Economic & Fiscal Impact of the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF)

The Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) is a multidisciplinary underground science research laboratory located in Lead, South Dakota. SURF is managed by the South Dakota Science and Technology Authority (SDSTA). SDSTA retained Anderson Economic Group to estimate the economic and fiscal impact of SURF on South Dakota and the Western South Dakota region.

To determine SURF’s economic and fiscal impact, we first obtained data from SDSTA on its capital and operations spending for Fiscal Years 2020 to 2029. We also collected data from Fermi National Accelerator Laboratory (Fermilab) on its expenditures for the Long-Baseline Neutrino Facility (LBNF) at SURF. Additionally, we collected data on the laboratory’s visiting researchers, which we used to estimate SURF visitor spending. We then constructed a custom input-output model to estimate the net impact of SURF operations, capital, and visitor spending on output (sales by businesses), earnings, and employment in South Dakota and the Western South Dakota region. We constructed a fiscal impact model to estimate the increased state and local tax revenues generated in South Dakota by SURF.

We determined that SURF will have a total net economic impact of $1.06 billion in South Dakota between 2020 and 2029. The laboratory’s operations, capital, and visitor spending will also result in $572 million in additional earnings for South Dakota households and an average of 1,053 jobs per year. We also determined that SURF will have a net fiscal impact of $19.9 million in new state and local tax revenues in South Dakota between 2020 and 2029.

We provided SDSTA with a report and PowerPoint presentation summarizing our findings. SDSTA published our report on its website to inform South Dakota residents and lawmakers about the benefits SURF brings to the state.

Read the full report here.

AEG updated our findings in 2022 by calculating the total net economic impact by examining both the net economic impact of operations and capital spending, and the net economic impact of visitor spending. In both cases, we collected direct spending data and projected future direct spending, then identified what portion of that spending would be “net new” for South Dakota and Western South Dakota. We applied U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis RIMS II multipliers to these figures to determine indirect spending totals in each category. Direct and indirect figures were summed to arrive at the total economic impact.

We built a custom tax impact model to calculate SURF’s net fiscal impact on the state and region. This model was used to quantify new state sales tax, state construction excise tax, and municipal sales tax revenues generated as a result of SURF’s increased economic activity within the study areas. Direct payments to state and local governments for permits and services were also included in our net fiscal impact calculations.
Read the update to the report here.