OPINION — As we approach our third year of life during a pandemic, many Americans feel trapped on a merry-go-round of COVID variants and mandates. In contrast, South Dakotans should look forward with hope to the possibilities of the future.

I expect another year of steady growth in 2022 for our state. The past year saw our economy become the strongest in America as we led the nation in pandemic recovery and a host of other factors. Record tourism numbers drove revenues to historic levels as capacity crowds flooded businesses and communities. Meanwhile, unemployment rates plummeted below pre-pandemic levels.

Because of the measures our state took during the pandemic, South Dakota has become one of the Top 10 fastest-growing states in the country. Our population grew at a rate nine times faster than the nation’s growth rate in the last year, based on U.S. Census Bureau data.  

With businesses growing and new companies moving to the state, we have so many open jobs that it would take more than 28,000 people to fill them all. Nearly a quarter of those available spots are in high-paying, skilled healthcare jobs.  

All of those available jobs have given workers new bargaining strength as they compete for higher wages and jobs that offer better opportunities for work-family balance. Many people have put themselves on the fast track for better career paths. A recent study found South Dakota is the No. 1 state in the nation for graduation rates in Associate Degree programs.

While other states faced economic collapse, we maintained our status as a business-friendly state by making resources available, keeping taxes low, and ensuring that South Dakota continues to make it easy for anyone to start a business. We remained focused on fiscal responsibility, using one-time dollars to support capital projects that will strengthen our state for decades into the future. We invested to finish connecting the entire state to high-speed internet. And we are taking action to address problems with workforce housing, childcare, and water infrastructure to set our state up for sustained growth.

The country faces serious economic challenges in 2022. But because South Dakota fast-tracked solutions and took an extremely conservative path in funding those solutions, we can approach this new year with unbridled optimism.

Do not let the doom and gloom become your default in the new year. Choose to believe in the possibilities of success and let hope guide you to positive outcomes this coming year.

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