Small Businesses are a Not-So-Small Part of South Dakota’s Economy

Shipping book orders at the Custer, S.D. post office loading dock. (L-R) Camille Riner, Postmaster Larry Stalder and Paul Horsted. Photo: Paul Horsted/www.paulhorsted.com

By Sen. John Thune
November 21, 2017

Whether it’s Sioux Falls or Rapid City or any city in between, the communities dotting South Dakota’s landscape have far more in common than just a shared area code. It doesn’t matter if it’s a blink-and-you’ll-miss-it town or a multiple-exits-on-the-interstate city, you’re likely going to pass or visit a South Dakotan-owned small business along the way.

In fact, it wouldn’t be out of the ordinary if the only businesses in some communities were small family-owned operations. They help keep gas tanks, coffee mugs, and lunchboxes full, and they help keep cars, trucks, and farm equipment on the road and in the field. They’re the lifeblood for many South Dakota communities.

There are more than 83,000 small businesses across South Dakota, according to the U.S. Small Business Administration. These businesses, of which nearly one-third are owned by hard-working South Dakota women, employ nearly 60 percent of South Dakota’s private workforce and account for more than 96 percent of all the businesses in the entire state. Of all the South Dakota companies that exported goods in 2013, more than 75 percent of them were small businesses, according to the U.S. International Trade Administration.

In addition to being a large part of South Dakota’s economy, small businesses play an important role in the American Dream, too.

After my grandfather and his brother immigrated to the United States, they laced-up their boots, looked for work, and found jobs as railroad workers as the transcontinental railroads made their way across the country. They worked hard, saved up, and opened a hardware store in Mitchell. My grandfather then moved to Murdo, my hometown, to run another hardware store. My mom and dad worked there for years, too, and although the ownership has changed over the years, the Mitchell store still bears the Thune family name.

All that to say, small businesses are a big deal here in South Dakota, and they have a long history here, too.

There’s a lot to be thankful for this time of year, including the contributions small business owners make to the communities in which they operate. That’s a large part of why Small Business Saturday – the Saturday after Thanksgiving – has become such a popular event in communities around the country.

Being a small business owner means far more than flipping the sign on the front door from “open” to “closed” and earning a paycheck. It means more than just working in a community. It means being part of a community. These are the same folks who support the local booster club, help organize the local Fourth of July parade, and greet hometown heroes when they return home from war.

There are already plenty of good reasons to show small businesses that this kind of local support is mutual, but by shopping small on Small Business Saturday, we can collectively send that message loud and clear.

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