From Belle Fourche, Buffalo, and Bison to Aberdeen, Groton, Webster, and Parkston I recently had the chance to sit down with so many South Dakotans. As the country continues to battle the COVID-19 pandemic, it is important to remember that many people – of all walks of life – are struggling, but that we are in this together and we will get through it.
My visits with the wonderful South Dakotans in these communities again reminded me of this state’s unique spirit. Our people are taking care of those who get sick. Our businesses are finding new ways to help their communities. And the state is doing all it can to give families the flexibility they need to keep food on the table and a roof over their heads.
While in Aberdeen, I got to celebrate with 3M as they unveiled an expansion of their facility. 3M’s plant in Aberdeen already produced more N-95s than anywhere in the world, and they’ve tripled their production since the start of 2020. Now, they’ll be able to produce even more of these crucial supplies for our frontline healthcare workers.
But this story extends so far beyond 3M itself. Immediately after the event, we visited Banner Engineering, a facility that develops innovative products, including several that 3M incorporates into their production lines. And I got to visit a dear favorite of mine at the Hitch’n Post.
In Groton, we visited Bierman Farm Services, a business that started providing breakfast for its clientele after restaurants in town closed early on in the pandemic. We swung by BaseKamp Lodge, where hunters can enjoy the natural social distancing of the outdoors while participating in one of South Dakota’s greatest pastimes, pheasant hunting. In Webster, we saw how Dakota Foundry stepped up to provide workout equipment (especially kettle bells) when supplies were low across the country. This spirit was repeated everywhere we went.
I spent Veterans’ Day in Parkston. While I was there, I saw a community united behind a desire to honor our fallen heroes, as well as the veterans who gave of themselves to serve our nation when duty called.
In Belle Fourche, we visited a western apparel store, Cowboy Too, whose owner and store manager had both recently transplanted from Minnesota and Oregon to live a life of freedom in South Dakota. We also stopped in Bison and Buffalo. In all three towns, we saw small businesses who were working together to keep their communities safe, strong, and healthy in the face of challenges.
In each of these towns, I met with the mayors and other community leaders. Time and time again, they thanked me for allowing them to have the flexibility to continue to provide for their communities, to innovate to help their neighbors, and to put food on the table.
I knew that South Dakotans could be trusted to exercise their personal responsibility, and each and every one of these people have proven me right. I owe tremendous thanks to the small business owners who are keeping our economy strong and growing stronger, who are providing for their communities while working to keep their neighbors healthy.
Our fight against COVID is not over. Cases and hospitalizations are up in our state. As I write this, more than 550 South Dakotans have died from this enemy. Each of their deaths is tragic, and my heart breaks for the families who will never see their loved-ones again. As we continue this fight, let’s remember that we’re in this together.