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CREDIT CARD COMPANIES: South Dakota's economy was in a slump in 1980. Citibank was losing money due to New York's cap on interest rates - which was lower than the rate of inflation. Gov. Bill Janklow met with Citibank executives and made a deal: South Dakota would loosen its interest rate restrictions and invite Citibank into the state. In turn, the bank would bring hundreds of good-paying jobs. The deal passed the Legislature in a single day. Three decades later, Sioux Falls has thousands of jobs in the finance sector, not just from Citibank but from other companies that followed suit. The result has been sharp changes in the state's economy and demographics, as well as millions of dollars more each year for the state budget.

WIRED CLASSROOMS: Janklow used prison labor to wire South Dakota's classrooms for access to the Internet starting in 1996 - a pioneering goal accomplished for just a few million dollars. Initial estimates had projected costs of $100 million or more. Students got access to educational opportunities online, while the state saved money and prisoners gained marketable skills in electrical work.

SAVING THE RAILROADS: When one of the state's major railroads went bankrupt, South Dakota was at risk of seeing half the state's miles of track abandoned. This was particularly worrisome for farmers who relied on those rail lines to ship their crops to market. Janklow instead arranged for the state to buy the track - including levying a temporary 1 cent sales tax to do it. The state created a railroad authority and raised more than $50 million in bonds and taxes to buy more than 1,300 miles of track. It then leased those tracks to private rail companies, making back much of the cost of purchase. Thirty years later, the state still owns around 250 miles of track, including a line between Mitchell and Kadoka.

CAPITOL RENOVATION: In the early 1980s, the inside of the South Dakota Capitol looked "like a bomb went off" with "low-bid blue" paint covering up decades-old wood paneling and offices built haphazardly in the hallways. Janklow ordered the Bureau of Administration to find the money in its budget to restore the building's second floor to its original grandeur - which so impressed lawmakers they appropriated funds to fix up the rest of the building.

PROPERTY TAX REFORM: In 1994, voters fed up with property taxes were prepared to all but eliminate them. Janklow offered a compromise: he would cut the property tax rates by 30 percent. The plan worked, as voters rejected a ballot initiative doing away with the property tax. Over Janklow's final two terms in office, he followed through with his promise and found the money to slash property tax rates.

SALESMAN-IN-CHIEF: Janklow plunged into the role of promoting South Dakota with gusto. He started promoting the Custer Buffalo Roundup and started the annual Fourth of July fireworks at Mount Rushmore, both of which became significant tourist draws, though the fireworks are now indefinitely canceled. Janklow also focused on trying to recruit out-of-state businesses into South Dakota, sparking a minor feud with Minnesota by trying to lure that state's companies west. Along those lines he restarted the Governor's Hunt, which along with the Roundup has become a major tool for recruiting businesses.

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CEMENT PLANT: For the better part of a century, South Dakota had operated a cement plant in Rapid City. In 2001, Bill Janklow changed that, calling the Legislature into special session to sell the plant for $250 million. That money was put into a trust fund which continues to provide revenue for the state.

 

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