Rapid City: More Than A Gateway Pt. 1

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Historically, Rapid City's main source of income has been agriculture and tourism. Though this still is a main contributor, the times are changing. Mayor Steve Allender says the future is shaping up to be increasingly positive. 

"The general economy of Rapid City mirrors that of the state to a large degree, and overall, our economy is fairly flat,” Allender said.

The economy is flat but stable, steadily improving at a slow pace. The two dominant engines that drive the state and local economy - agriculture and tourism - are beginning to diversify, according to the Rapid City Economic Development Partnership President, Benjamin Snow.

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"Create more year-round opportunities, more professional opportunities," Snow said. "There's a small but very stable manufacturing base here. Particularly low value, but high margin. Our manufacturing tend to have a higher quality product with higher margins.”

Snow said Rapid City has been predictable, and it's time to push for change. The Economic Development Partnership has added a workforce coordinator, focusing on improvements for businesses and employees.

"When there are good workers available, then good opportunities follow," said Allender. "One of the measures a new company will consider is, 'do we have an available workforce?' We have to make improvements. I think we are starting down the correct path, to make improvements that will help the future.”

Allender noted that a hole in the economy is the housing market. The mayor said 30 percent of your net income should be spent on housing, but for Rapid City that isn't the case. Allender said the city is in a crisis state.

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"There are some people in Rapid City who are spending 70 percent of their net income on housing, which means they're buying almost nothing else," Allender said. "Perhaps not making it through the month without enough food. Those folks are strictly - they're forced into being a consumer. They're not providing anything back into the local economy. And I would say anecdotally, that we have too much of that kind of worker or resident in Rapid City.”

Allender's affordable housing plan is meant to help those residents. And though the future of the economy is hard to predict, it's projected to see growth.

"One of the things we can continue to look forward to is a continued drive and a continued attractiveness of the Black Hills for particular young professionals, for people who are being more deliberate of their life choices and trying to pick a place they want to live first," Snow said. "We already have a very strong medical sector. Of course, Regional Health is the largest employer in the entire region here. We know the VA has plans to increase their footprint here in Rapid City. So I see the medical cluster - as we like to call it - as being a great opportunity for growth.”

Downtown Rapid City contributes to the economy year-round. For more on how downtown Rapid City’s planned growth is expected to boost the economy, watch part two of Rapid City: More Than A Gateway. Watch part three for the latest on the Rushmore Plaza Civic Center.

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