, serving tours as an intelligence officer in Iraq and Afghanistan. She then served as national security adviser to the vice president and undersecretary of state for arms control and international security.

Thompson retired from the Army in 2016 and returned to South Dakota in November 2023 to become CEO of the Dakota State University Applied Research Corp., planned for a space in northwest Sioux Falls.

Thompson, who served on the national board of USGLC, said the new state committee will bring together leaders in industry, the nonprofit sector, education, agriculture, politics and the faith-based community to focus on two major objectives.

“It allows us to educate and inform the U.S. and international communities about what South Dakota brings to the economy and it gives us access to senior leaders and decision-makers that we may not normally have access to,” Thompson told News Watch in an interview.

The committee will be co-chaired by Daugaard and Jim Abbott, former president of the University of South Dakota.

The South Dakota committee will create new lines of communication with leaders in a wide range of fields from other states, in Washington and across the world, Thompson said.

“I find that almost all of our problems can be solved with communication,” she said. “I’ve told our soldiers, my government peers and business leaders that we’re better together when we share ideas and when we share the lessons learned by others.”

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‘We bring America together’

USGLC CEO Liz Schrayer told News Watch that the breadth of leadership within the national organization and on state committees provides a forum for greater understanding of the United States’ role on the global stage and in expanding economic opportunities for all Americans.

The Washington Post once referred to the USGLC as the “Strange Bedfellows Coalition,” a moniker that Schrayer shares with pride.

Pigs at a South Dakota hog farm

“We bring together America,” she said. “Leaders who believe that America needs to be engaged in the world and who support that idea through our diplomacy and our development understand that it matters to America’s economic security and our values.”

Schrayer said the time is right to launch an advisory committee in South Dakota, where 1 in 5 jobs is related to trade, $12 billion in agricultural products are exported each year, and nearly 1,000 in-state businesses export more than $2.5 billion in goods and services a year.

“What matters globally, matters locally,” she said. “South Dakotans believe and see and live the ideal that South Dakota matters to the world and that the world matters to South Dakota.”

Creating new economic pathways

The new advisory committee will enable South Dakota leaders from all walks of life and commerce to develop a stronger understanding of world events and how crises around the world affect life and business in the state, Schrayer said.

The state committee will create new pathways for South Dakota leaders to share the state’s story of success with governmental and industry leaders in the U.S. and around the world, she said.

“There’s so much that South Dakota has to be proud of,” Schrayer said, noting the state’s role in helping to feed the world and having strong leaders in Congress.

Luke Lindberg, CEO of South Dakota Trade, a statewide business development group launched in 2023, said the new committee will help the state play a greater role in the international marketplace and in advising national leaders on global affairs.

“What happens overseas does impact our state’s producers and manufacturers, our national security and our way of life,” said Lindberg, who will also serve on the March 27 panel. “It’s an exciting time to see more momentum of South Dakotans being willing to step forward and say that this stuff matters.”

Bipartisanship an important element

Lindberg said the bipartisan nature of the USGLC in Washington and within the South Dakota committee is important to the continued success of the organization. The apolitical nature of the committee will allow members to focus on the big picture of maintaining strong American presence in global affairs and advocating for a strong international affairs budget within federal government.

Conflicts and upheaval on the global political stage do have an effect on South Dakotans and the state economy, Lindberg said. As examples, he noted that the state agricultural industry is affected by the war in Ukraine or from Chinese aggression toward Taiwan, and that airmen and women stationed at Ellsworth Air Force Base might be called on at anytime to engage in U.S. military interests abroad.

“Our farmers have the propensity to ramp up production and deliver necessary foods around the world,” he said. “And that’s a good opportunity for us to demonstrate American leadership and make an impact back here in the heartland.”

Seventy-five thought leaders statewide will serve on the bi-partisan national group that seeks to define and strengthen America’s role in worldwide governmental, economic and diplomatic affairs.

South Dakota Advisory Committee of USGLC
Name, company/organization, title

Micah Aberson, Cambria, President, Rabbi Mendel Alperowitz, Chabad Jewish Center of South Dakota, Rabbi, Joe Beck, South Dakotal Trade, Chair, Ivan Beck, Agropur, Senior Director International Sales & Key Accounts
Abby Bischoff, Stockyards Ag Experience, Executive Director, Mike Bockorny, Aberdeen Development Corporation, President/CEO, Pamela Bonrud, Northwestern Energy, Director of Government Relations
Ryan Budmayr, Lawrence & Schiller, Vice President of PR & Business Development, Hon. Casey Crabtree, Heartland Energy and South Dakota Senator, Director of Economic Development, Chris Daugaard, Ernst Capital Group, Partner
Hon. Linda Duba, South Dakota House of Representatives, Representative, Barry Dunn, South Dakota State University, President, Joni Ekstrum, South Dakota Biotech, Executive Director, Jesse Fonkert, State of South Dakota, Deputy Commissioner of Economic Development, Luis Garcia, Sanford Clinic & Sanford World Clinic, President, Sheila Gestring, The University of South Dakota, President, Jeff Griffin, Greater Sioux Falls Chamber of Commerce, President & CEO
Robert Griggs, Southeast Technical College, President, Evan Grong, Valley Queen Cheese, Sales Manager, Troy Hadrick, Hadrick Ranch, Managing Partner, Jamie Hale, Darceo, CEO, Dennis Harstad, Houdek, VP of Operations
Hon. Stephanie Herseth-Sandlin, Augustana University and former U.S. House Rep, President, Tim Houghton, H-S Precision, Chief Operating Officer, Brad Jankord, South Dakota Development Corporation, Vice President
Alex Jensen, DakPak & Max Muscle, CEO, Michelle Kakacek, SD Manufacturing and Technology Solutions, Director, Dan Kirby, Kirby Financial, President. Jon Kirby, Bluestem Capital, Vice President
Shantel Krebs, Avera St. Mary’s, Regional President & CEO, Hon. Liz Larson, South Dakota Senate, Senator, Scott Lawrence, Lawrence & Schiller, CEO, Dan Lederman, LS2 Group, Senior Advisor, Holly Lien, Pete Lien & Sons, Inc., Chief Marketing Officer
Luke Lindberg, South Dakota Trade, President & CEO, Dr. Jose Marie Griffiths, Dakota State University, President, Jack Marsh, South Dakota News Watch, Co-Founder, Mike McCranie, South Dakota Soybean, Board of Directors
Pierce McDowell, South Dakota Trust Company, President, Tim Meagher, Vanguard Hospitality, Chief Operating Officer, Pastor Rich Merkouris, King of Glory Church, Pastor, John Meyer, Leadership South Dakota, Director
Mark Mickelson, Mickelson & Company, President, DaNita Murray, South Dakota Corn, Executive Director, Rock Nelson, South Dakota Trade, Senior Trade Specialist, Zach Neugebauer, BookYourBillboard & Year Round Brown, CEO
Andrew Nilges, North Sioux City Economic Development Corporation, Executive Director, David Owen, South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry, President and Chief Lobbyist, Jeff Partridge, Partridge Financial, Owner
Matt Paulson, MarketBeat, Founder & CEO, Kyle Peters, A1 Development Solutions Development, Consultant, Hon. Drew Peterson, South Dakota House of Representatives, Representative, Tom Peterson, South Dakota Dairy Producers, Executive Director
Brendon Plack, National Football League, enior Vice President, Public Policy and Government Affairs, Jim Rankin, South Dakota Mines, President, Hon. Taylor Rehfeldt, South Dakota House of Representatives, Representative, Joel Rosenthal, Central Plains Tractor Parts, Manager
Stephen Rosenthal, South Dakotans for Israel, Administrator, Jamie Rounds, Rounds International, LLC, President, Taya Runyan, RHP Management, CEO, Bob Sahr, East-River Electric Cooperative, CEO
Nathan Sanderson, South Dakota Retailers Association, Executive Director, Tiffany Sanderson, Lake Area Technical College, President, Mary Schaefbauer, South Dakota Trust Association, President, Jim Schmidt, Lincoln County, Commissioner
Jerry Schmitz, South Dakota Soybean, Executive Director, Neal Schnoor, Northern State University, President, Hon. Lee Schoenbeck South Dakota Senate President Pro Tempore, Scott Sletten, JDS Industries, President & CEO
Deborah Soholt, Children’s Home Society, President, Hollie Stalder, Belle Fourche Economic Development Corporation, Executive Director, Hon. Paul TenHaken, City of Sioux Falls, Mayor, Andrea Thompson, Dakota State University Applied Research Corporation, CEO
John Willard, CAW Industries Inc, CEO

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