Medical Research, Manufacturing Are Big Players in Sioux Falls Economy

At top location for business and careers among almost 200 smaller U.S. metros is tough to beat.

On Wednesday, May 4, 2011 - 16:48

Landing at the top of Forbes magazine’s list of the best places for business and careers among almost 200 smaller U.S. metros is tough to beat. Unless you do it twice. Sioux Falls took first-place honors in the publication’s 2006 and 2008 rankings.

The city of roughly 200,000 people scored in the top handful for education and cost-of-living subcategories. In job growth, Sioux Falls ranked No. 66 in 2008, ahead of other hot spots on the list such as Ithaca, N.Y., Rochester, Minn., Athens, Ga., and Bloomington, Ind.

With no personal or corporate income tax, South Dakota overall is considered a very business-friendly state, and Sioux Falls is reaping the benefits of the state climate, its own initiatives and a growing high-tech and medical research base. Hospitals are the city’s major employers, a fairly common trend in small to medium-sized cities, but Sioux Falls is taking it to another level. Sanford Health is building a 185-acre research park expected to attract 1,000 new jobs over the next decade. A meatpacking plant was once the city’s biggest employer, and agribusiness remains a vital part of the region’s economy.

John Morrell & Company employs more than 3,000 in its Sioux City plant making several brand-name meat products. But Sioux Falls is far from a one horse, or one cow, town these days. Hospitals, health care, medical research, financial companies and credit card processing are adding jobs and diversity. Many companies have more than 500 workers in their Sioux Falls facilities, including Hutchinson Technology, which makes suspension assemblies for disk drives; Esurance, the direct-to-consumer auto insurance folks; CIGNA Tel-Drug, the company’s mail order pharmacy; Raven Industries, maker of ultra thin and reinforced plastic sheeting, precision flow controls for agriculture and electronic systems; and StarMark Inc., the cabinet maker. The city has several development and industrial parks and downtown Sioux Falls is booming with renovated office space, unique shopping, loft living and a lively arts and restaurant scene.