SDSU provides economic boost for Brookings
By Eric Sandbulte, The Brookings Register

South Dakota is $2.66 billion richer thanks to the state’s six public universities, and Brookings benefits from South Dakota State University, too.

That’s according to data from a study sponsored by the South Dakota Board of Regents and the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry, led by Mike Algrunn, associate professor of economics at the University of South Dakota’s School of Business.

SDSU alone has a $963 million annual economic footprint in the state compared to the $64 million it receives from the state.

“We sometimes take that resource for granted, being in Brookings,” Al Heuton, executive director at Brookings Economic Development Corporation said. “SDSU has been a fantastic educational institution but also is a big part of our economy, and at BEDC, we look at he university being our largest industry in the community. I think it’s appropriate to view it that way.”

The university fills as many 2,372 full-time jobs. In an indirect manner, another 7,554 full-time jobs exist thanks to SDSU’s spending. “South Dakota State University is Brookings’ largest employer in terms of total employees, so there’s a huge impact just from having all those people employed and in the community or commuting to Brookings to go to work,” Heuton said.

Beyond money, SDSU attracts a lot of people in and around Brookings: according to the study, 23,548 people live in South Dakota because of the university.

The more than 10,000 students at the university inject about $70 million into the South Dakota economy through day-to-day living expenses (not including tuition and fees), which means that Brookings is the first to benefit.

Brookings also gains labor from students who intern or work part-time jobs while attending school. That, Heuton said, “has a tremendous impact on our ability to start, grow and recruit businesses.”

He pointed out a variety of manufacturing and science and tech based businesses started by those from SDSU: Daktronics, RTI, Northern Plains Power Technologies, Prairie Aquatech, to name a few. “There’s a number of manufacturing and science and technology companies that have some direct association with SDSU that would not be here if the university hadn’t been here,” Heuton said. “Then throw in all the retail service companies, all the food and drinking establishments that are very heavily supported by the SDSU population.”

Basically, Brookings as we know it would not be here without the university: “It would be a very, very different community.”

As a whole, the $2.66 billion from the six public universities in state amounts to 5.9 percent of the state’s economy. And that’s after the state invests $197 million into the public university system.

All in all, there are 5,628 full-time jobs in South Dakota directly tied to those universities and 67,850 people living in this state that wouldn’t be here without those universities. Those people include students, faculty and staff and their families, and others who aren’t employed by a university, but
are able to make a living thanks to university spending (SDSU counts $309,565,113 in total spending).

Still, salaries and benefits comprise about half of all system-wide expenses. The average university employee surveyed in the study reported spending $14,227 in South Dakota each year.

Beyond salaries and benefits, major expenses typically include capital outlays, maintenance and repair and construction expenditures.

The full study can be found and read at

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