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Sioux Falls and Rapid City Among Regional Leaders in Population Growth

Governing summarizes new Census data on city populations for 2014. Over the last four years, the Midwest has seen the second-slowest urban population growth of the Census’s six regions in the U.S.:

City Population Growth by Region, 2011-2014 Annual Averages

If those averages are population change over the full four-year period, South Dakota’s urban centers are blowing the rest of the Midwest away. Looking at South Dakota and adjoining states, Sioux Falls and Rapid City are among the top ten cities for population growth in the past year. Sioux Falls grew by 2.3%, while Rapid City grew by 2.1%. Only Ankeny, West Des Moines, and Bismarck outpaced Sioux Falls. Maple Grove tied Sioux Falls, and Iowa City was between Sioux Falls and Rapid City. Lakeville tied Rapid City. The other 35 cities over 50,000 in our surrounding states grew less quickly, including three—Great Falls, Waterloo, and Sioux City—that actually lost people. The full regional spreadsheet is below:

If you think growth is good (counterexample: cancer), then these numbers tell us something really good is happening in Sioux Falls and Rapid City.


  1. jerry 2015-05-21 15:38

    Over at John T.’s site, he has an article about some guy that is bitching because he has to fulfill the requirements of the engineers to get the right valve to do the job. I am guessing that this is commercial work that will have occupancy requirements for safety. The guy does not want to have to order the correct valve, he thinks that the stuff on hand locally is adequate. I am sure that if it were a free for all in the building business, Rapid City would be bigger than Sioux Falls. What ever the case may be, it is clear that the flyover center of South Dakota should probably be given back to its rightful owners so that the rest can move either east or west for all the comforts of whatever it is you may want.

  2. larry kurtz 2015-05-21 17:16

    It’s a reach of geographical whimsy to call Rapid City a Midwest town: it sits squarely inside the boundary to the Mountain West where building according to code is strictly optional.

  3. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-21 19:15

    Jerry, are you saying that Rapid City regulates business harder than Sioux Falls?

  4. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-21 19:17

    Larry, I agree the Census inclusion of Rapid City in the Midwest is a stretch. It’s convenient to create a few categories based on state boundaries, but it would take only a spreadsheet sort to put Rapid City and Sioux Falls in separate categories.

  5. jerry 2015-05-21 21:00

    No, I am saying that the regulations are in place for people’s safety, all people’s. If you can put any ole pressure valve where ever you want to, then we have problems. I am saying that engineers study the stuff that is needed to make something work correctly. If it is as bad as Allender claims, then why is everyone so damn busy in Rapid City? In fact, to busy to even bid on projects to the point that the council openly asked if there were enough qualified bidders in the area to get competitive bids.

    Sioux Falls and Rapid City are the premier towns in South Dakota so it stands to reason that they would be the champions of the population growth. All places in between, pound sand and hope you get some immigrants to decide to move to your villages like Huron has done.

  6. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-22 07:10

    The difference between growth in RC and SF and stagnation or decline in the rest of the state is an important part of the economic picture. I’m actually open to a serious discussion of what you say in your original comment about emptying out the big space in between. Just how much infrastructure and investment of public resources can we maintain in the great middle if folks keep moving out? At what point do rural expanses become unsustainable? At what point is it cheaper to Rewild the West?

  7. mike from iowa 2015-05-22 07:36

    West Des Moines is where alot of iowa money resides.

  8. Richard Schriever 2015-05-22 09:01

    The great hollowing out of the state’s core is the subject of a contemplated coffee table photo album project I’ve tentatively titled “White Trashed” subtitled (Maybe Next Year) – which also reflects my time-table for completion at this point.

  9. jerry 2015-05-22 09:51

    Cory, it would be much cheaper and better for the ground if it were left up to the animals to care for it as they have proven for eons that they are more capable than we humans are. If they ran things then the water that runs into our river systems would be much cleaner with less silt that fills those reservoirs on the Missouri and fools us into thinking that there is a lot of water there. Without a lot of research, you can look out as you are driving down a federally funded interstate and see the costs that are involved with maintaining roads, bridges, fences and the like that taxpayers pony up the money for. Counties are damned near broke from doing that as the system is slanted in such a way that some landowners do not really own a lot of land but utilize through lease, a whole lot of government land that they pay little to run their cattle on. The shortfalls are then taken up by the federal taxpayers to keep the thing running. The state gets subsidies from the federal taxpayers to balance a budget that is leaking like a sieve to support areas that cannot support themselves while the federal government gets kicked in the cajones for doing so because of federal government requirements that they follow the rules set out to protect us all from their environmental errors.

    How in the world will corn grow out in western South Dakota without destroying the ground in which it is planted? They jack into the ground way to many chemicals that perk into underground systems or run into the creeks that eventually run into someplace that people are drinking those chemicals. As long as we treat this like the wild west to destroy it, then lets make it the real wild west of old to save it. The only way to do this is to stop the insanity of thinking that it is anything other than range.

  10. Heidi Marttila-Losure 2015-05-22 10:13

    Oh, boy, Cory, now you’ve thrown down the gauntlet. ;)

    First, the suggestion that “folks keep moving out” has a whole lot of assumptions packed into it. Is everyone moving out? Ben Winchester from the University of Minnesota Extension has some research that suggests there is a return migration (or new migration) to many rural places among 25-49-year-olds that is not big enough to counteract the overall trend, but is growing. (Not so much in the Dakotas. But we’re behind on most trends, it seems to me.)

    Also, are “folks moving out” by choice? There are many who would argue the leaving of rural places was based much more on ag policy, Earl Butz’s “get big or get out,” than the wish of those who left. Take a sociology lesson from country radio: There’s a whole lot of nostalgia for farm life, while the 8-5 job is something you want to forget as soon as you punch out.

    But the best question really ought to be: What kind of nation do we want to live in? Thomas Jefferson called small landowners the most precious part of the state. It was part of his vision of a democratic nation. If the unsustainability of rural outmigration is a problem, then “rewilding the West” is not the only policy option. We could also opt for a new Homestead Act.

    Some stuff I’ve written on similar topics:

  11. caheidelberger Post author | 2015-05-22 11:41

    Awesome links, Heidi!

    I love the Jeffersonian concept of small landowners. But do we have a sufficient population of young farm dreamers who want to be tied to the land and the earth in that fashion? Heck, I don’t even like tilling.

  12. Heidi Marttila-Losure 2015-05-22 17:17

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