South Dakota is a sparsely populated Midwestern state that is today probably best known for Mount Rushmore. However, with an upcoming project dubbed ‘MadLabs,’ the state could be better identified as the Silicon Valley of cyber security.
A large crowd had stood outside the Capitol in Pierre on Tuesday afternoon on January 30th to witness Governor Dennis Daugaard sign House Bill 1057 that calls for demolishing Lowry Hall and constructing Maddison Cyber Labs in its place.
Dozens of people witnessed the signing of the bill with many snapping pictures as the governor signed the legislation while sitting on the ceremonial desk that was used by the state’s first governor. MadLabs is the first new legislation that has been signed in 2018.
After signing the bill, the governor handed it to Jose-Marie Griffiths who currently serves as the president of Dakota State University (DSU). The university is tasked with carrying out the plan to establish the research facility that will focus solely on cyber security.
How MadLabs and DSU will Drive the Economic Engine in South Dakota?
MadLabs will the first-of-a-kind cyber lab in the state that will focus solely on combating the online threat posed by cybercriminals. An estimated $18 million has been allocated for building the 40,000 square feet facility.
Griffiths had shared her optimism with lawmakers that the lab will become a hub for IT companies. They will train security experts that will be trained by South Dakota State.
MadLabs will be constructed on the DSU campus located in Madison. According to Griffiths, the research lab constructed at the campus will become the engine of economic growth in the state. She had stated that the facility will generate additional jobs for the residents in the cyber research and support jobs in the region.
Maddison’s educational roots go back to 1881 when the residents had obtained a charter of Maddison Normal school. After signing of the statehood papers in 1889 by US President Benjamin Harrison, the Madison campus was known by different names. Legislatures had named the campus Dakota State College in 1969. Afterwards, the name was officially changed to Dakota State University in 1989.
Among the twelve public educational institutes located in South Dakota, DSU has the fifth highest head count of about 3,300 in Fall 2017. The highest number of students is enrolled at South Dakota State University in Brookings with nearly 12,500 students the same year.
DSU is a premier educational institute in the state that focuses on science and technology. Originally, the institute only focused on engineering and mathematics. However, Governor Bill Janklow had expanded the mission of the institute in the1980s to emphasize more on data and technology.
Addressing the Challenges Ahead
At the present, South Dakota is generating more cyber security graduates than there are available jobs. Around 57 percent of the graduates had to move out of the state as there were not enough cyber security jobs, according to Griffiths.
The opening of MadLabs is expected to turn the situation around, creating additional jobs for cyber security specialists in the state.
Still, experts observe that getting Madison ready to take part in the economic growth can be challenging. According to Republican Senator Deb Peters, there is a lack of housing at DSU — both on and off campus.
The management of DSU has recently taken some steps to address the housing shortage. They have added student rooms through renovating an old hospital — a move highly reminiscent of the movie ‘Accepted’. Also, the management is working with contractors to develop additional housing in the region. Griffiths stated that they are looking at needs going forward to make the latest project a success.