RAPID CITY, S.D. — For local businesses in Rapid City and the surrounding area, the COVID-19 pandemic changed everything. For the tourism industry, the impact wasn’t the same.
Although Elevate Rapid City reports a 15 percent rise in sales tax revenue, that doesn’t translate into profit for local businesses as many turned to online shopping during the pandemic for basic needs.
As a result, mom and pop operations don’t bank the sales revenue that could help their business.
“We bring about three million tourists here annually to the Black Hills,” said Tom Johnson, the President & CEO of Elevate Rapid City. “When the pandemic hits and you don’t have nearly as many of them traveling, some would say less than half of those normal visitors, you’re going to see those businesses that were affected by the tourist industry most which are hotels, they spend their money lodging, they spend their money eating and shopping, so those were absolutely bar none the most affected businesses.”
While the impact may hurt businesses and the work force in the area, certain things are looking up. Elevate Rapid City also reports a 12 percent jump in building permits as well as an eight percent rise in wages.
But, the rise in wages comes with a cost. Businesses are finding it difficult to find a workforce despite the higher pay. But, that’s where Elevate’s research and development team crunches the numbers.
“That’s really the biggest thing, salaries drive the workforce more than anything else and so if you know ahead of time what that salary needs to be to attract those workers, we help them with that,” Johnson said.
Even the housing market has been different. Johnson says that a house in the area sells in about 10 days or less, something that’s uncharacteristic for the area during the pandemic.
But local developers are pushing to meet the demand, a demand that developers will naturally be behind.
“They’re seeing this market data that we’re also helping to provide and they’re trying to get out ahead of it,” Johnson said. “You’re almost always going to be about 12 months behind the market because that’s how long it takes to build a house. So you’re never going to be out in front of it, you’re going to be a little bit behind.”
Promising economic signs that show growth despite the pandemic.