Written for: Brookings Area Chamber of Commerce LINK Magazine
Nov. 2019 – “Year in Review” Issue
By: Kristi Larsen, Marketing Director – Brookings Economic Development Corporation
This year has been another exciting one for Brookings! From welcoming new faces, to expanding businesses, to hosting global leaders, our community continues to grow and be recognized for its efforts. In fact, as I write this, our community is preparing to host ESPN’s College GameDay – what an honor!
BEDC’s mission is to build the economy by leading collaborative efforts that support a prosperous place to live, learn, work and play. We focus on four main areas: community development, business development, workforce development and entrepreneur support. We would need much more time and space to talk about all the highlights for 2019 related to these initiatives! So, here are just a few that communicate the success story that is Brookings.
Creating National and Global Awareness: Brookings continues to be recognized in 2019 as a high-quality community, being named #7 Most Arts-Vibrant Small Cities in the U.S. by SMU DataArts, the Best City to Live in S.D. by Chamber of Commerce, and the Best College Town in S.D. by Travel Pulse. These accolades are an important part of creating awareness of Brookings. On a global stage, we were excited to host consul generals from eight different countries, showcasing SDSU and our major industries. SDSU continues to receive national and global attention as well and was able to raise more than $1.3 million in just 24 hours during this year’s One Day for STATE campaign – a true testament to the university’s success!
Place Making: BEDC completed a survey this year to help identify community strengths and opportunities for improvement. Our growing food truck industry and food co-op discussions, a new multicultural center, an expanded performing arts center, the continued support and expansion of entrepreneurial ventures, new experiences like Bum’s Bike & Brew, and events like Downtown at Sundown – which had a record attendance year – all help create an engaging, unique atmosphere to differentiate Brookings in the community marketplace.
Turning Assets Into Opportunities: Brookings has many unique resources, the most significant being SDSU. The story of start-up Prairie AquaTech clearly demonstrates how can we capitalize on these assets to create new business opportunities. The company, which started in 2012 from SDSU research activity, moved into their new, 30,000SF, $60 million plant in Volga this year. What a great success story for the Brookings area!
BEDC continues to pursue opportunities that leverage the region’s assets. We were awarded a $91,000 grant to create a commercial kitchen for food entrepreneurs with a planned opening later this year as well as a $35,000 grant for a Business Innovation Summit to help businesses remain competitive in the next generation economy. We also rolled out the Idea Adviser program at SDSU to assist students, faculty and staff with their business ideas.
Collaboration and Partnerships: We hear it over and over – one attribute that makes Brookings special and the envy of our peers is our ability to work together to get things done. Our leaders continually strive for higher levels of involvement and understanding within the community building process. This year we completed the first year of the Baldrige Communities of Excellence program, a strategic initiative to help communities create a process to engage all voices, allow for ideas to flourish, maximize resources, and produce measurable outcomes for future generations. BEDC also worked with the city and county to pursue a grant for a new interstate interchange to enhance safety and promote economic development. We welcomed new leadership at the Chamber, CVB and Downtown Brookings and continued collaborating with our partners on new programs benefiting the region. Great things have been happening in our neighboring communities as well – Volga was recognized by Governor Noem as the 2019 “Community of the Year.”
Tracking Community Success: How do we know these collaborative efforts to grow the economy are paying off? Entrepreneurs are investing in new ventures as local businesses continue to expand. A workforce survey completed by BEDC this year showed 1,200 current job openings and 700 new positions planned for the next three years, all while the unemployment remains a low 3.1%. Building permits are up over 41%, retail sales are up 5%, total sales are up almost 3% compared to last year at this time, and our population continues to rise.
As we celebrate the tremendous success Brookings has experienced, we acknowledge that our community will continue to grow and change. It is vital that we work together to welcome new ideas and partnerships, address new challenges and develop focused, impactful results. Because after all, it takes a village to write and tell the Brookings story!