Over the past few years, Sioux Falls, South Dakota has seen record-breaking economic growth even during the pandemic.
“Strong Midwestern values and fiscal discipline allow our City to prosper,” said Jim David, Chief of Legislation and Policy for Sioux Falls.
Indeed, a focus on resident feedback and a commitment to making Sioux Falls comfortable, fun, and beautiful has led to the City’s award-winning local economy.
Data also show that Sioux Falls residents are happy with the local economy. The City regularly conducts The National Community Survey (The NCS) to gather feedback from community members. Sioux Falls’ residents rate almost all aspects of the City’s economy higher than the national benchmark.
“Sioux Falls are leaders in listening to resident priorities to develop their local economy,” said Damema Mann, Director of National Engagement for Polco/National Research Center (NRC). “It has been impressive to see them working hard to help their City succeed.”
For its efforts, Sioux Falls has received the 2020 Voice of the People award for Excellence in Economy. This is the only national award that honors local governments based on feedback from residents. The award is presented by Polco / National Research Center and the International City & County Management Association (ICMA). This award acknowledges local governments with the highest ratings from The NCS and that take the best actions on behalf of their communities.
Biggest Bang for the Buck
Sioux Falls relies on resident input to make sure they are spending their limited resources in the best ways. The National Community Survey (The NCS) is one important tool that assists Sioux Falls with priority-setting for their annual operating budget and five-year Capital Improvement Plan updates.
“By utilizing this kind of community input, the City is able to target the investment of limited taxpayer dollars where the biggest bang for the buck can be achieved. When the city listens to and responds to the public, the community is empowered in a way that makes nothing unachievable,” said David.
A Comfortable Place to Live
One way Sioux Falls built its local economy is through a significant investment in infrastructure to make the City a comfortable place to live.
In 2019, Sioux Falls invested more than $135 million to improve public utilities, transportation networks, wastewater facilities, neighborhoods, and streets.
The City recently began construction on the city’s 12th fire station to meet the needs of a growing region of Sioux Falls. Leaders are planning to construct a state-of-the-art public safety training facility soon.
The City also is working with the State of South Dakota to improve various highways and interchanges.
“These highway improvements will significantly reduce commute times for drivers and open up hundreds of acres to commercial development,” said David.
The City also became one of only 22 communities across the United States to begin implementing a 5G network.
“A fast network will help advance the capacity for technological innovation for businesses large and small,” said David.
A Fun and Beautiful Place to Live
In addition to investing in infrastructure, Sioux Falls focuses on development and culture to make the city a fun and beautiful place to live. For example, Sioux Falls partnered with a local foundation and non-profit to construct a $4.6 million outdoor concert venue in 2019.
“The venue has been a catalyst for significant reinvestment in the city’s downtown core,” said David.
In 2019, the City Council also approved a large tax increment financing (TIF) for a $185 million redevelopment in downtown Sioux Falls. Originally the City intended to use the TIF to construct a network of five residential and commercial buildings connected by landscaped boulevards and walkways, a large hotel, and an eight story parking ramp. The City temporarily paused the plans during COVID-19 to reassess how needs will change after COVID. They are in the process of adapting the plans and then will move forward.
Over the past few years, the City saw a record-breaking amount of construction each year. Prior to COVID-19, office, institutional, and education construction flourished, increasing by over 190 percent between 2017 and 2019. Commercial construction also increased by 25 percent between 2017 to 2019.
While commercial, office, institutional, and education construction slowed a bit during COVID-19, residential construction increased dramatically this past year.
“Between apartments and single family homes, we set an all-time record for the number of dwelling units built in our city and building permits pulled this past year,” said Jeff Eckhoff, Director for Planning and Development Services.
Economic Growth in a COVID World
Because of its commitment to infrastructure, development, and culture, Sioux Falls is growing more as the COVID-19 pandemic continues. The City has recently seen a lot of people moving from larger cities.
“We have been a state that has kept businesses more open and people are coming to work and start businesses because of it,” said Eckhoff.
During the pandemic, Amazon decided to build a fulfillment center in Sioux Falls, adding more than a thousand jobs.
“One interesting thing during the pandemic has been watching small businesses adapt. As a City we worked with many small businesses to help them set up safely and follow ordinances. We also worked with the Chamber to begin a marketing campaign to promote a safe return to local businesses,” said Eckhoff.