Highlights From South Dakota State’s Inaugural Farmland And Investing Conference


he stakes are high and things move quickly in today’s real estate market, and Friday’s South Dakota Land and Lending Conference helped area investors make sure those quick decisions are also well-informed.

More than 250 people – from professionals to casual investors to students – attended the inaugural conference Friday at the Denny Sanford Premier Center in Sioux Falls. The event, hosted by SDSU’s Ness School of Management and Economics, featured speakers, panels and breakout sessions on a variety of topics related to economics, development and real estate. It created networking opportunities for attendees to build connections and share their own experiences.

“With this event I think you start to see the opportunities of networking, education and growth, not only from a professional standpoint, but from a student standpoint as well,” said Ryan McKnight, real estate, law and management lecturer at SDSU and an organizer of the event. “We’re bringing the university and industry together to make a difference in our state, the Midwest and hopefully even the nation.”

The conference’s goal was to encourage and strengthen the relationship between education and rural real estate to serve the needs of South Dakota and the regional community.

Activities included a panel discussion with area real estate leaders addressing the current market and opportunities in South Dakota as well as an economics panel discussing interest rates, monetary policy and other economic factors affecting markets today.

Breakout sessions covered topics including agriculture land values, commercial real estate, renovation in historic districts, housing challenges and more.
“We have some unbelievable breakouts,” McKnight said. “These are all people who have volunteered their time to come here to teach us about ways to really make a difference for Sioux Falls and for the state. Affordable housing, rural development, these are things that towns need, people need.”

Sioux Falls mayor Paul TenHaken, one of the featured speakers, outlined areas of growth in Sioux Falls, how the city is adapting to that growth and some of the challenges, such as housing and workforce. Building permits show continued strong growth in Sioux Falls, even when you look beyond some of the larger projects.

“We will always have a couple signature projects, but when you look at some of that smaller stuff, like commercial additions and remodels, residential, that market is really, really hot right now,” TenHaken said.

The conference was born from the Land Valuation and Rural Real Estate Affinity Group at SDSU, which brings together professionals and experts from diverse professions and backgrounds to discuss issues affecting the region, nation and world today. During the pandemic, those discussions in some ways became even better thanks to technology that enabled remote learning, said Dr. Eluned Jones, Professor and Director at SDSU’s Ness School. The Land and Lending Conference keeps those connections alive, and SDSU plans to make it an annual event.

“Those conversations can’t just stop because we’re going back face-to-face,” Jones said. “So you have to have some reason that keeps them coming back together.”