DSU plans major cyber research facility in Sioux Falls – SiouxFalls.Business
January 26, 2022
Dakota State University is planning a cybersecurity research center in Sioux Falls, which is expected to bring at least 400 six-figure paying jobs and $100 million in annual economic activity.
The building, a $50 million project funded by a donation from Denny Sanford, will be located at the Sanford Sports Complex, near Sanford Health’s future Virtual Care Center.
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“It’s big,” said DSU President José-Marie Griffiths. “If you look at where the cybersecurity activity is in the United States, it’s on the coasts. And there is nothing in the middle. It’s a simple opportunity. The vision has become perhaps that South Dakota can become a “cyber state” operating in the center of the country. Maybe we could provide service from here.
It took years to bring the vision together as partners from state and local government, business, higher education, and philanthropist Sanford came together.
The overall initiative, estimated at $90 million, also includes a donation of up to 16 acres from Sanford Health.
Of that total, $30 million over five years will require approval from the South Dakota Legislature and will be directed not to Sioux Falls but to Madison, where DSU is seeking to double the number of graduates from Beacom College of Computer & Cyber Science.
“DSU Madison is the engine that drives all of this development,” Griffiths said. “We can no longer generate graduates because our faculty is overstretched as it is.”
Producing more graduates in cyber programs also requires increasing capacity in the College of Arts and Sciences, where these students take many of their general education courses, she added.
Of this total, $10 million will come from the City of Sioux Falls to support infrastructure for the new research building site, and $250,000 is being allocated by the Forward Sioux Falls Economic Development Partnership over five years.
Dakota State University’s Applied Research Laboratory, or ARL, is designed as a 100,000 square foot building that will be highly specialized and built to specifications to take advantage of all cyber research opportunities.
“This is not a traditional construction project,” Griffiths said. “We are losing a number of our graduates to the specialist facilities that are there because they have to go there to do the job, and now they have a facility where it can be done.”
Facilities that perform work that supports national security and defense require special clearance, and the level of work performed at DSU requires a separate clearance for the university itself – one that can be used within 50 miles of Madison.
Madison Cyber Labs, which opened in 2019, has begun to attract corporate interest in contracting out work, and an attached applied research lab is also gaining momentum after a delay pandemic-related opening hours, Griffiths said.
“Sioux Falls has become a natural place to look,” Griffiths said. “We need to build a new building in Sioux Falls that’s much bigger than our lab here.”
The DSU ARL would be a state-owned facility, but those who work there would not be state employees, Griffiths said. A separate non-profit organization will be formed and serve as a contractor with those in need of cybersecurity research – everyone from government contractors to private companies. Entities could potentially rent space and employ people within the lab or directly contract with the nonprofit organization to provide these services.
Think Google, Microsoft, Amazon. These types of businesses are all potential users or customers of a facility like this.
“They’re very interested in the specialized facility that we have because they work in those areas as well, and there aren’t many such facilities,” Griffiths said.
The initial estimate calls for 400 to 500 jobs associated with the center, bringing in salaries of more than $100,000, but that’s likely a minimum, said Miles Beacom, a DSU graduate and namesake of the college that will train graduates.
“This is just an amazing opportunity for South Dakota,” he said. “We keep these superstars as graduates here in Sioux Falls, where in the past they had to move to DC where the jobs were.”
Denny Sanford was brought in to support the benefits of keeping cyber experts in the state, said Beacom, CEO of Premier Bankcard, which Sanford founded and owns.
“These will also bring in other jobs, and people will be competing for those people,” Beacom said. “I could see expansion in the future and businesses moving to South Dakota. These will be incredibly competitive jobs.
Griffiths’ connections run deep in this area, he added.
“These jobs will really be from the seeds she sowed,” he said. “When you look at the partnerships between contractors working for the government in DC, and there will be business relationships all tied together within this lab.”
Potential partners are in constant contact, Griffiths said.
“Every day we have people visiting us,” she said. “The demand is significant. Last week, the number of unfilled cyber jobs in the United States was 402,000. The total number of jobs is accelerating growth.
The city government is offering to support the project with a $10 million contribution largely dedicated to site infrastructure, Mayor Paul TenHaken said.
“Five hundred $100,000 jobs at scale is just an incredible addition to the economy,” he said. “I’m so excited to finally lift the curtain on this thing. It just took the right people to make it all come together.
The city’s commitment will include some programmatic support and does not include additional road extensions that will likely be needed as the center and surrounding areas develop, he said. This will depend on the approval of the city council.
“We’re in a position right now where we can aggressively fund this early on,” TenHaken said, pointing to the city’s strong sales tax collection last year and subsequent fund balance.
“The hope is that it will really start to grow and serve as a cyber incubator. The people who will work in the cyber incubator park will not work there forever. They will launch cyber startups that will stay in our community We plan this so that there is a campus there and not just a singular building.
There’s enough land for up to three of those buildings, Griffiths said.
“If we have the workforce available and we have the lifestyle that people want, and you have Sioux Falls, which is a great place for young professionals and a great place to raise families, I think just that it has a lot to offer,” she said. noted. “It’s part of an even bigger package…and I just think the opportunity is huge.”
Work on the building’s site is expected to begin this spring, subject to legislature and city council approvals, meaning the building would be ready in fall 2025.