Spearfish Economic Development Corporation hosted Congressman Dusty Johnson at Black Hills State University on Tuesday, December 21 for a discussion with business representatives and city officials to focus on the work being done in Spearfish to address the workforce issues facing the country as a whole.
Johnson heard presentations from Pam Carriveau, interim provost and president of academic affairs at BHSU; and Kirk Easton, superintendent of Spearfish School District, about the steps being taken to meet the workforce needs in education. Through student success programs at BHSU, such as the joint internship program with Spearfish Economic Development Corporation; as well as the career and technical education center planned by the school district, educators in the Black Hills shared with Johnson that there is a real focus on helping students find a workforce direction.
Spearfish mayor Dana Boke also updated Johnson, and everybody in the room, about the work being done at Sky Ridge to keep affordable housing options in Spearfish for that workforce. “Right now our median house (price) is over $400,000, and what we are looking at is the first (price) level house (at Sky Ridge) is just under $200,000. The second is just under $250,000, and the third level of house at this development maxes out at the first-time home buyers (price cap) which is around $300,000.”
Johnson said he was impressed by the measures being taken by Spearfish to address the gaps in workforce housing and training. “I grew up in poverty; there were seven of us in my family and, but for work, education, and training, I could not have gotten out of that situation,” he said. “Some people win the lottery but realistically there is no – underline, ‘NO’ – way out of poverty without some form of work, training, and education.”
Johnson praised the leadership of Spearfish for taking the steps it has to address the ongoing and countrywide workforce problem. “I want to thank you for what you’re doing because, frankly, I think a lot of what we’re doing is working in tandem as we encourage people who can work to work. They’re gonna need houses, they’re gonna need education, they’re gonna need opportunities, so thank you for doing what you’re doing,” he said.