Sioux Falls, S.D.
Education Quality Index score:
If North Dakota stacks the deck for businesses, South Dakota just hands businesses the deck and lets them draw whatever cards they like. South Dakota lacks a corporate income tax, personal property tax, personal or corporate capital gains tax or inheritance tax. It has a sales tax, but caps it at 4%.
The Small Business and Entrepreneur Council loves the state for its national low crime rate and low health insurance mandates for businesses but, remarkably, Sioux Falls wishes it had Bismarck's unemployment rate. The state on the whole faces a $127 million budget deficit and Gov. Dennis Daugaard intends to fill it with spending cuts while also cutting existing taxes 10%.
The two towns are similar in many ways. Each has a great system of parks, but Sioux Falls' views of its namesake waterfalls at Falls Park and paved 16-mile bike-and-pedestrian trail along the Big Sioux River give it a slight edge. Both have a slew of universities, but the cultural events surrounding Augustana College and the University of Sioux Falls include a sculpture walk, poetry and literary festivals and the Sioux Falls Jazz and Blues Fest give Sioux Falls just a little more spark.
Both have NBA D-League teams, but the Sioux Falls Skyforce will still be in Sioux Falls after 2012. The Golden State Warriors plan on moving the Bismarck Wizards to California at that time. Neither city is particularly walkable and each lacks substantial public transportation, but roughly half of Sioux Falls -- particularly in the central and southern portions -- is somewhat more dense and easier to get around.
Workers get paid a bit more to live here than in Bismarck, with the average family income of $69,100 trumping its northern neighbor's $68,000, but the median price of a home is $15,000 higher. That said, South Dakota is still on the cheaper side of the American Dream list and gives its residents a lot of reasons to stay for their money.
The public school system scores high at nearly every level, with Harvey Dunn Elementary, Memorial and Patrick Henry middle schools and Lincoln High School getting perfect or near-perfect marks. The lack of taxes are a nice lure, but Sioux Falls seems intent on ensuring the folks who contributed to its 24% population increase during the past decade stay a while.