Business Conference: Optimistic Outlook for Regional Economy

SIOUX FALLS, SD – A message of optimism prevailed at the Sioux Falls Business Conference held Wednesday on the campus of Augustana College.

Augustana President Rob Oliver welcomed more than 280 area business men and women to the conference with the theme Succeeding in the New Economy. “We are here to discuss how we can help each other and how we can strengthen area businesses,” Oliver said.

Tobias Madden, regional economist at the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, delivered the keynote address. He concentrated on three questions: How did the country get into the current financial mess? What does this mean for the region’s economy? What is the Fed doing to make sure it doesn’t happen again?

He pointed to “messed up” lending incentives as the cause of the recession, which began in 2007. Enormous resources were poured into home construction and strip malls. He said it was only a matter of time before the market adjusted and the result was skyrocketing unemployment.

Madden said District 9, which includes South Dakota, has the lowest loan delinquency rate in the nation. And, despite a general atmosphere of pessimism, he expressed confidence that profits, revenues, and employment in the state will show advances. “Look for employment of 4½ percent in South Dakota by the end of the year, but wages probably will not go up much,” Madden said. “The economy appears to be in an expansion mode after two years but it doesn’t look like explosive growth going forward.”

Six breakout sessions were offered to the participants. Included was New Technology Marketing Place. The session featured Paul Ten Haken, founder and president of Click Rain, Inc., and Melissa Johnson, owner of Oh My Cupcakes, LLC. Dr. Marcia Entwistle, chair of the Department of Business Administration at Augustana, served as moderator.

Ten Haken said statistics show 31 percent of South Dakotans with facebook profiles, which is the highest per capita in the country. He said 1.5 trillion text messages were sent throughout the country in 2009. One-third of the nation’s teenagers with cell phones send more than 100 text messages a day and they represent future customers. Eighty percent of companies now use social networking as part of the recruitment process. He talked about new technologies on the horizon, or already in play. “Know what’s coming and assess what it can do for your business,” he said.

Johnson launched her business in August 2009, selling only cupcakes. To attract customers she started with a webpage and was advised to add twitter and facebook. In March 2010, the business had 853 facebook fans; the number as of June 2 jumped to 2,463. “With facebook and twitter you can give your business some personality,” she said.

David Owen, president of the South Dakota Chamber of Commerce & Industry, spoke at the luncheon in the Morrison Commons. He addressed the question, What’s the new Economy?

In his closing remarks, President Oliver reminded the participants that “simple solutions seldom are.”

The conference was sponsored by Augustana, The Sioux Falls Business Journal, and Architecture Incorporated.

View photos from the conference:

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Bruce Conley
Director, News Information
Phone: 605.274.5526
Fax: 605.274.4903
bruce.conley@augie.edu