Brookings is growing, both in terms of businesses as well as the size of the population, community leaders say. And the signs of that growth are visible just about everywhere—on the South Dakota State University campus, in downtown, even on the streets.
Char Hovland, an industry relations specialist at the Midwest Dairy Association, who’s lived in Brookings for more than 20 years, feels the town has more activity today, than it did before.
The Wal-Mart supercenter, due to open its doors in October, held a major hiring fest only recently, at the Brookings Inn. The new outlet will employ 400-odd workers, as against the 200 it does in the present store, said Richard Olson, secretary of the Brookings chamber of commerce.
“I’m not going to comment on who’s planning to purchase the space where the old K-Mart used to be and the present Wal-Mart is, but I do know that there’s a lot of activity going on for occupancy,” he added.
Since January 2003, Downtown Brookings Inc., an association of over 200 local retail, dining, and service businesses, has seen existing businesses expand and new businesses come into town, said program manager Doris Roden.
The 20 or so, fresh businesses include Hennen Publishing, Infinite Arts, Dollar Loan Center, and Prairie Breeze Massage, among others. Some of the businesses that have expanded are Brookings Hypnosis, New Dimensions Hair Salon, Kendall’s, and Medical Supplies.
In keeping with the demands of a growing academic community, towards the end of July 2004, the Brookings Book Company moved from Fourth Street to a more upscale downtown location.
Richard Johnston, the store owner said, he was receiving so many more orders from students and faculty that his inventory outgrew the small old building. So, there was a need to move to a bigger space and a more posh address.
Lewis Drug, the Sioux Falls based-pharmaceutical company, opened shop at the University Mall, in November 2003.
Explaining the decision to open a branch in Brookings, Darcy Swanson, the store pharmacist said that they believed they’d do good business in Brookings since other businesses in the area were growing.
Local residents attribute the community’s growth to more than one reason. While some believe the expansion is due to South Dakota State University’s change of status from a Division II to a Division I school, others are of the view the manufacturing sector is the prime engine of economic growth.
During the 1980s, the primary employer was South Dakota State University. 20 years down the line, businesses have diversified and there’s been a marked increase in the manufacturing sector, said Olson.
“It’s companies like 3M, Larson, Twin City Fans, and Daktronics that have been the principal catalysts of business development. Today, there are more manufacturing sector employees than there are government employees. 3M has about 300 employees, Daktronics about 1,300, Larson, 1,300, and Twin City Fans, 200, he said.
The burgeoning manufacturing sector has, in turn, given rise to several subsidiary businesses such as restaurants, shopping malls, supermarkets, drug stores, etc.
Whether or not industries alone are responsible for the growth isn’t clear, but what’s certain is that the town’s overall population is on the rise, said Dan Hanson of the Brookings City Council. According to the latest data—from 2002—Brookings’ population stood at 18,703.
“The projection for 2004 is in the neighborhood of 18,900, which is still a conservative estimate because we don’t know for certain if the census bureau takes into consideration the spike in the enrollment at South Dakota State University,” he added.
Whatever the reason for its commercial growth, Brookings is surely getting bigger and better, say local residents.