Southern Hills: Expanding Their Roots Pt. 3

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Small town businesses are essentially dependent upon their next-door neighbors and other community members to help them grow and expand. That's why every town and city is on the lookout for new ways to bring in more residents.

"Rural areas of South Dakota are going to be very challenged in the future,” said Mark Hollenbeck, the vice president of the Edgemont Chamber of Commerce. “I mean, the population shift is out of small towns. And so, the towns that are very aggressive at bringing in new businesses are going to survive and those that roll over - aren’t."

Edgemont, Custer and Hot Springs are all small southern towns that contain no more than 4,000 people. For these smaller towns to expand and grow their roots, it first starts with one single seed, known as community.

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"If you can’t get along as a community, how can you grow and work together?” said Kelly Miller of the Custer Economic Development Corporation. “That’s what we have here. I think everybody wants one goal - is to make Custer a beautiful city that’s welcoming.”

To make Custer beautiful, the community holds meetings called “Exploring Custer’s Future.”

“When we get things where we get 120 people together to talk about what they want to see in Custer - I mean, that tells you that they're involved, that they want to help things,” Miller said.

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Further south in Hot Springs, Georgia Holmes of the Hot Springs City Council said they’re seeing a change in the size of the community and the age.

"With our new hospital and nursing home that's been built, our health care has changed a little bit, because of the VA not being here,” Holmes said. “It’s probably becoming more and more of a retirement community."

As Hot Springs expands with a new hospital, nursing homes and businesses – it attracts the rural community and brings them into town for the long-term.

"People are staying here during the winter when they used to leave,” Holmes said. “Those are things that people really look at. Do I have the ability to take care of my needs when I'm here in the wintertime?”

"All the amenities that you need are here,” said Andrea Powers, the executive director of the Southern Hills Economic Development Corporation. “If you didn't want to leave town for any reason, you wouldn't have to. There are a lot of recreational opportunities, the cost of living is low, the weather is good, and there are state-of-the-art health services available."

While an older generation is entering Hot Springs, Hollen back said a younger generation is leaving Edgemont.

"Edgemont is a very small community. We have less than 800 people living here now,” Hollenbeck said. “A very tight-knit community. We have a great,fantastic school. I mean, our kids excel and unfortunately they excel to the point that they leave our community because they don't have opportunities."

Unfortunately, those opportunities are key into bringing new people to the community. However, Edgemont is considering multiple mining options, which has the possibility of creating up to 100 new jobs.


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