STUDY: Impact of Sanford Underground Research facility goes far beyond scientific community

LEAD, S.D. — While the research at the Sanford Underground Lab in Lead puts South Dakota on the map in the scientific community, it also contributes heavily to the economy.

What is SURF?

The Sanford Underground Research Facility – or SURF – is a high-tech research lab situated a mile beneath the city of Lead. It’s the deepest lab in the U.S. and hosts experiments in physics, biology, geology, and engineering.

Recently chosen as the site for the new Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, the Lab’s reach puts South Dakota on the map on an international scale.

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Brant (left) and Constance Walter (right), the communications director at SURF, talk about the plan for our underground visit while waiting for the cage during a visit on April 19, 2022 (Darsha Nelson, NewsCenter1)

What did the study find?

The economic and fiscal impact study looked at job creation, purchasing of goods and services, earnings, and tax revenues related to SURF, showing strong results through 2029.

“We’re going to have about a $2 billion positive economic benefit within South Dakota,” said Mike Headley, executive director of the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority and lab director at SURF. “Now, the majority of that is in kind of the western 13 counties of the state, but it does impact the East River as well.”

That economic impact would be over $370 million more than what was predicted by a study done two years ago.

“It’s the day-to-day operations for SURF, which is one part of what we do. It’s also the economic impact of the large neutrino experiment: the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility and Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment.”

Nearly $160 million has been invested in SURF over the last 15 years, and Headley says they’re proud that investment appears to be paying off.

What does the future look like?

As excavation continues for DUNE, SURF is looking ahead at maximizing their reach.

“We’re wanting to build even more space for other experiments that are wanting to come here,” Headley said. “There’s a big, big need within the scientific community for underground space.”

Projects like the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility and DUNE are massive, with much of the funding provided by the U.S. Department of Energy, and the rest by state funding, private donations, and the international scientific community.

“These larger experiments, what we’re seeing is they’re really kind of growing to a scale where one individual country can’t afford it on its own,” Headley said.

This economic study provides a reference as they seek more funding, including from the governor’s office and state legislature this coming session.

Categories: Local News, South Dakota News