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Growth continues in Rapid City, but infrastructure needs persist

Screenshot 2023-05-19
C.J. Keene
South Dakota Public Broadcasting
Housing is among the biggest needs in Rapid City as the community continues to grow

Rapid City has once again been named one of the fastest-growing cities in the county – and the fastest in the Midwest. That’s according to the US Census Bureau latest Annual City and Town Population totals report.

Though with new growth comes new challenges.

While the Black Hills are a popular destination for tourists, Rapid City is a popular destination for those looking to set down roots.

Tom Johnson is the CEO of Elevate Rapid City, a local economic development agency. He gave an idea of just how fast Rapid City is growing.

“Rapid City traditionally for the last 150 years hasn’t grown nearly this quick," Johnson said. "Very brisk pace. We’re growing between two and three percent at this point in the last two years. We think we’re going to continue to see this however for the next ten years. Somewhere between two and four thousand people a year for the next ten years with the B-21. That means there’s twenty to forty thousand people who are going to move to the area in the next ten years.”

Issues like housing, traffic, and stress on existing infrastructure can’t be ignored as the population grows, but Johnson said Rapid City’s best days are ahead of it.

“We want to strike a balance - clearly you can’t turn off the lights," Johnson said. "You can’t stop growth from coming, people are going to move here for all the reasons we like it, quality of life, cool downtown, proximity to the mountains, they’re going to continue to move here. The question is how do we shape that growth? Do we plan for it and shape it in a way that’s cohesive with our cultural values and our opportunities for recreation, or do we just let it happen to us?”

Johnson said Elevate is an advocate of responsible growth in Rapid City – which is in the middle of a five-candidate mayoral race. He said he appreciates that candidates are paying attention to infrastructure needs.

“I’ve heard a lot of the mayoral candidates say the right thing in this," Johnson said. "You prime and also invest in infrastructure so that you can handle that growth. They’ve all talked about investing in roads, they’ve all talked about investing in water, investing in strategic planning to figure out where we put our infrastructure for the next ten years to accommodate this growth, they’ve all talked about being more involved in housing and affordable housing.”

Johnson also said he perceives improving civil discourse among Rapid City residents through this mayoral race.

C.J. Keene is a Rapid City-based journalist covering the legal system, education, and culture