When Catherine was just over a year old, she turned a Dr. Seus book over and placed the frame of a United States foam puzzle over it and exclaimed: "Look Daddy! I made a city!"
I'm not saying that the evolution of America's middle-market is going to be that fast or that simple but the growth in South Dakota- and the Midwest in general, has been both exponential and inevitable.
When you have both coasts of the country growing on top of themselves, it’s only a matter of time before generations that are increasingly more mobile (as they were four and five generations ago in the old country) affect the fluid dynamics of economic overflow into the middle of the country. After all, you can't have sprawl into the ocean.
Another driving force behind this growth is what I like to call “The Delaware Factor” -which is the creation of a tax friendly environment for corporations and dynastic trusts. Corporations and families being able to thrive in soil like this results in more Fortune 500 companies relocating their corporate headquarters… which serves as a catalyst to attract other businesses... that holistically contribute: more jobs, more rooftops, more retail and finally more advanced medical and educational development (Take note Obama).
In the last three years, the population of Sioux Falls alone has gone from 75,000 people to almost 180,000. From 2010 to 2011, the departures and arrivals from the airport (which you pull into like a lifestyle center) doubled which prompted the construction of two additional terminals and an initiative to establish Sioux Falls as an international hub. In the first quarter of 2012, the number of flights has already doubled the total amount of flights in 2011.
Two major hotel flags have recently been planted in the area in addition to to the already significant number of beds. One by Hilton and the other by Hamilton Suites. The construction of the Midwest’s largest sports and entertainment arena, scheduled to be completed in 2013, will bring with it zoning for an entirely new "Entertainment District" and one of the country's largest state-of-the-art Convention Center. The fact that the mayor’s office recently announced that they would be submitting an RFP for another large hotel across from the new Convention Center (contiguous to a championship golf course) has a lot of developers, as far as New York, peeking over their Chemex to get a better look at what’s going on here. But after speaking with quite a few of the old guard in this small city, one is left with the feeling that an RFP is more of an exercise in protocol than of a genuine offering. The deals seem to be locked up before they’re even made public and with a surge of Ag[riculture] money in the market from farmers who profited greatly over the last few years with the corn belts spreading. Farmers and local developers are buying up land and investing in commercial development almost as fast as those profiting from the oil boom in North Dakota. According to Gov. Ed Schafer and Paul Hegg of Hegg Companies, development of the Bakken oil patch is a 25 year play, and it’s not too late for businesses to participate in the economic boom here. This is looking more and more like a better short-term opportunity for developers and operators from the coasts than for the newly relocating fund managers, institutional investors or capital intermediaries. But there does seem to be a long-term play here. I left the East Coast with the luxury of never needing to waiver from my sense of integrity and commitment to fair-play. Those principles may not have brought me as much action as I would have liked, but definitely enabled me to grow with like-minded colleagues, learn from benevolent leaders, and forge a few lasting friendships built on trust and respect. Perhaps not the most popular of business practices employed by ambitious young professionals in America’s biggest cities… but certainly seems to be the way of life in a city of less than 200,000.
Sioux Falls feels like an instant culture-fit for my family and me. If, over time, I’m fortunate enough to earn the trust and respect of my new neighbors, I am confident that the numerous opportunities here will bear fruit.
The mayor’s just announced that a total of $200MM has been spent in the last year on new road construction and repairs of existing roads. Although I am still trying to adapt to things such as driving 35mph on long stretches of road with four to five lanes that could benefit from a few extra signalized intersections; there is a tremendous amount of investment in infrastructure to support and sustain development of the 43rd fastest growing state in the country.
Is Sioux Falls the best kept secret in America? I'll have to pay close attention to my 3yr old daughter's musings and get back to you.