Sanford contributed $11.9B to regional economy, study finds

Regional leaders praise health system’s impact on economic growth, philanthropy and community

Sanford contributed $11.9B to regional economy, study finds

If you ask six regional leaders in the upper Midwest, Sanford Health’s impact on the economy is seemingly unmatched.

The organization’s presence in South Dakota, North Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa is felt far beyond its specialized health care. A new economic impact study now backs up that sentiment.

The economic impact study was conducted by utilizing IMPLAN, a nationally recognized economic impact modeling system based on 2019 data to calculate the 2020 impact from Sanford operations in North Dakota, South Dakota, Minnesota and Iowa.

The results are conclusive: Sanford Health is a leading employer and an economic generator in the cities it serves.

But rather than focusing solely on the numbers, Sanford Health News caught up with people leading the regions Sanford serves for their perspectives on the impact in their community.

Committed to community in Bismarck, ND

“If we focus on Sanford as an employer, Sanford doesn’t just create jobs — Sanford creates careers,” Brian Ritter said.

Ritter is the president of Bismarck Mandan Chamber EDC.

He said those careers attract new, qualified talent to call Bismarck home, establish roots, grow families and become friends, neighbors and stewards of the community.

“Sanford has been a tremendous partner in education and helping fund some of those quality-of-life facilities around the community,” Ritter said.

Beyond careers at Sanford, he speaks highly of the organization’s commitment to community through health care.

He recalls Sanford’s recent improvements to Sanford Bismarck’s emergency and trauma center, pediatrics, expanding the kidney dialysis center and its ear, nose and throat facility.

“When you wrap that up into one number, it’s truly staggering.”

Collaborating for care in Jamestown, ND

Few feel the impact of Sanford Health like Polly Peterson, president of the University of Jamestown in Jamestown, North Dakota.

“Without health care and without the employees Sanford employs, I don’t know what the University of Jamestown would look like,” Peterson said. “It’s a substantial investment in this community.”

As a leader in a smaller community in the Sanford footprint, Peterson is thankful for its continued presence in the upper Midwest and partnership with the university through a variety of avenues, specifically nursing education.

“Our nursing program was founded in 1948, the first four-year nursing program in North Dakota. Many don’t know that,” Peterson explained. “It’s one of our strongest majors and it wouldn’t be possible without the support of Sanford.”

Sanford also has impact throughout UJ Athletics.

“We have a very robust athletic program with more than 20 athletic opportunities,” she said. “About 40 to 50 percent of our campus enrollment is made up of students who participate in athletics.”

She said the relationship with Sanford Health provides the opportunity for students to continue to compete long past an injury.

“The partnership we have between our training staff and Sanford makes it possible for our athletes to have a positive, healthy experience,” Peterson added.

A growing health care community and collaborative mindset is one of the things she appreciates most as she leads students who would eventually become future Sanford Health employees.

“There’s a sense of gratitude when we have organizations that are willing to work together for the greater good. When Sanford commits to providing health care in our community, and to sustaining the health and wellness of a growing community, we all win,” Peterson said. “I think that’s important in small communities. We have to work together for the greater good, so that we can all win.”

Improving quality of life in Fargo, ND

Sanford is a key player in Fargo and nobody knows the impact better than Charlie Johnson, the chief executive officer of the Fargo Moorhead West Convention and Visitors Bureau.

“It’s a huge operation,” Johnson said. “Health care in general is huge and Sanford has grown by leaps and bounds so the nearly $12 billion doesn’t shock me.”

He refers to Sanford’s impact as an essential piece to the livability and quality of life in his community.

“I think of it more in terms of the medical services here,” he explained. “I think having the capabilities that Sanford has in this community, that maybe didn’t exist before, are more important than economic impact.”

Johnson referred to the level I adult trauma center at Sanford Medical Center Fargo as examples of major advancements of care in the community.

“Having those healthcare services available is a huge part of quality of life,” he said. “Just like it’s important to have a zoo and have a really good airport.”

Sanford a ‘stabilizer’ in Worthington, MN

Sanford Health has a strong presence in southwest Minnesota — specifically Worthington, where John Landgaard has been the superintendent of the Worthington School District for 18 years.

Sanford Health has long partnered with Worthington schools, from flu shots to nursing services.

“They’ve worked hard to not only take care of the school district but provide that health benefit we need as well,” he said.

Most recently, Sanford invested in the district’s athletic field, which he said is already boosting the community economically with jobs and spending.

He said the impact by Sanford on his community extends outside the city of Worthington as a “runoff” to neighboring towns, which he says is a positive thing.

“Every dollar you spend seems to have multiple effects on your local economy. That’s a stabilizer for a community in a region. I think that’s really what is occurring here when Sanford decides to invest in communities and the region is it creates that stabilizer and a positive economic impact.”

With a commitment to maintain quality health care, he said Worthington becomes a destination to the surrounding region.

“For us, it comes down to student and employee care to ensure we have healthy staff and healthy students,” Landgaard said. “That’s part of the overall economic and general benefits for our school and community.”

Boosting the economy in Bemidji, MN

Dave Hengel is the executive director of Greater Bemidji where Sanford employs roughly 2,200.

“I cannot think of a single project in Bemidji where Sanford’s fingerprints aren’t on it — either as a leader or as a financial contributor or as a partner in the project.

“Sanford has changed our community,” Hengel said.

Right now, with Sanford’s $10 million community dividend, Bemidji is planning the Sanford Family Sports and Wellness Complex to include a wellness center with aquatics, a multipurpose fieldhouse and an ice rink.

The facility would be adjacent and walkable to downtown Bemidji.

“That’s going to spur about $65 million worth of private investment on top of the work being done,” he said. “That’s an example of Sanford stepping forward, showing leadership, providing an incentive if you will, and leveraging additional private sector investment in our community.”

Hengel said Bemidji has a partner in Sanford as a business, an employer and major economic driver but understands the importance of the rest of the economy’s growth and success.

“It’s so important to our community to know that Sanford’s there as a partner when we need them.”

A ‘strong corporate citizen’ in Sioux Falls, SD

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken often talks about what it’s like to be a strong corporate citizen.

“When you’re going to be a member of a community and exist as a business and a corporation, there’s a responsibility that comes with that to give back,” TenHaken explained. “In the case of Sanford Health, it’s one of our largest employers. Not only is Sanford philanthropic with their time but with their money as well.”

With its corporate headquarters in Sioux Falls, Sanford’s impact is on baseball teams, event venues and more.

“In Sioux Falls, if you’re going to be successful here as a business — and we’re going to help you succeed as a city — we expect those businesses to help us be successful as community. Sanford does a really good job with that.”

TenHaken said Sanford brings in more people to Sioux Falls than any other business for its specialized care but also for entertainment like the Denny Sanford PREMIER Center and the Sanford Sports Complex.

“Sanford always does a good job at filling gaps in the community, seeing where gaps exist and also innovating and doing new things. I think of things like sporting events or the Sanford International. That’s an economic impact driver in our community. It brings in people. It brings in a sales tax revenue. It’s not just the health care aspect, but it’s all those other ancillary products and services that Sanford offers that I think really influences our economy as well.”

To learn more about Sanford’s investment in its communities, visit Community Impact on

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Posted In Bemidji, Bismarck, Community, Company News, Fargo, Jamestown, News, Sioux Falls, Worthington