By: Jodelle Greiner, The Brookings Register
ayor Keith Corbett was optimistic when he delivered his State of the City address Tuesday, but he wants the city to keep moving forward.
Corbett cautioned people to not forget where they have come from. He noted the Brookings County Veterans Memorial, which has special meaning for him since he is a veteran, and the brand-new South Main Fire Station.
He wants the city to plan for the future and continue to do more. He also praised all the volunteers in town, especially the firefighters. Having a paid fire crew would add $2 million to the budget, he said.
One of the things Brookings struggles with is workforce. He hears all the time that businesses need more people.
“As of May 15, there were 844 job openings in Brookings,” Corbett said, and that’s all kinds of jobs, including general labor, skilled positions and retail.
In the past year, 21 new businesses opened in Brookings and 16 current businesses expanded, Corbett said.
“Let’s help grow the businesses we have in Brookings right now,” he said.
The unemployment rate is about 3.2 percent; last year it was 2.8 percent, Corbett said.
“As I talk to other communities, it’s something they’re envious of,” he said.
Building permits is an important area, so he was a little nervous when he saw that there were only 86 building permits issued in 2017. He found out that 172 permits were issued in 2016, but a lot of those permits were taken out in December 2016 and the work continued into the next year.
As of the end of May this year, there were 130 building permits issued in Brookings so far for 2018.
General taxable sales were at $67 million in 2017, up from $65 million in 2016.
Construction taxable sales were at $18 million in 2017, up from $17 million in 2016.
“If you talk to some of the other mayors or anybody in any other town, we have the best parks, we have the best streets, we have the best protection of law enforcement, fire; we have the best everything. And I know I’m biased,” Corbett said. “If we don’t have these sales tax dollars, there’s a lot of things we’d have to stop.”
What’s so special?
The population continues to grow with an 8.3 percent increase since the last census. Brookings is increasing 4 to 5 percent every year, with 8,429 households.
“I think the biggest thing is our people … they’re committed to this community,” Corbett said.
Brookings has won award after award from a variety of websites, companies and publications: Best Place to Live in South Dakota, One of the best Cities for Entrepreneurs, and No. 1 Safest College Town in America, to name a few.
Corbett praised city staff in all departments and cited the work they do as some of the reason the town is doing so well.
“What’s so special about Brookings? The people,” Corbett said.
He referenced the city’s mission: “The City of Brookings is committed to providing a high quality of life for its citizens and fostering a diverse economic base through innovative thinking, strategic planning, and proactive, fiscally responsible municipal management.”
It’s not the council or staff that makes that all happen.
“It’s the people of Brookings that have got to be committed to accomplishing these things,” Corbett said. “It’s the citizens of Brookings accomplishing these.”
Some of the opportunities for Brookings to improve are:
• Affordable housing;
• Child/adult care; some adults have their parents living with them now because they need supervision;
• Workforce development/training;
• Retail growth – “People tell me they love to come to Brookings because of the stores,” Corbett said, citing “how fun” the niche shops on Main Avenue are;
• Continuing with the entrepreneurial growth;
• Continue Master Planning;
• Interchange at 20th Street South and I-29 – “We have got to develop an interchange at that location. We are missing out on growth for Brookings if we don’t,” Corbett said, noting that Aurora is growing west and Brookings needs to grow to the east. “There’s opportunities,” he insisted;
• Continue commitment to mental health – “It’s an issue in every community, and we’re not gonna turn our back on it,” Corbett said;
• Campus and community relationship – “Together, we’re gonna grow stronger,” Corbett said; and
• Brookings Marketplace.
There are opportunities for the future with economic growth and community improvement strategy; coordination among the county, the school district, the Brookings Economic Development Corporation, the city, and South Dakota State University.
Corbett really likes the idea of having a welcome center/kiosk.
“I think we’re missing that. When Brookings Marketplace is up – and that’s going to be up sooner than we probably know – I think we’re missing the opportunity,” Corbett said.
Visitors need a place, too.
“I can’t tell you how many people have talked to me about an RV park. The city can’t do that. The law does not allow us to do that. There’s got to be some developers out there that want to do that,” he said.
“Opportunities present themselves,” Corbett said.
Attitude of gratitude
A lot of work goes into that, and Corbett does not want it go unnoticed.
“I want us to continue a celebration of gratitude,” he said. “Do we remember to say thank you to people?”
Folks should take the time to thank those who have given and continue to give of their time, talent and treasures.
He thanked city staff, council members and volunteer boards, especially the people who just step in.
“I love the phone calls when they say, ‘We’re thinking about doing this, how do we do that?’” he said, adding the city staff is always willing to help.
Contact Jodelle Greiner at email@example.com.