This is what it will take for Rapid City to attract more national retailers

RAPID CITY, S.D. – With the oncoming opening of Old Navy and other stores at Rushmore Crossing, Rapid City is seeing a steady trickle of national chains moving into the local market.

This begs the question: why haven’t other big companies that consistently poll as the most desired by Rapid residents, already come here? According to Tom Johnson, President & CEO of Elevate Rapid City, the city’s economic development agency, there’s a simple answer.

“The reason they don’t come here now is our population isn’t high enough, and our income isn’t high enough,” Johnson said. “Once you get past those barriers, you get into things like local incentives, site issues, planning and zoning and all of that, but right now it comes down to population and income.”

It’s good news then, that Rapid City is the fastest growing metro area in the Midwest with a growth rate of 1.9%, over 5 times the national average of 0.35%, according to U.S Census data.

“As Rapid City grows, we’re going to see more of those opening up, even with a possible recession coming,” Johnson said.

There is at least one way that Rapid City isn’t like most other metro areas, however: Ellsworth Air Force Base. The base serves as a reliable source of income for the area independent of market forces. This is true with the upcoming reveal of the new B-21 stealth bomber to be stationed there.

“We know of some retailers who have already moved their plans up to be in the area because of the Base. The Base is going to be a consistent thing. Whether interest rates are high or low, the Base is coming. Whether the price of gas is high or low, the Base is still going to be here. All of those macro-economic indicators that affect the national economy in the recession that might come, those things are not going to change the Base, and their decision to be in Rapid City, to grow in Rapid City, which in turn will impact the need for retail,” Johnson said.

According to Johnson, Elevate Rapid City does not disclose information about which businesses specifically are considering opening in Rapid, but he said that they are currently working with several “exciting names.”

“We’re working with probably 5 or 6 retailers right now, looking at the area,” Johnson said. “You will recognize them, they are national names in cities that you have already been to.”



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