Simplified: Dakota State University plans to add a $90 million expansion of its cybersecurity program via a highly-specialized facility in Sioux Falls. But first, the university is asking for $10 million from the city to help make the plan a reality.

Why it matters

  • DSU's cybersecurity programs have been growing fast and receiving national recognition in recent years. Last year, the university opened an applied research lab where people are working on cybersecurity projects in partnership with the federal Department of Defense, intelligence agencies, the National Security Agency.
  • Now, those agencies are looking to DSU to help them fill hundreds more jobs.
  • The proposed 100,000-square-foot Sioux Falls facility – funded by a combination of public and private dollars – would create space for 400 to 500 full-time jobs, all expected to have six-figure salaries, said DSU President José-Marie Griffiths. She added that there are an estimated 402,000 open cybersecurity jobs in the country right now.
"We're not going to fill all of those positions," Griffiths said. "But we are taking a slice of the cybersecurity industry – that which addresses national security and defense."

Where's the $90 million coming from?

Lawmakers in Pierre earlier this week approved $30 million in state funding.

Philanthropist T. Denny Sanford kicked in another $50 million over five years, and Sanford Health donated 10 to 16 acres of land to house the facility at the Sanford Sports Complex in northwest Sioux Falls.

Forward Sioux Falls is contributing $250,000 for the planning of a future cyber and IT park surrounding the new facility.

And the last – $10 million – piece of the puzzle comes down to the Sioux Falls City Council.

What would the city's portion fund?

Griffiths told councilors Tuesday that the city's $10 million investment would cover infrastructure needs, as well as initial help with business development and security.

  • The project has unique security needs because it has to be built to handle classified infromation.

The third use of funds would be what Griffiths calls, "programmatic infrastructure."

  • She described the need for workforce development programs like summer intensive workshops to help students learn what they need to in order to secure jobs in the new cybersecurity center.

What are people saying about this?

"There are days when I think I have one of the best jobs in the city because I get to talk to you about really wonderful and transformative types of projects," Planning Director Jeff Eckhoff said. "And today is one of those days."

Board of Regents Member Tony Venhuizen described his excitement that this project is combining so many different entities, both government and private funds.

"I just think this is one of the biggest things to hit my radar in my public service life," Councilor Alex Jensen said.

Councilor Greg Neitzert said he loves to see more jobs in the IT and cyber sectors, and he added that the city would essentially be paying $10 million to get another $80 million invested into Sioux Falls.

"I think it's going to change the trajectory for the whole state," Councilor Janet Brekke said, adding that the project is a "transformational" opportunity.

What happens next?

Councilors unanimously passed the first reading of the ordinance allocating the $10 million funds.

Now, the ordinance moves on to a second reading March 15, at which time the council will decide whether to give it final approval.

If all the pieces fall into place, Griffiths said construction could start as soon as next spring, and if everything moves "quickly and on-time," the first employees could be working in the building by Oct. 1, 2024.