Mayor’s State of the City – City Thrives, Room for Growth

By: Jodelle Greiner, The Brookings Register

Brookings is thriving but still needs to work on some areas, said Mayor Keith Corbett in his first State of the City address at the Brookings City Council meeting Tuesday.

He said putting together the State of the City message was a little more complicated than usual since Brookings has had three mayors in the past year: Tim Reed, Scott Munsterman and Corbett.

The Gateway Project helps people visualize Brookings when they enter the east side of town, and the Veterans Memorial is a striking view on the west. It also means a lot to Corbett, he said, because he’s a veteran.

The Brookings hospital is a great reflection of the quality of life and economic development here, he said.

The workforce in Brookings County topped out at 19,279 in 2007 and hasn’t “really recovered from the recession,” with just 18,512 workers in 2016, Corbett said. But things are looking up with over 600 open jobs and another 300 expected to open due to expansion.

The Brookings Economic Development Corporation expects 3,000 jobs to be available due to retirements as baby boomers age, Corbett said.

Brookings’ unemployment rate in 2016 was 2.6 percent; last month, it was 2.8 percent, Corbett said.

There were 172 building permits in 2016 with a dramatic increase in apartments. Corbett was told developers are “filling them up as fast as they can build them.”

For taxable sales, eating establishments contribute the largest percentage. Total taxable sales were around $658 million in 2016. Retail taxable sales totaled $358.7 million in 2016 and are going up steadily, Corbett said.

First-penny sales tax is up 4.9 percent to date from 2016 to 2017, and the third-penny sales tax is up 8.7 percent year-to-date. Corbett said city officials get asked a lot where that money comes from; the state distributes it and the city has no way of tracking what’s generating it.

Corbett listed what’s special about Brookings, including the population, which sits at 23,657, a 7 percent increase from the last census. It’s estimated the city is experiencing 4 to 5 percent growth each year.

Corbett said everything looks good, from healthy fund reserves, businesses running well, and the health industry doing well.

Some of the accolades Brookings has received within the past few years are No. 1 Best Place to Live in South Dakota; No. 5 Safest City in America; and Safest College Town in America, rated by various companies, magazines and websites.

With all that going for it, Corbett said Brookings still has room to grow in the areas of housing, child care, workforce development, retail growth, entrepreneurial growth, master planning, commitment to mental health, campus and community relationship, and Brookings Market Place.

He also wants to see coordination among the city, Brookings County, South Dakota State University, Brookings School District and the Brookings Economic Development Corportation.

Brookings’ growth isn’t just up to the city government, Corbett said. There are areas where others could get involved, such as having a welcome center/kiosk and an RV park, because visitors have said they park in Sioux Falls and drive up to Brookings for events. The RV park could be done by a private developer, he added.

Corbett promoted a celebration of gratitude: thanking those who give of their time, talent and treasures. He thanked everyone with the city, citizens, volunteers, organizations and the council.

A video of Corbett’s speech, and of the entire council meeting, is available on the city’s website cityofbrookings.org.

Contact Jodelle Greiner at jgreiner@brookingsregister.com.

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