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Rapid City Fears Harm From New Metro Area Definition

Rapid City


federal government proposal to change the definition of a metropolitan area could affect cities nationwide, including one in South Dakota. 

The definition of a metropolitan area hasn’t changed for 71 years. It’s an urban area with at least 50,000 residents in the core city. 

Now the federal government wants to bump the threshold to 100,000 residents. 

That would downgrade 144 cities around the country from metropolitan to micropolitan status, including Rapid City. Its population is about 78,000. 

Kip Harrington is Rapid City’s interim long-range planning director. He said metropolitan-area statistics from the Census Bureau are important for economic development. 

“When companies are looking to grow or relocate a business or start a new business, one of the first things they look at is metropolitan statistical area data to get a feel for the demographics of the area, the population, the economic data,” Harrington said. “There’s not nearly as much of that available for a micropolitan statistical area.” 

Harrington’s office sent a letter to the federal Office of Management and Budget. South Dakota’s congressional delegation did, too. The letters urge the office to reject the higher population threshold. 

Federal officials say the change will not affect eligibility for federal funds. But Harrington is concerned. 

“We’re not sure that it will always stay that way, and so changing from a metro urban area to a more rural area, we may lose the opportunity for some of those grant programs,” Harrington said. 

If the federal government approves the change, it will take effect in 2023. 

Seth supervises SDPB's beat reporters and newscast team. He works at SDPB's Black Hills Studio in Rapid City.