Sioux Falls, Rapid City mayors discuss economic and growth challenges

Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken and Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender are highlighting the need for both cities to work together with future challenges.
Published: May. 22, 2023 at 5:41 PM CDT
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SIOUX FALLS, S.D. (Dakota News Now) - Sioux Falls Mayor Paul TenHaken and Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender said Monday they’ve been fighting back against the notion that the two sides of South Dakota are at odds, and that the state’s two largest cities need each other now more than ever.

At the Sioux Falls Downtown Rotary meeting Monday, the two mayors said over the past few years the two cities have made efforts between them to work on a number of issues including economic growth, affordable and available housing, as well as working on homelessness. TenHaken and Allender said the two communities aren’t in a competition for resources in the state, stating that working together is the better option for both of them.

“It’s not a competition, it’s not a zero-sum game. ‘What are you doing with your homelessness challenge, and how are you dealing with the parolee problem that we have of all of these parolees being released early?’” TenHaken said.

“Opening these doors is one thing. Keeping them open is another, and maybe more difficult.” Allender said.

That cooperation has come into play during each legislative session out in Pierre. One example of that is Senate Bill 41, providing around $200 million in funding for housing projects across the state. While only 30 percent of that funding is going to Sioux Falls and Rapid City, the two mayors recognize that working together on legislative priorities is how they can bring changes to the state that will benefit them both while working with other communities in the state.

“When we can work together on bills or on issues, it strengthens our message a lot more than if like, ‘Well, that’s a Sioux Falls issue, or Rapid City is really pushing for that,’” TenHaken said. “We both go to Pierre with the knowledge that a lot of our smaller communities aren’t as big of fans of our bigger communities than we’d like them to be.”

Both Allender and TenHaken said each city continues to deal with their respective homelessness challenges, as the state’s two largest cities that see the most people out on the streets.

“We need to get used to it. We need to figure out how to deal with it, because it cannot be eliminated. Especially in South Dakota, where the feelings are what they are about government handouts and that sort of thing.” Allender said.

The relationship between the two cities extends past city government as well, with both cities’ economic development organizations working closer than ever before. Elevate Rapid City President & CEO Tom Johnson said while each city has a different profile, there’s a lot between the two that they have in common. With how quickly each city is growing, he said both will need to work together in the future on managing those economic changes.

“We’re both in the top 35 of fastest growing cities in the country last year. When you’re growing at 2.7 percent, that is a brisk pace, it’s six times the national average. That’s a good thing, but it also comes with it’s challenges,” Johnson said.

Allender’s term as Rapid City Mayor is coming to an end in the coming weeks, as the city goes to the polls in a June 6th mayoral election. TenHaken said he will be watching the results of the election, and stressed the need to continue the relationship between the two cities no matter who wins.