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Northwestern gem thrives on unique community

Siting on the northwestern edge of South Dakota, only steps away from North Dakota, is the unique town of Lemmon. Home to over 1,300 residents, this community is full of vibrancy and with the help of businesses and residents, is growing its economic footprint.

Dave Johnson, Lemmon Economic Director, left Lemmon after high school but came home about 12 years ago and hasn’t regretted his decision.

“There are two types of people – those that stay here or those that move away,” he said. “Lemmon is not for everyone. We are 90 miles from a big city. But we carry small town charm to the next level.”

And that small town charm can be found throughout the community. From a quaint main street with various businesses, to growth on the edge of town, Lemmon is working hard to revitalize itself.

From an economic standpoint, Lemmon’s Main Street is a highlight for both residents and anyone traveling through town. “Boss Cowman” Square, a unique area on Main Street that features Lemmon founder G.E. Lemmon, has been completely renovated. Murals and a statue are the newest feature, and adjacent buildings have been remodeled enabling the space to become a destination for many.

Businessman and sculptor John Lopez was called to return to his hometown of Lemmon. Opening a gallery on Main Street was one goal of his but being able create change and grow the community was something very important to him.

“The sculpture garden was the catalyst that started it all. I then turned an old building into an art gallery and just kept going with demolition and remodeling,” said Lopez.

The town board worked with Lopez because he was willing to look past Boss Cowman Square, the town’s biggest attraction, and make it more than just a tourist attraction. Lopez worked with the city on these projects with plans of revitalizing Main Street. And it has worked. People are moving to Lemmon for the small-town charm, its revitalization, but also the amenities.

Lemmon has seen recent growth with a multi-million-dollar grocery store, two retail “dollar” stores, a hotel, and millions of dollars invested into the high school.

“This is all economic success to our community,” said Johnson.

Another success for the town has been its work on housing. A study, done about 10 years ago, listed homes throughout the town that were deemed uninhabitable. Since then, the city has been providing $4,000 grants to anyone wanting to tear down those buildings. Then, once the house is gone, the city is able to put up a spec house, many of which are sold to young families moving to the area.

“In less than a decade, this is just part of the list of incredible things that have been added to our community,” said Johnson.

South Dakota Governor’s Office of Economic Development

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