In September, I took a drive through the entire state of South Dakota--from Mount Rushmore to Rapid City, through The Badlands and to Sioux Falls. I'll admit, I didn't know much about the state. The west feels like Wyoming, the east like Iowa. 

South Dakota may not have been at the top of your list as a startup destination, it wasn't on mine. I changed my mind in four short days. Unlike Raleigh or Orlando, their focus hasn't been in attracting large companies but in creating the necessary pieces to grow future companies in South Dakota. 

For 16 years, spanning three administrations, South Dakota's government has consistently created incentives for startups and innovation and large research facilities. It's rare in a conservative state to see this kind of investment but it's a roll-up-your-sleeves kind of state.

And here are three key reasons why you may want to consider starting something in South Dakota. 

1. The access level is unmatched.

Outgoing Governor of South Dakota Dennis Daugaard and his wife Lindamet with me at a coffee shop before I started my drive. It's very rare that I meet Governors for coffee but that's the level of access that makes South Dakota intriguing.

There's a candid nature to someone who is finishing 16 consecutive years as Governor and Lt. Governor. But I got the impression he is always candid. In fact, every startup I met with in South Dakota said they could get a meeting with the Governor whenever they wanted. That's an access level few cities have and a major advantage for new businesses looking to grow. 

We talked for 30 minutes and the majority was on how South Dakota can be competitive in creating new jobs, not trying to resurrect jobs of old. Most importantly the state knows what it isn't. It never thought it was going to attract Amazon. Instead, South Dakota knew it needed to get specific. So it invested early this century in biotech and engineering.

2. You won't struggle to find technical talent. 

The South Dakota School of Mines and Technology churns out nothing but high-tech engineers. It's not a big school but it's bigger than most top engineering departments so the talent pipeline is good. University of South Dakota's 80-acre Discovery District, located in Sioux Falls, is one of the more impressive innovation and research campuses in the country. More importantly it is creating places for new software engineers to land after graduation and stay in the state. 

Companies like VRC Metal Systems, which uses cold spray to fix large and highly-technical parts is housed directly on the School of Mines campus along with one of the largest 3D printing manufacturers in the country, B9 Creations. 

Rob Hrabe, President of VRC Metal Systems, attributes their growth to "Our strong ties to the US military and Ellsworth AFB and an endless supply of engineering talent from the South Dakota School of Mines and Technology." 

A lot of South Dakota's efforts have been focused on creating opportunities from within but they have also attracted top companies in biotech. From SAB Biotherapeutics using cattle to produce human antibody immunotherapies to Alumend repairing and strengthening tissue at the molecular level. 

3. South Dakota will invest heavily in big ideas, especially healthcare.

"South Dakota, as an emerging economy, has provided an environment and extended a relationship where we can develop cutting edge science, attract and retain best-in-class talent, and build capacity to advance our novel immunotherapy platform with a global impact." Dr. Eddie Sullivan, President, CEO and co-founder, SAB Biotherapeutics. 

Sullivan moved his project from Cambridge, Massachusetts to Sioux Falls, South Dakota for two key reasons. Billionaire and Sioux Falls resident, T. Denny Sanford, invested $10 million and South Dakota competed hard to give SAB the resources they needed to be successful. Sanford, in total has invested more than $1 billion in South Dakota healthcare companies. This has helped create 66 biotech companies in the area. 

To put that in greater perspective, there is more capital investment available in South Dakota than in Columbus, St, Louis, Cinicinnati and Charlotte. Those are all Top 10 cities in Steve Case's Rise of the Rest List 

New companies like SAB and Immutrix-which is developing promosing blood cleansing filters-are choosing to locate in South Dakota and are poised to become major players. Suddenly a state with 900,000 people is becoming one of the most competitive in the country when it comes to attracting healthcare startups. 

Dr. Catherine Hajek, leads the Sanford Imaginetics program and is at the forefront of integrating genetics in to primary care-which is designed to quickly identify the best medications and treatment plans based on heredity and more specificity than conventional diagnostics. 

Every good ecosystem needs an anchor and $1.5 billion Raven Indsutries attracts the world's largest companies to help solve unique problems. Raven has pivoted over 60 years in to being a high-tech solutions company. 

"It's those skills, knowledge and value that have allowed us to bring advanced technology to niche markets and form strong and lasting partnerships with companies like Google and NASA," said Dan Rykhus, president and CEO, Raven Industries. 

You have probably overlooked South Dakota. But you will not find a state with billion-dollar companies and billion-dollar investors at this access level. Give it a first look and get ready to roll up your sleeves.