Former Gov. Mike Rounds handed out $21 million in Future Fund grants during his final year in office, an investigation by the Capital Journal has determined.
According to records obtained from the Governor’s Office of Economic Development, during his eight-year administration, Rounds gave 587 grants totaling more than $75 million to various companies and government entities. Individual Future Fund disbursements ranged from $400 to $1.5 million, while Rounds served as governor.
In 2003 – Rounds’ first in office – he awarded just 34 individual grants totaling $4.4 million. The next two years, Rounds nearly doubled that, handing out $7.9 and $7.7 million, respectively.
Rounds gave out $9.6 million between 86 different Future Funds grants in 2006. That was the highest total number of grants awarded in a single year until his final year in office.
During the last year of his administration – 2010 – Rounds gave away 145 grants, which totaled $21.4 million. Nearly 30 grants were awarded in the month of December alone.
By comparison, Gov. Daugaard gave out 53 Future Fund grants worth $7.4 during his first year in office. In 2012, there were 39 Future Fund grants worth $6.2 million awarded. A total of 55 grants were handed out in 2013, totaling $12.8 million.
Throughout his entire administration, Rounds handed out 11 grants worth $1 million or more.
Eagle Creek Software was the recipient of the single largest Future Fund awarded during Rounds’ tenure. The company received a $1.5 million grant in March 2008. Later that month, Eagle Creek Software was given an additional $200,000.
Dakota Turkey Growers, a Huron-based manufacturer and poultry producer, received $3.5 million in Future Funds while Rounds was in office.
Another $1.1 million was given to a movie theater in Kyle, S.D. – a town of 846 residents, according to the 2010 U.S. Census – to “assist with improvements.”
Rounds told the Capital Journal the increase in Future Funds during his final year in office occurred as the state’s businesses attempted to recover from the recession. “As we came out of the recession and new manufacturers started showing up, they would apply for workforce development grant funds,” he said.
Rounds called Future Funds “one of the best tools South Dakota has for economic development efforts.”
The Future Fund was created by Gov. Mickelson in the 1980s as an attempt to invest in the state’s workforce and build the economy. Some Future Funds are grants, while others are loans, depending on the project, according to a spokesperson in the Governor’s Office of Economic Development.
The Future Fund provides South Dakota’s businesses support for workforce development and technical assistance programs, as well as encourages entrepreneurial activities, according to the website of the GOED.