Despite being Niche.com’s No. 1 town to live in South Dakota, Brookings residents and students have repeatedly voiced a want for more retail stores.
“It’s hard sometimes because sometimes you just want to go to Target,” said Rebekka Paskweitz, sophomore agricultural education major.
Kristi Larsen, marketing director of Brookings Economic Development Corporation said Brookings’ population is “just not big enough” and the location isn’t ideal.
“They have a store in Sioux Falls and one in Watertown, and we are right in the middle of that,” Larsen said. “From a business standpoint, they are not going to put something in the middle of two of their stores that might then take business away from those two stores.”
Brookings has a population of a little more than 23,000 and although Watertown is smaller, with more than 22,000 people, it has a larger trade area. Trade area can be understood as a geographic region from which a community receives a majority of its business. A larger trade area means more customers and this attracts retail stores, said Al Heuton, executive director of Brookings Economic Development Corporation.
Brookings has more student households versus family households, which affects how the city is looked at by retail stores, he said.
“A pizza place would do really well here, but a steakhouse maybe wouldn’t,” Larsen said, considering half of the Brookings population is college students.
Both Larsen and Heuten said growing online sales play a part as well, making retailers more cautious of opening new stores.
Desired retail businesses aren’t in Brookings now, but efforts to bring them have been made. The Brookings City Council has attempted to bring Target and other retailers to the city.
“Those big corporations look at the number of roofs,” Deputy Mayor Mary Kidwiler said. “They look at the population and demographic.”
The impact of about 12,000 students who might leave town in the summer affects their decisions, she said.
The correlation between workforce and housing also plays a central role in bringing retail businesses to town.
“We turn away businesses all the time, just because we don’t have people to work,” Kidwiler said.
A lack of affordable housing options also affects the available workforce. She hopes this will change as the city council continues to work with the Brookings Affordable Housing Task Force.
Despite setbacks, new building projects are on their way to Brookings.
There is a 26-acre retail development in the works, Kidwiler said. The site of development is located by Whiskey Creek. Construction is planned to begin sometime next year.
Kidwiler also confirmed the city council has hired a consultancy group from Sioux Falls to work on bringing in various businesses.
More privately owned property near Taco Bell is ready to be developed, according to Heuton, who is also a part of marketing the available property.
Although the plans are set to bring more businesses to the city, recruiting retail is a lengthy process. According to Larsen, it takes six to eight years.
New businesses have to be introduced to the community, Larsen said, “they have to find out who Brookings is.”