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South Dakota Rural Enterprise Opportunity Roundup - Benefits of 100,000 residents

Our community will be breaking the 100,000 resident ceiling in the near future, and I was curious about what that means to us. Intuitively we notice that it sounds more impressive to tell people about our community when we say it is a population of 100,000, but I was curious if there were other benefits, like having CPI tracked, or creating our own economy, or becoming a ???

As background, we are a rural community with no regional neighbors of any size within the next 300 miles, and we had been significantly undercounted by the US Census and our State demographer, so we have only just become a community of 97,000 instead of 88,000.

Kathryn Dodge
Fairbanks North Star Borough Mayor's Office/ARDOR

I believe hitting the 100K mark is significant for a several different reasons:
  1. RETAIL: Many retailers won't even consider a market less than 100k population Suddenly at 100k, radar screens begin 'seeing lots of green'.
  2. EMPLOYMENT: Critical mass of employees means more employers will begin looking at the market as a legitimate location option (thus helping to 'graduate' from merely an isolated small town or exclusively a bedroom community)
  3. RATE OF GROWTH: I believe an even more important metric to keep an eye on is the velocity at which your community is growing (ie. is it reaching 100k at a turtle's pace, or 'breaking ribbons' as it passes 100k?) This will be looked at with a very careful eye by outsiders, since a community's failure or vision to provide the necessary infrastructure commensurate with that growth will help to predict the sustainability of the population once it 'arrives'.
Benjamin L. Snow
Executive Director
Parker Economic Development Council
19751 E. Mainstreet, Suite R11
Parker, CO 80138
(303) 841-8683 phone
(303) 841-1979 fax

Great points, Ben. I think that they represent a mixed blessing though.

Retailers seeing the green light for development is likely to mean more franchises and multiples that will reduce the extent to which local money stays local. While this may create some employment the net effect is likely to extract money from the community and return it to shareholders out of town.

Attracting employment is a seductive game - but fiercely competitive. Business attraction might be a part of the economic development strategy for a 100k plus town - but it is high cost and high risk. There is tremendous potential in the people that are already in the town and want to see it prosper and grow. How can a town of this size encourage its residents to be enterprising in support of the local economy? I think it is important that this theme of developing local aspiration, passion, talent and achievement remains strong - even if the 100k town becomes eligible to play some new economic development games.

Mike Chitty

Agreed. On all points. Leveraging inherent community strengths is always important, even in high-growth markets. In fact, I continue to view growth (from within or from outside) as vital economic energy looking for a place to be released. It's just important to CHANNEL/HARNESS that energy, rather than just let it 'burn' everything in its path. That's where economic developers can really add value.

Benjamin L. Snow

If you think your city is being undercounted, you should encourage your city to participate in the LUCA program:

Larry Holt
Director of Research
Birmingham Regional Chamber of Commerce


629 S. Minnesota Ave.
Suite 201
P.O. Box 2282
Sioux Falls, SD

ph 605.978.2804

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