Construction in the state’s largest city is booming. Building permits for more than $200 million are already issued for 2013. It’s the first time the city has ever hit that mark in April. The milestone is good news for Sioux Falls on top of more positive numbers rolling in from 2012.
One of Mayor Mike Huether’s presentation slides shows a road sign that says “Sioux Falls – Rock Solid Financials.” He says Sioux Falls is once again recognized as the ninth strongest local economy in the country. The mayor details the successes and challenges of Sioux Falls. Huether points to major accomplishments in economic development. He says construction experienced a huge boost last year.
"There are indeed hammers and nails all throughout our city. Just take a look at the building permit valuations in 2012," Huether says. "Sioux Falls, last year was just a tremendous year. It was the second highest level of construction activity that we’ve ever had in our town."
That rings in at more than $490 million - almost $100 million more than the year before.
The city council is present during the mayor’s State of the City speech. Councilmember and business owner Jim Entenman says he likes the economic direction leadership is taking Sioux Falls.
"We need to be fiscally responsible. We need to continue to provide the infrastructure that businesses are going to need in order to be able to build and expand. We need to look for workforce development as we go forward in the future; I think that’s going to be key to any success," Entenman says.
The at-large councilor says the mayor’s office and city council are conservative with Sioux Falls dollars. He says they want to make sure the city has the money before spending it.
Fellow city council member Rex Rolfing says part of the city’s strength comes from its diversified economy. He credits local workers and companies.
"When you get right down to it, it’s the people of Sioux Falls and not looking at what the national trends are necessarily and just saying, ‘We’ve got a job to do, and we’re going to do it,’" Rolfing says. "And that’s why Sioux Falls’ economy is the way it is."
Rolfing appreciates the numbers that show more businesses are creating more jobs, and Sioux Falls’ unemployment rate is lower now than in the past several years. Rolfing is also proud of the reserve money that Sioux Falls has amassed.
"I think it’s very important for a city of this size or anybody, just like a family, to have a strong reserve and keep that around," Rolfing says. "We don’t know how much we’re going to need to take care of what happened two weeks ago. Whatever it’ll be, we’ll be able to write the check for it."
"Just look at our general fund reserve numbers," Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether says. "They keep growing. We saved an additional $1.8 million and put that into our piggy bank again in 2012."
The city now has more than $45 million in the general fund reserves. Huether points to impressive tax revenue as a primary reason Sioux Falls has enough money to fully operate and add to the stash in the rainy day fund. He shows graph after graph, and they are all trending up.
"We had forecasted a three percent year-over-year revenue growth when we were looking back at 2012. As you can see, we blew that number away. We ended the year at about 5.6 percent, so almost double our forecast when it came to sales tax revenues," Huether says.
Entertainment tax revenue is also up, and Sioux Falls raked in more than $125 million in general revenues last year alone.
The mayor moves on to discuss a recent survey of people who live in Sioux Falls. He says the results show that 93 percent believe the city is a good or excellent place to live. Council member Jim Entenman isn’t surprised. He says more than 1,100 city workers do their best for the community.
"I’m very proud of our city employees. If you look at our response to the ice storm that we had, the response to the cleanup, how we’ve pushed ahead to get everything done and get things cleaned up for our citizens," Entenman says.
The council member says other survey results, such as 91 percent of people saying Sioux Falls is a good or excellent place to raise children, show city leadership is effective and citizens are confident.
"Our community is very pleased economically and as far as the safety of our community, the education opportunities in this town," Entenman says. "I think Sioux Falls is growing, and I think we’re very fortunate that we live in the part of the country that we do."
The survey and economic outlooks numbers are clearly positive, but the rosy results don’t mean the city is devoid of areas of improvement. Sioux Falls Mayor Mike Huether outlines his goals for 2013.
"So what are we going to tackle? We’re going to tackle our streets. We’re going to tackle traffic flow. We’re going to improve recycling. We have to provide more affordable housing," Huether says. "And, something that came out that we will work on as a team because we know it’s important and Chief Barthel and his team will lead the way will be we will improve our interactions with our police team and we’ll work hand-in-hand with Downtown Sioux Falls to improve the perception of downtown safety at night."
Sioux Falls leaders are happy with the town’s growth and service to the community. They say, because of good decisions made in the past, the city is prepared for whatever the future brings.
You can view the mayor’s State of the City address in its entirely on Sioux Falls’ website.