Freedom Works Here.
South Dakota’s second largest community, Rapid City, with a population closing in on 80,000, is one of the fastest growing cities in the Midwest. With a trade area within a five-state region that includes over 400,000 people within a two-hour drive, as well as being a medical and retail hub, the economic impact to this quickly growing city is tremendous.
All of this growth is evident from the progress and advancement that the community has seen in recent years.
One entity helping fuel that success for businesses and residents is Elevate Rapid City. A combination of the city’s chamber of commerce and economic development organizations, Elevate is focused on promoting businesses and personal advancement.
President and CEO Tom Johnson explained that the company’s model of having all partnerships under one umbrella has been very successful.
“We used to get about three inquiries about Rapid a month. Now it’s about 50 and climbing. People are wanting to be in the Rapid City area,” he said.
As a facilitator, Elevate lays the groundwork, linking people to the right resources as well as connecting people to businesses, residents and potential residents.
One thing that Johnson said they have seen recently is the demand for housing. A housing study, done in 2022, by the Rapid City Strategic Housing Coalition, found that the community had seen dramatic population growth. However, household expansion had been slower than the population growth, and the need for various types of affordable housing is a must.
“People want to live here,” he said. “So, what we have done is hire a housing coordinator and that has been successful.”
Laura Jones, Elevate’s Housing and Community Development Manager, works to identify issues, create strategies to improve housing and help others navigate the process.
Another draw that Elevate Rapid City is focused on is the talented students graduating from the area.
“We want them to stay here,” said Kallie Ruland.
Ruland, Business Development Manager at Elevate, said that economic development is important because it helps guide growth that fits within the targeted area.
“South Dakota is a friendly environment to start or relocate to with low taxes and we are working to promote affordable housing and higher paying jobs,” she said.
A new, 700-acre Black Hills industrial park is now open. As Rapid City continues to see additional industry growth, the community will continue to review and develop sites.
Johnson said he is really excited about the Innovation Corridor when it comes to economic development. From 30 miles of quality hiking and biking trails to coffee houses and beer pubs, and so many other opportunities, the area is a gateway for so much more to come.
“We are the 36th fastest growing city and we don’t plan on slowing down anytime soon,” said Johnson. “Rapid is at the forefront of things and we are on the precipice of seeing some really cool things happen in economic development.”