This is a paid piece from the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.
Simplified: On April 19, 1993, a small, state-owned airplane crashed in eastern Iowa, killing eight people returning from an economic development meeting in Ohio. Thirty years later, the Sioux Falls Development Foundation is remembering the men who lost their lives that day and reflecting on how their efforts still have ripple effects in our city's economy today.
Why it matters
- The plane crash was one of the deadliest in South Dakota history, killing everyone on board, including Gov. George Mickelson, three leaders within the Sioux Falls Development Foundation, two state employees and two pilots.
- The flight had been returning to Pierre after an important meeting in Cincinnati, Ohio with leaders from John Morrell, whose parent company was facing years of losses and starting to divest from its meat division.
- There was talk of selling or closing the meat processing plant in Sioux Falls, and Gov. Mickelson, along with representatives from the Foundation, went to see what they could do to save the plant.
- The plant was ultimately saved – and later sold to Smithfield in 1995 – but the tragedy of the plane crash is still felt 30 years later.
"We were a very small organization – we were six employees," said Karen Ruhland, director of research, membership and communications for the Foundation. " You spent more time with them than you did your own immediate family. ... It was devastating to our whole entire office. It was devastating to our community."
Tell me more about the men who died
In total, eight lives were lost in the crash:
- Gov. George Mickelson
- Roger Hainje, president of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation and Forward Sioux Falls
- David Birkeland, president and chief executive of First Bank of South Dakota
- Angus Anson, general manager of Northern States Power
- Ron Reed, director of the state office of energy policy
- Roland Dolly, commissioner of the state office of economic development
- Ron Becker, pilot
- David Hansen, pilot
Tell me more about the context around the crash
The early '90s were a time of growth and increasing visibility of Sioux Falls.
- About a decade earlier, in 1981, Citibank moved its headquarters to Sioux Falls – the start of tremendous growth in the banking and finance sector.
- The first Forward Sioux Falls campaign started in 1987 – the same year Hainje took over as president of the Sioux Falls Development Foundation.
- The famous Money magazine article naming Sioux Falls the country's "Best Place to Live" was published in 1992.
After the crash, Foundation Vice President Dan Scott took over the leadership role. He took over as President in 1995 and continued to lead the organization forward for another 13 years. He was one of several people who stepped forward to continue the legacy of the men who died, Ruhland said.
"The work of economic development is extremely important and ,even with the loss, we needed to be there for the community and continue the work that they were doing," she said.
How is the Foundation recognizing the anniversary?
Mayor Paul TenHaken will declare April 19, 2023 to be "Economic Development Leadership Day" as a way to commemorate the loss and recognize the significance economic development work has on the community at large.
"We have great partners in the city," said Leah Blom, director of marketing and digital media for the Foundation. "We're hoping this proclamation helps the community to remember everything that happened and remember everything those men were working for."