Incoming Governor Noem picks economic development head

PIERRE, S.D. (AP) - Gov.-elect Kristi Noem has named a Sioux Falls businessman and former state lawmaker to serve as commissioner of the Governor's Office of Economic Development.

The incoming Republican governor said Thursday that Steve Westra, who serves on her transition team, will take the post. Westra was a state representative from 2013-16 and now works as chief operating officer of Hegg Companies, Inc.

Noem says Westra's private-sector experience will be "invaluable" as the state looks to grow job opportunities and attract new businesses through workforce development and cutting unneeded regulations.

Westra says he believes South Dakota has the correct "low-tax, low-regulation" formula to be an economic leader nationally. Westra chaired the campaign opposing a ballot question defeated this year that would have increased tobacco taxes to make state technical schools more affordable.