The Secret to Innovation: We Asked, They Told
At the inaugural Free Enterprise panel at this year's Small Business Summit, we asked a diverse group of business people: What's the secret to innovation?
Ever considered moving to Sioux Falls, South Dakota?
You probably should.
Home to just shy of 165,000 people, Sioux Falls ranked as one of the fastest growing cities in the U.S. over the past decade and the fastest in its home state. Though there are a lot of reasons why its economy has sped forward at such a torrid pace since the turn of the century, no single variable stands out among the rest, according to Mike Huether.
Huether, whom we recently sat down with for a soon-to-be published Q&A, was freshly elected to his second term as mayor of Sioux Falls. As the South Dakota native told Free Enterprise, he ran on an economic platform that emphasized the importance of modernizing the city’s infrastructure and continually broadening its economic base.
Coupled with favorable state and local regulations, the mayor’s efforts have helped fuel the metro area’s business economy in the post-recessionary period. While cities across the U.S. struggled to add jobs and stoke growth amid strong headwinds, Sioux Falls has fared significantly better. In December, for instance, its 3.1% unemployment rate was 2.5 percentage points lower than the then-national rate of 5.6%.
The linchpin of that success—which, again, we’ll explore in a number of upcoming pieces—has come from the city’s economic diversity. Besides being a regional healthcare hub, Sioux Falls has succeeded in attracting financial firms, business services consultancies, agribusinesses, and technology startups. This mixture of industries, Huether argues, has helped insulate Sioux Falls from weaknesses in the broader U.S. economy. If you need proof, check out the city’s Top 10 Wins of 2014.
But what makes Sioux Falls such a draw for educated young workers, and how, did it become an economic model for other cities? These are some of the questions we’ve set out to answer this month in our ongoing #SiliconCitiesUSA series, which aims to uncover the country’s next startup hubs.