During the last 50 years or so, our local development corporation, the state of South Dakota and many others have worked together to create jobs in Lake County.

In Madison, it started with the closing of the Morrell’s meatpacking plant here in the early 1970s. Hundreds of jobs were lost, and the employees needed work. At the same time, farms were consolidating and automating, requiring fewer people to work the land. They needed jobs as well.

The Madison Development Corporation, now known as the Lake Area Improvement Corporation, worked to bring companies such as Guerdon’s, Gehl, Rapid Air, Rosco, May & Scofield, Falcon Plastics and many more to our community. In the earliest days, it was a promise of an affordable building, a break on real estate taxes or a low-interest loan that attracted the companies. Later, it was grants and other incentives paid directly to companies that would bring jobs to our area.

The effort to create jobs has been a rousing success and has boosted the economy and quality of life in Madison.

In 2022, things are a little different. There are plenty of jobs available, but they remain open for lack of workers. Every business, organization, school and other institution seems to be looking to hire people, but few are available.

The LAIC is trying to recruit workers to our area to fill jobs, focusing mostly on boosting the housing available for people to move here, or affordable day care to allow more parents to work outside the home.

What about going one step further? Perhaps we could create incentives to help grow businesses that don’t create jobs. Sounds crazy, doesn’t it? Let us explain.

Businesses that can’t hire enough people are at risk of losing sales, customers, reputation and more. If those losses persist, the business could close or move away. We want and need successful businesses in Madison; struggling, suffering businesses are not healthy for a local economy.

So if we could offer incentives to help local businesses grow and prosper without adding new job vacancies, we should do so. Perhaps new automation could be purchased that would allow production growth without adding more people. Or extensive training in modern manufacturing methods like Lean or Six Sigma could be arranged. Perhaps an upgrade of equipment could be financed that is more productive than current machines.

We want to continue our long tradition of helping businesses boost the quality of life in Madison. We just have to keep evolving to find out the best ways.

— Jon M. Hunter