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Rapid City: Economy


Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Agriculture, tourism, mining, logging, professional services/retail, and Ellsworth Air Force Base are the major factors in Rapid City's economy. The area is also known for the manufacture of high-value, low-bulk items that can be swiftly shipped to market or assembly centers in other parts of the nation.

Agriculture is a major industry in South Dakota, and Rapid City is the regional trade center for farm-ranch activity in the southwest part of the state and neighboring counties in Montana, Wyoming, and Nebraska. Cattle and sheep production dominate the agricultural scene, as well as processing and packing of meat and meat byproducts, but the cultivation of small grains is also important. Services offered to area farmers and ranchers include selling of new and used farm equipment, spare parts and repairs, and flour milling.

The health care sector is strong, employing more than 8,000 people in the Black Hills region at major health care organizations such as Rapid City Regional Hospital. Other important industrial and employment institutions include several large construction companies, rock quarries, steel fabrication firms, and trucking firms. Several light industries and services located in the city include manufacturing of computer parts, printing, Native American crafts, and headquarters for insurance companies and other businesses. Regional or headquarters facilities of many state and federal offices also operate in the city.

Centrally located in the beautiful Black Hills region, Rapid City benefits from a large annual tourist trade. Within half a day's drive of Rapid City are five of the country's most famous national park areas: Mount Rushmore National Memorial, Devil's Tower National Monument, Badlands National Park, Jewel Cave National Monument, and Wind Cave National Park. The area further boasts of a variety of restaurants, several large annual events and attractions, more than 4,400 hotel/motel rooms and many modern campgrounds.

Each year the multimillion-dollar payroll for workers at Ellsworth Air Force Base, the largest employer in the state, boosts the local economy. Ellsworth was slated for closure as part of a proposal in mid-2005 to close 33 large bases and 150 smaller ones, which would have a devastating effect on the Rapid City economy; an Air Force study in 2004 estimated the base's economic impact on the state at $278 million annually.

Items and goods produced: computer components, jewelry, cement, processed foods, steel products, printing, wood products

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

The city of Rapid City, along with Pennington County and the Governor's Office of Economic Development, offers a number of financial incentives to aid industry looking to establish operations in the area.

Local programs

Black Hills Vision is a regional economic development initiative that encourages tech-based employment and seeks to develop a high-tech corridor in the Rapid City area. A small business incubator, which is to be called The Black Hills Business Development Center, is a cornerstone of the Black Hills Vision; it will offer technical support and collaboration opportunities for emerging businesses. Projected to open in late 2005, the center will be located on the South Dakota School of Mines & Technology Campus. The Rapid City Economic Development Partnership oversees the incubator jointly with West River Foundation. Rapid City rebates the tax increment created by investments in real property for up to 15 years. The Rapid City Economic Development Loan Fund (dba Rapid Fund) is a low-interest loan program that is focused on the development of primary jobs in the manufacturing sector. A portfolio of 14 different loans are available for business expansion, relocation, or start-up. Pennington County has a real estate tax incentive offered to new industrial or commercial structures, or new non-residential agricultural structures.

State programs

The South Dakota REDI Fund lends money at three percent interest to companies creating new jobs in the state. Designed and administered by a board of 13 business leaders, the program is known to be efficient, flexible, and responsible. The money can be used for almost any capital purchase or operating financing for which a company qualifies under standard banking guidelines. The state offers a variety of other loans, subfunds and training assistance. Federal Small Business Administration (SBA) participation loans and SBA Direct loans are also available.

Job training programs

Career counseling and customized job training are offered at the Career Learning Center. The South Dakota Workforce Development Program extends training opportunities in conjunction with approved educational institutions; new employee skills, retraining, and advancement/promotion assistance is offered.

Development Projects

In 1992, gathering energy and tax dollars after redevelopment efforts following the 1972 flood, Rapid City formed Vision 2012, a program of long-term planning for the community. More than $65 million has been spent from the fund on improvements already; projects include the Meadow-brook Golf Course, Canyon Lake Restoration, the Journey Museum, and the Rapid City Boys Club.

In April 2005, 49 new projects were recommended for funding by the city council; projects include a variety of civic improvement, municipal infrastructure and economic development projects. Among the projects is the $10.8 million Dahl Arts Center building which is to include a 457-seat theater, 3 multi-purpose spaces, 3 gallery spaces, 3 art education classrooms, a gift shop, kitchen, administration wing, and art reference library; groundbreaking for the center is scheduled in September 2005. Other important proposed projects include a Children's Care Rehab and Development Center, which would service youth on an outpatient basis; Rushmore Civic Plaza Addition, a $14.5 million project that would add seating for sporting events; and an emergency Response Training Center. The Rapid City Regional Airport is undergoing facilities renovations and repairs in 2004/2005.

Economic Development Information: Rapid City Area Economic Development Partnership, 444 Mt. Rushmore Road N., PO Box 747, Rapid City, SD 57701; telephone (605)343-1880; toll free (800)956-0377; fax (605)343-1916; email info@rapiddevelopment.com

Commercial Shipping

Rapid City is served by the Dakota, Minnesota, & Eastern Railroad and offers piggyback service with daily switching service. Nearly 30 motor freight carriers, as well as terminals, are located in Rapid City. Parcel service is provided by United Parcel Service.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Rapid City boasts of a young and eager workforce that is well educated. Ninety-six percent of residents have a high school diploma; 20 percent have a bachelors degree.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Rapid City metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of non-agricultural labor force: 58,800

Number of workers employed in . . .

mining and construction: 4,600

manufacturing: 3,900

trades, transportation and utilities: 12,400

information: 1,100

financial activities: 3,200

professional and business services: 4,100

educational and health services: 9,000

leisure and hospitality: 8,000

other services: 2,700

government: 9,700

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $13.36

Unemployment rate: 4% (February 2005)

Rapid City: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees
Ellsworth Air Force Base 3,943
Rapid City Regional Hospital 3,000
Rapid City School District 1,593
Federal Government 1,435
City of Rapid City (includes seasonal workers) 1,375
State of South Dakota 1,049
Walmart/Sams Club 965

Cost of Living

Low utility costs and no personal income taxes are factors that help Rapid City offer a reasonable cost of living. The 2003 average sales price for a single family home was $136,707; the average rental for a two-bedroom apartment was $639.

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors in the Rapid City area.

2004 ACCRA Average House Price: Not reported

2004 ACCRA Cost of Living Index: Not reported

State income tax rate: None

State sales tax rate: 4.0%

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 2.0%

Property tax rate: $30.1323 per $1,000; assessed at 85 percent (2000)

Economic Information: Rapid City Area Economic Development Partnership, 444 Mt. Rushmore Road N., PO Box 747, Rapid City, SD 57701; telephone (605)343-1880; toll free (800)956-0377; fax (605)343-1916; email info@rapiddevelopment.com


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