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South Dakota shows economic growth reservations still being left behind

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PIERRE, S.D. - A leading economic indicator put South Dakota on top in a nine-state region, but tribes in the state continue to wait their turn.

Cooperative efforts between the state and the tribes, in beginning stages, may help the nine reservations cope with high unemployment, lack of jobs and access to funding that can create additional private and tribal businesses.

The state was given the positive news while state and tribal leaders met to begin a process that could continue the state's increase and allow reservation populations to be part of a collaborative effort for economic growth.

The state's economic index, according to the Mid-America Conditions Survey increased to 77.0, up from 56.7, in August. The region as a whole dropped from 60.2 to 56.3. A figure above 50 indicates growth and below 50 indicates loss.

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"Despite recent job cuts at several of the state's larger employers, I expect positive job growth for the rest of 2003," said Dr. Ernie Goss, Creighton University economics professor.

Credit for the increase came from Tourism and State Development Secretary John Calvin who said business leaders have embraced Gov. Mike Rounds' commitment to economic growth.

Gov. Rounds also indicated support for cooperative efforts between the state and the tribes.

Even though the indicator showed some increase, employment remained soft and business leaders remained cautiously optimistic about the future.

Continued dialogue between the state and the tribes over cooperative agreements in economic develop could show continued growth in the state's economic indicator, state and tribal officials said.