Lawmakers question the ‘free’ in the Freedom Works Here campaign



(The Center Square) – South Dakota lawmakers are asking why some businesses paid for information from the “Freedom Works Here’ marketing campaign and how much it costs.

Gov. Kristi Noem announced the series of ads in June that feature here in various professions. The $5 million campaign is funded through the state’s Future Fund, overseen by the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.

Rep. Mike Derby, R-Rapid City, said some economic development organizations were asked to provide $10,000 to receive the contact list of responses from the campaign.

“Why was a decision made to provide information that I thought would have been provided organically for free to economic development organizations around state?” Derby asked GOED officials during a meeting of the Joint Appropriations Committee.

GOED Commissioner Chris Schilken said it was no different than any other marketing effort.

“So we had private companies and OED partners reach out to ask how they can contribute to keeping the workforce campaign going,” Schilken said. “As part of that we offered marketing apps.”

More than 30 partners have contributed about $400,000, Schilken said.

Lawmakers questioned the money spent on the campaign.

Rep. Linda Duba, D-Sioux Falls, said she was told businesses were asked to contribute because the campaign was out of money.

Workforce development campaigns, to be effective, are expensive, Schilken said.

“The partners that were reaching out were very cognizant of that and we wanted to be able to extend the campaign as long as possible and so by agreeing to match the dollars, that was part of the commitment to the partners,” Schilken said.

The GOED also has $1 million in unspent funds from fiscal year 2023. Department officials were questioned about its plans for that money.

Lawmakers may have to wait until the 2024 budget hearings to get answers. Chairman Jean Hunhoff, R-Yankton, said she wanted GOED to have the costs “broken out” by then.

“You have how much came out of (the) Future Fund, how much you are partnering with, about the million and that’s in there, where are those dollars, and where are you putting the $400,000 and what’s in that fund that you are putting it into,” Hunhoff said. “And what’s the utilization of that fund, what can be funded through that, where the $400,000 is going to. I think you can do that.”

Duba said lawmakers also need to know about the campaign’s results.

“We heard all about these clicks and these opportunities through Freedom Works, but when it comes right down to it, how many people have directly been hired through this program and the Department of Labor,’ Duba said. “Where are we going to see those metrics? To me, that’s an outcome we need to see.”

GOED Finance Director Travis Dovre said workforce development campaigns are challenging.

“It’s a lot of money to have the ad placements to garner attention on the state,” Dovre said. “But not everybody who sees those ads decides to register with the Department of Labor and Regulation for job-seeking services. We will probably never have an exact number to provide to this committee on how many people moved here.”



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