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Net economic impact expected to hit $2 billion through 2029
Constance Walter

An updated economic and fiscal impact study of Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) activities shows a significant increase over last year in economic impacts on the State of South Dakota. Through 2029, SURF’s net economic impact is projected to reach $2 billion, an increase of more than $370 million over last year’s study. Approximately 90 percent of the impacts will be seen in Western South Dakota.

The updated study looked at job creation, procurement of goods and services, increased earnings and tax revenues in South Dakota from activities at both SURF and the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment (LBNF/DUNE) project, now under construction on the 4850-foot level underground at SURF. The LBNF/DUNE project is managed by the Department of Energy’s Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory.

“This updated report is great news for South Dakota and our stakeholders,” said Casey Peterson, chair of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA), which manages SURF. “The SDSTA is proud to play a major role in advancing the economy of South Dakota.”

SURF is the deepest underground laboratory in the United States—and among the deepest in the world. As a dedicated research facility, SURF hosts a variety of experiments in physics, including dark matter and neutrinos, as well as biology, geology and engineering. SURF also hosts a low background counting facility and will house the massive underground neutrino detectors of LBNF/DUNE.

The SDSTA currently employs nearly 200 people. Through the construction of LBNF, Fermilab employs, on average, 160 people in the region to date. Through 2029, SURF expects to see 1,178 jobs created in South Dakota. Each dollar spent by the SDSTA, employees, contractors and researchers, supports additional business activity, jobs and payroll across the state, leading to even larger economic benefits.

“Over the past 15 years, approximately $165 million in state and private funding has been invested in building this world-leading research facility,” said Mike Headley, executive director of the SDSTA and lab director of SURF. “We’re pleased that the state’s investment has such a positive outcome for South Dakotans.”

Peterson acknowledged the support of the community, as well as the many stakeholders who helped SURF reach this milestone, including the State Legislature, the Department of Energy Office of Science, T. Denny Sanford, and several national laboratories.

“The SDSTA appreciates the support SURF has received over the years. It has ensured the success of the facility,” Peterson said.

Headley pointed out that in addition to economic impacts, the world-leading science taking place at SURF has put South Dakota on the map with the international science community. “We’re also leveraging this research to educate learners of all ages, while providing unique learning opportunities for educators and K-12 students in South Dakota.”

See our Economic Impacts page.

Sanford Lab is operated by the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA) with funding from the Department of Energy’s Office of Science. Our mission is to advance world class science and inspire learning across generations. Visit Sanford Lab at