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Business owner questions if South Dakota is welcoming to all companies

Published: Oct. 8, 2020 at 7:21 PM CDT
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FLANDREAU, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Hard work on the farm is what Jared Nieuwenhuis knows and loves.

“Yeah, my dad has been farming since I was born, and so yep being out there walking beans you know cutting down weeds doing all that stuff, blisters,” said Nieuwenhuis.

Following his passion to make a difference, paired with his love of farming brought him to starting East Prairie Laboratories, a soil testing facility just outside of Flandreau.

“I started it because I wanted to help people and one of the best ways you can help farmers is by reducing the amount they spend each year because they’re not making a lot of money right now either,” said Nieuwenhuis.

Four employees, all graduates of South Dakota Universities are part of the team that tests the soil in farmer’s fields.

“We’ll lay that grid over the field, we’ll take those samples and then we’ll analyze them in the lab,” said Nieuwenhuis.

He’s established an accuracy to be proud of.

“We were able to come within one part per million of some of the biggest labs that have been around since the 70s,” said Nieuwenhuis.

When a company connecting farmers and soil testing put up a roadblock, Jared says he was told in confidence why he wouldn’t be getting their business.

“I am gay, I am a business owner, I work in a lab, and that shouldn’t matter,” said Nieuwenhuis.

The setback took his breath away.

“People that don’t want to send samples to somebody because they’re gay or, because they’re Democrat in the state, that’s almost a worse word in some instances, I would say take a step back, and really think about, you know, would you rather do business with someone who’s local,” said Nieuwenhuis.

Refusing to do business with a company based on the owner’s political beliefs or lifestyle choice is not surprising to Adam Jorgensen of the ACLU.

“I think South Dakota and other Midwestern states have the Midwest nice kind of mentality where they might not say something directly to you but you can see them whispering or talking to other people, and it makes you second guess everything,” said Jorgensen.

As South Dakota invites businesses to start or move here, some question if it truly is an open state for all.

“If our elected leaders are really saying that this South Dakota is open for business they want you to work here to live here, and they really need to act on that. They need to step up I think when businesses discriminate against people based on their race orientation who they love their political party. I think that really contradicts their message,” said Jorgensen.

Niewenhuis understands life isn’t fair and isn’t looking for favors.

“I try to live my life by, I give everybody a chance. And that’s all I’m asking for in return is a chance,” said Nieuwenhuis.

As he reviews the company’s bottom line, hard decisions may have to be made early next year.

“Does it have to be this way in South Dakota, or can it be based on merit,” said Nieuwenhuis.

Dakota News Now reached out to The Governor’s office of economic development and did not receive a response. Nieuwenhuis has become involved in politics on is on the ballot in District 25, running for the State House.

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