Sect. 1 Our Towns 2023

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OUR TOWNS

The businesses, organizations and people making a positive difference in the Northern Hills.

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10 years of science

Lab celebrates banner year of activity, makes plans for expansion

LEAD — From its sought-after, world-renowned facility for underground science, to its award-winning education and outreach program, and its access to knowledgeable personnel and support services, the Sanford Underground Research Facility (SURF) has quickly made a name for itself across the world.

In 2022, SURF officials celebrated 10 years of science at the Davis Campus — where many of its key experiments are set up a mile underground to avoid cosmic radiation from the earth’s surface. In its first decade, the facility has secured its place as one of the premier locations for physics research, with a projected $2 billion economic impact on the state from 2020-29, and a spotlight on the world stage in the scientific community. Recently, the United States Particle Physics Community “strongly recommended” expansion at the 4850-level, to accommodate the next generation of experiments in dark matter, neutrinos, and other ground-breaking research projects that can only be conducted deep under the earth’s surface. SURF, as the United States’ only underground laboratory and one of the deepest in the world, checks all of the boxes scientists need for their research — depth, space, availability of environmental radiation monitoring, material screening capability, access for equipment and people, space for and availability of needed infrastructure and local support, and underground machine shops.

“SURF is recognized by the scientific community as a world-leading laboratory,” said Mike Headley, executive director of the S.D. Science and Technology Authority, which manages the lab. “Currently, the particle physics community is preparing a new 10-year strategic plan. They have strongly endorsed the future expansion of SURF to host an even broader suite of next-generation experiments.

“There are no competing interests at SURF,” Headley continued. “We are 100% dedicated to the science mission. Our scientists appreciate our focus on helping them be successful. We receive consistently positive feedback about the strong support they receive from the team.”

As officials with SURF look forward to hosting even more world-leading experiments across all disciplines of science, they are also focused on current projects,

achievements, and educational opportunities. Currently the S.D. Science and Technology Authority, the managing entity for the lab, has 185 full time employees and 15 part time workers. There are also two employees from the Department of Energy on site, and about 20 employees from Fermilab. Additionally, the lab works with about 200 contractor employees that are at SURF full time.

Long Baseline Neutrino Facility

As of the beginning of this year, crews from Thyssen Mining have completed 56% of the excavation, having removed more than 400,000 tons of rock from the 4,850-level to prepare for the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility construction. Once complete, the space includes three large caverns. Two of them are 500 feet long, 65 feet wide, and 90 feet high. The third cavern will be 625 feet long, 65 feet wide, and 36 feet tall.

Patrick Weber, head of the Fermilab South Dakota Services Division said the Thyssen Mining team includes 145 staff members actively working on the excavation, including 115 people who work underground each day. The crew is on track to complete excavation by 2024. Once that is done, Weber said crews will start pouring concrete on the base of the caverns and on all the interconnecting drifts.

“Once the floors are cured, the team will begin the installation of all utilities necessary to support the detectors,” Weber said. “This includes electrical power distribution, lighting, fire alarms and suppression systems, communications, and air conditioning. At the same time, assembly of the large cryostats that house the detectors will begin as the first step in detector installation.”

Once the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility is complete, it will host the international Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment, which will have scientists shooting a beam of neutrinos from Fermilab in Illinois, through the earth to detectors set up deep underground at SURF. By doing this, scientists plan to study the properties of neutrinos, including how the subatomic particles change in transit, the mass of different neutrinos, and the imbalance of matter and antimatter in the universe. They hope to answer some of the most fundamental questions in physics today, including how the universe was created.

Science

Currently the Sanford Underground Research Facility is the host for 29 experiments that span multiple disciplines. This year, two of the largest experiments — the LUX-ZEPLIN (LZ) dark matter experiment and the Majorana Demonstrator — celebrated major milestones. The LZ established itself as the most sensitive dark matter experiment in the world. Majorana collaborators proved that the methodology and infrastructure for the experiment could be successfully used to build a larger detector to search for an extremely rare process called neutrinoless double beta decay,

which could explain why there is more matter in the universe that antimatter. Additionally, scientists have repurposed the Majorana detector to switch gears and search for a rare isotope decay and conduct further dark matter research. Both experiments have been operating in the Davis Campus at the 4850 level for many years, and their announcements were considered major successes and advancements in the worldwide scientific community.

“When we started this project there were many risks and no guarantee that we could achieve our goals, as we were pushing into unexplored territory,” said John Wilkerson, principal investigator

The Black Hills Pioneer Page 2, Our Towns 2023
10 YEARS OF SCIENCE Pg 3
Infrastructure Tech, Will Hover completes maintenance on the Yates Shaft. Photo by: Adam Gomez, Sanford Underground Research Facility A drill and mucker are seen excavating for the Deep Underground Neutrino Experiment at the 4,850 Level at SURF. Photo by Matthew Kapust, Sanford Underground Research Facility

10 YEARS OF SCIENCE

for Majorana and a physics professor at the University of North Carolina. “Today we’re one step closer to understanding the imbalance in the universe, and why we exist at all.”

Hugh Lippincott, spokesperson for the LZ experiment said his collaboration has only begun its groundbreaking work at SURF. “We plan to collect about 20 times more data in the coming years, so we’re only getting started,” he said. “There’s a lot of science to do and it’s very exciting.”

In addition to physics experiments, SURF is also the host for Caterpillar’s testing facility for underground tracking systems designed to keep miners and other workers safe while working underground, and to offer autonomous equipment operation. That work is being conducted at the 1700 Level.

Acoustic sensing technology, and microbial studies of lifeforms that make their home a mile beneath the surface of the earth are also examples of some of the latest research projects in the lab, along with many other projects.

Education and Outreach

During the 2021-22 school year, officials from the SURF Education and Outreach Department report that they helped support 700 teachers and reached more than 20,000 students. So far in the 2022-23 school year, the lab has reached out to 300 teachers and had an impact on 13,000 students.

SURF offers professional development services for teachers, school presentations, field trip opportunities and self-contained math and science curriculum modules with a goal to teach children in grades K-12 how to learn about STEM concepts, rather than what to learn.

In addition to working within the education system, officials with SURF have been working to engage Lead residents in the science and activities at the lab by hosting Deep Talks, a monthly public lecture series that features a wide array of lab topics. Sanford Lab Communications Director Constance Walter said each lecture attracts between 50 to 125 community members, and many more who attend virtually.

In 2021, the S.D. Science and Technology Authority acquired the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor’s Center, with a goal to create a space that tells the history of the Homestake Mine, the story of the lab development, and to explain current science experiments at the lab. In 2022, Visitor’s Center Director Kelly Kirk said the facility hosted 54,000 visitors who enjoyed the displays, talked with

scientists, and participated in a multitude of other educational activities. In just the first few months of 2023, the facility has already welcomed 1,500 visitors.

Headley said the emphasis on education and outreach to all members of the community is part of SURF’s mission to be a good neighbor.

“The citizens of Lead are our neighbors,” he said. “We feel strongly about participating in the community and working hard to minimize any impacts on our neighbors. It’s the right thing to do.”

SURF facility

While scientists and educators kept busy underground and in the community, S.D. Science and Technology operators were busy maintaining the facility. A major aspect of operations at the lab includes pumping and treating water from underground, and in 2022 Wastewater Treatment Plant foreman Ken Noren reported that more than 9 billion gallons of water had been treated.

“That’s the same as 13,686 Olympic swimming pools,” Noren said. “Or, you could think of it as one Olympic swimming pool being filled every eight hours since 2008.”

SURF crews also completed significant infrastructure repairs on the Yates Shaft. The timber-bracedshaft was shut down for about six months while crews stabilized weight-bearing beams and wall plates. Shutting down the shaft meant limiting some access to the underground lab space and using

the

for science and con -

traffic. Crews worked around the clock to complete the work safely and efficiently, and in record time.

“It got a little crazy, and planning was key,” said Wendy

SURF. “We were able to get the work done safely and have that time we needed to really take a look at things and do the repairs that we needed to do. The guys did a terrific job.”

The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 3 10 YEARS OF SCIENCE Pg 5
Ross Shaft struction Straub, director of hoists and shafts at Researchers install photomultiplier tubes around the LZ dark matter detector.
from Pg 2
Photo by Matthew Kapust, Sanford Underground Research Facility. A researcher peers into a glovebox housing a detector cryostat for the Majorana Demonstrator experiment. Photo by Nick Hubbard, Sanford Underground Research Facility
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10 YEARS OF SCIENCE

Straub said the work was a learning experience for the entire crew, since there are not very many wooden shafts left in the world. Most mining shafts are made of steel, but the Yates Shaft was constructed during World War II, when steel was in short supply. In the future, Straub said replacing timber in the shaft with steel will likely become part of the lab’s long term facility plan.

“It’s such a fine art and everything has to go together just so, and there aren’t a lot of people left who know how those things work and how those things go together,” Straub said of the timber shaft.

Looking ahead

Gov. Kristi Noem’signed Senate Bill 35, which passed the Legislature with an overwhelming majority. The bill will give $13 million in emergency funding to expand the lab facilities to accommodate future experiments.

Headley said the support for the lab leading up to the vote was “amazing,” as he worked with them to explain the lab investment. To date, the state has contributed $62 million in appropriations and future funds. That initial invest -

ment has resulted in $932 million in federal and private dollars that have paid for operations and projects. That means the state has received a return investment of 15 times.

The $13 million, officials say, will pay for Thyssen Mining crews to remain underground longer to start the expansion process by installing critical ventilation and rock removal infrastructure. Starting the expansion while Thyssen crews already have their equipment underground for the Long Baseline Neutrino Facility excavation saves about $15 million in mobilization costs. Lab officials say the projected $100 million in construction costs for the expansion will be raised with private donations. Philanthropist T. Denny Sanford, who previously invested $70 million at SURF, has already pledged to be at least one of those major donors for the expansion project.

“We’re out of space,” S.D. Science and Technology Authority Board Chair Casey Peterson told members of the Senate Commerce and Energy committee. “Recently two experiments have gone to Canada and Italy, taking U.S. dollars for research and experiments. That is unacceptable.”

“We are at a critical point right now,” said Mike Headley, executive director of the S.D. Science and Technology Authority. “If we

want to grow and remain a world leader in science, we need to have more underground space in the United States. We are competing with the world’s best science labs in the world, and for that to continue, we have to expand. The science

community has endorsed building more space at SURF.”

The planned expansion includes two caverns, each 100 meters long, 24 meters tall, and 20 meters wide. Each cavern could potentially host up to three experiments.

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from Pg 3
Students complete a scavenger hunt at the Sanford Lab Homestake Visitor Center. Photo by: Adam Gomez, Sanford Underground Research Facility

Interest rate spike slowed home construction, but forecast looking brighter

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After signs of optimism in housing construction in 2022 after two tough, pandemic-impacted years, 2023 got off to a challenging and surprisingly rocky start.

The primary reason? Higher mortgage rates, as the Federal Reserve has tightened its monetary policy, leading to rising mortgage rates. It caused residential investment contracting to drop for seven straight quarters, the longest such decline since 2009.

Duane Bickett of Sioux Falls, who serves as the South Dakota Home Builders state representative to the National Association of Home Builders, said it all comes down to dollars.

“The interest rate really fueled and drove the market at that point. We keep hoping that we’ll see some reduction,” Bickett said. “The only problem with that is, a lot of times when prices drop everywhere, it really affects the pricing and then the equity of home values, too.”

He’s been in the business for 50 years, so he understands market fluctuations. Bickett said there are signs of home prices coming down, and he thinks that is the trend.

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“I think it will,” he said. “They say in some of the big metro areas, they’ve already seen some price decline in housing because people are looking to move some inventory.

U.S. home construction dropped in January, according to a report issued jointly by the U.S. Census Bureau and the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Affairs. The decline in both building permits and housing starts compared to January 2022 was steep.

“Privately owned housing units authorized by building permits in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,339,000. This is 0.1 percent above the revised December rate of 1,337,000, but is 27.3 percent below the January

2022 rate of 1,841,000,” the report states. “Single‐family authorizations in January were at a rate of 718,000; this is 1.8 percent below the revised December figure of 731,000. Authorizations of units in buildings with five units or more were at a rate of 563,000 in January.

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The Black Hills Pioneer Page 6, Our Towns 2023
AMERICINN
OUR TOWNS Special Edition is produced by the Black Hills Pioneer newspaper 315 Seaton Circle, Spearfish, SD 57783 (605) 642-2761 • (800) 676-2761 • www.bhpioneer.com Letitia Lister, publisher | Mark Watson, managing editor Sona O’Connell, advertising manager | Starr Paul, layout The publisher will not be responsible or liable for misprints, misinformation or typographic errors herein contained. Publisher also reserves the right to refuse any advertising deemed not to be in the best interest of the publication. © 2023 BLACK HILLS PIONEER, all rights reserved.
HOME CONSTRUCTION Pg 7
Housing market was tight, but builders optimistic about industry’s future
Higher interest rates for mortgages put a damper on home sales in later 2022 and early this year. However construction prices and loan rates are coming down boosting optimism in the field. Pioneer staff photos

879,000. The January rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 457,000.”

Housing completions, however, were up, the report stated.

“Privately owned housing completions in January were at a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1,406,000. This is 1.0 percent above the revised December estimate of 1,392,000 and is 12.8 percent above the January 2022 rate of 1,247,000. Single‐family housing completions in January were at a rate of 1,040,000; this is 4.4 percent above the revised December rate of 996,000. The January rate for units in buildings with five units or more was 349,000.”

Bickett attended the National Association of Home Builders’ International Builders Show and Design and Construction Week, held Jan. 31-Feb. 2 in Las Vegas.

In a report on the South Dakota Home Builders website, Bickett said NAHB chief economist Dr. Robert Dietz said mortgage rates will be fluid early this year based on the Fed’s actions and the impact on inflation.

“The Fed’s determination to lower inflation is affecting the housing markets greatly in consumer confidence as well as mortgage affordability,” Bickett wrote. “He sees this year to be rocky in terms of housing starts and traffic in open houses. The remodeling market will continue to be strong with existing homeowners tapping into the great pool of equity that has increased in the last three years. He predicts the supply chain issues should ease and with interest rate drops, housing should rebound in 2024 with 2025 predicted as being robust again.”

Bickett said another topic of great interest was federal programs aimed at persuading towns and cities to adopt the most stringent energy codes seen to date.

“The claim is to ‘help’ local government officials ‘educate’ the building communities and consumers about the benefits of higher energy efficiencies without consideration of the cost factors, and in many cases, not enough research has been done to prove the claims of cost recovery or payback,” he wrote. “NAHB is working to produce a one-pager of action talking points to help builders explain the short-sighted effects of this program to consumers and local and state officials.”

Bickett said NAHB has been “very successful in getting the

builder’s point of view out to the consumers and the public. He said people need to be aware of the impact of higher interest rates, higher housing costs, and the cost of regulations and their impact on the housing market and the overall economy.

Builders are concerned about new mandates on electrification, the use and the banning of natural gas, propane and fossil fuels without enough research to see the impact and short-sightedness of these sweeping initiatives. Bickett said the building industry must have a voice on these “life and business-changing proposals.”

Lee Rettig, who is in charge of new homes sales and chief marketing officer of K Construction in Yankton, said the housing market has been through a wild ride since 2020, but he is optimistic about the future.

Rettig has been with K Construction for three years and has been in the construction and home building industry since 2005.

“The rapid increase in interest rates in the third quarter last year really shook the market,” he said.

Rettig said his company lost three contracts for new houses after interest rates rocketed up in September. It takes several months to complete the process to get a mortgage, he said, and last fall, interest rates were on the rise.

When the process began, interest rates were around 3 percent. They reached 6.5 to 7 percent in September and projections called for them to be 8 percent or higher by this spring, Rettig said.

It was almost three times the in-

terest rate, so they had to back out,” he said. “And that instability left people in shock, and when they are in shock, they don’t do anything.”

Rettig said he worked with one buyer last year, and by the time they were ready to complete the contract, the cost of the house had increased $30,000.

“I still built the house,” he said. “The homeowner just had to decide what to do.”

One reason the housing market continued to find willing buyers was the fact that people had more money to spend. Federal programs provided an influx of cash for millions of Americans, while the pandemic kept most at home, Rettig noted.

Since they weren’t going on vacation, out to dinner or drinks and no longer buying coffee and lunch every day, they had more money to spend on housing, he said. In addition, Rettig said, when people were forced to spend more time at home, many realized they wanted to fix up their house or buy a new one.

This demand also led to higher prices. Rettig said traditionally, the Yankton housing market was 25 percent below Sioux Falls, the state’s largest city. Now, they are on par.

He also points to an inflow of new residents who find South Dakota’s natural beauty, friendly people and political and cultural environment attractive. There is a large influx of people from Minnesota, Iowa and Nebraska, Rettig said, as well as from other parts of the country.

“We are expecting a boom in our region, the southeast region and the Yankton region,” he said.

The Black Hills remain a hot market as well, Rettig said, and Sioux Falls is growing at a torrid pace.

Millennials also are reaching their 30s, the “prime home-buying

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The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 7
It’s reasonable to expect that they should come in and make arrangements.
Ron Everett, Mayor of Lead
from Pg 5 HOME CONSTRUCTION HOMECONSTRUCTION Pg 8
A influx of out-of-staters moving to South Dakota has kept home prices inflated in the Northern Hills. Pioneer photo by Mark Watson

Construction costs, worker shortages major factors in tight housing market

B y t om l aW rence Special to The Pioneer

There are thousands of parts needed to build a home, and many of them will cost more this year than last.

Duane Bickett of Sioux Falls, who serves as the South Dakota Home Builders state representative, said there has been some good news. Lumber prices jumped dramatically in 2020-21 as lumber mills slowed or even ceased production during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Well, it’s dropped, the lumber futures have dropped considerably from what they were probably in mid- to late 2021, probably when they hit their peak, and kind of declined a little bit through last year,” Bickett said.

But that is a double-edged sword, he said. As consumption declines, manufacturers reduce their inventory and that keeps prices from dropping a lot.

“It keeps it high because then they are only supplying what the demand is going to buy,” he said.

Bickett, who is building homes in Hill City right now, said with the price of steel rising, some equipment purchases were delayed. He hopes to see reports of more purchases of trailers and dump trucks. That really slowed down when the cost of raw materials spiked, Bickett said.

CONSTRUCTION

age,” he said, and they are looking to build or buy a house. All these factors create increased demand for available houses, he said.

Rettig said for years, there always were 50-75 homes on the market in Yankton. Now, there are fewer than 10.

“People have been saying, ‘The bubble’s going to burst, the bubble’s going to burst, the bubble’s going to burst,’” he said. “And it’s not bursting.”

I think we’re going to see some softening of prices because demand will decrease. So as demand comes down, we’ll see some softening.”

Rettig said as people realize 6.5 percent interest rates are realistic, and decide they want to own a home, he predicts more houses

will be built in the next few years.

“We are planning, our company is planning, for a five- to seven-year boom,” he said.

Bickett remains optimistic, and encourages potential home-buyers to share that feeling.

“What we’re trying to show through the home builders association is, there’s still a way to build a house,” he said. “The interest rates are going to come down again. Refinancing is always an option. So if your family is ready and you need a home, or you’re transferring or you’re doing whatever that is, there’s still homes available. We’re still building them.

“I don’t see any need for doom and gloom,” Bickett said. “We’re going to be in kind of a lull for part of this year, but they’re already predicting, the economists are, that the housing market will pick up by the end of 2023. We’re going to keep working.”

The Associated General Contractors of America released an analysis of government data on Jan. 18. It said while the cost of lumber, steel and diesel fuel led to lower costs for construction materials and services in December, that could change.

“Contractors are optimistic about the construction outlook for 2023, yet they are expecting very different market conditions for the coming year than what they experienced last year,” Stephen E. Sandherr, the association’s chief executive officer, said in a Jan. 4 release. “Even as market demand evolves, contractors will continue to be confronted by many of the challenges they faced in 2022, including the impacts of supply chain problems and labor shortages.”

Ken Simonson, the association’s chief economist, said contractors listed the cost of materials as a major concern. More than 1,000 contractors responded to the survey.

While construction prices dropped 1.8 percent in December,

they were up 7.2 percent in all of 2022, higher than the 6.5 percent increase in the consumer price index. The price of fuel, lumber and steel declined at the end of 2022, but other costs spiraled up, including the price of ready-mix concrete, copper and brass shapes, hot-rolled coil, used for construction steel and paint.

Lee Rettig, who is in charge of new homes sales and chief marketing officer of K Construction in Yankton, said housing costs have risen 30 to 40 percent, with the price of lumber skyrocketing in 2020. Lumber that sold for $320 per 1,000 linear feet jumped to $1,700 per 1,000 linear feet.

Lumber plants on the West Coast slowed production or shut down completely. Large companies like Lowe’s and Home Depot snapped up much of the available lumber, driving up costs for builders, Rettig said.

“Just getting products was a factor,” he said.

Rettig said with lumber, metal products, plastic, wiring and other items, building a house is a complex matter. There are, he tells people, “10,000 moving pieces in a house,” and the price of all of them can fluctuate.

Lumber prices have returned to nearly their previous level, Rettig said. Mills are once again turning out product to build homes, but there is still some competition for it.

Another reason for the spike in housing costs was the labor market. Many people stayed home at the depths of the COVID-19 pandemic — and some didn’t return to work, Rettig said. When companies went to hire people to place roof trusses, operate shingle-making machines or build and install cabinets, they had to raise wages to find workers.

Companies are now paying $18 an hour for entry-level carpenters, up from $10 to $12 per hour a couple years ago. It’s good for the workers — but it adds to the price of a home, Rettig said.

All this “spooked” many home buyers and home builders, he said. Some of the largest national home builders “literally walked away from contracts,” Rettig said.

“They had to, they couldn’t afford to build the houses because the cost of everything was so unstable,” he said.

The Black Hills Pioneer Page 8, Our Towns 2023
FACTORS Pg 9
from Pg 7 HOME Construction companies are forecasting five to seven more years of increased housing construction in the area. Pioneer photo by Mark Watson

from Pg 8

FACTORS

Bickett said the National Association of Home Builders reports a shortage of 500,000 construction workers in the country.

South Dakota home builders recently held their annual winter meeting in Pierre and that was a

primary topic. He said builders have long tried to recruit new workers, and state officials have been very supportive.

“We’ve been getting the money, but unless somebody provides the bodies, the money doesn’t really do anything,” he said.

Bickett said high school students are being told they have to get a college degree to have a successful

life. But that ignores the fact that some construction workers are making $80,000 a year.

There is plenty of work to be done, and good-paying jobs are readily available. Bickett said with a prediction that more houses will be built at the end of this year and into 2024, workers will continue to be needed.

Celebrating 25 years in Spearfish! RE/MAX in the Hills opened their doors in July, 1998. Since that day, they have been dedicated to serving both buyers and sellers throughout the Northern Black Hills of South Dakota, and Wyoming, providing listings for residential, commercial, multi-family and land real estate.

RE/MAX in the Hills has consistently ranked in the Top 5 for sales from the Northern Black Hills Association of Realtors.

DAKOTA LUMBER

Dakota Lumber, located north of Belle Fourche, is a second and third generation lumberyard that has been locally owned and operated by the Bowman Family, who are proud to have served Belle Fourche and the surrounding communities since 1979. Stop by 18751 US-85 in Belle Fourche for all your home project needs or call 892-4041.

STURGIS LIQUOR

Sturgis Liquor has been serving the community for over 80 years. This full service, off sale liquor store has the largest selection of beer, wine, and spirits in the region, and carries many popular seltzers.

They are also the exclusive outlet for Officially Licensed Sturgis® Motorcycle Rally Jack Daniels Single Barrel Decanters, and engraved gifts. Sturgis Liquor is open 7 days a week, so stop in at 1075 Lazelle St. in Sturgis and check out the everyday low prices and monthly specials. They can also be reached at 605-347-5953.

Black Hills Energy is a natural gas and electric utility serving 1.28 million customers in eight states: Arkansas, Colorado, Iowa, Kansas, Montana, Nebraska, South Dakota and Wyoming. Black Hills Energy of South Dakota is the electric service provider for about 70,000 customers in 32 communities within the Black Hills region of western South Dakota and northeastern Wyoming. Black Hills Energy is part of Black Hills Crop. (NYSE: BKH), a growth-oriented, vertically integrated energy company based in Rapid City, South Dakota, with a tradition of improving life with energy and a vision to be the energy partner of choice. Black Hills Corp. also generates wholesale electricity and produces natural gas, oil, and coal. More information is available at www.blackhillsenergy.com.

The Black Hills Pioneer
The housing boom has created an extra demand for new tradesmen entering the industry. Pioneer photo by Mark Watson

Childcare: a critical resource in dire need

Black Hills Pioneer

NORTHERN HILLS — Help wanted ads are everywhere now. From the classifieds to the internet and even in some windows. It seems as if all businesses are trying to hire. A significant number of the workforce has disappeared because of the lack of childcare.

The Northern Hills, and the entire state of South Dakota, has been facing in recent years, centers around child care; the lack of availability, funding, and costs.

According to the U.S. Census Bureau, in July 2022, South Dakota had a population estimate of 909,824. This is almost a 100,000 person increase compared to April 2010.

Data from the Bureau from 2017 to 2021, showed that there were an estimated 50,930 South Dakota children younger than 6, or 73.9 percent, of them who had all available parents in the workforce. There were 107,905, or 80 percent of children from ages 6 to 11 with all available parents in the workforce as well.

So, presumably, at least 50,930 children needed daytime care of some sort at that time.

2021 to 2022 data from the South Dakota Department of Social Services (DSS) shows that there were only 47,742 available slots for state-certified childcare.

Put simply, there’s a child care shortage across the state, and the Northern Hills hasn’t been immune to this issue in the slightest.

The South Dakota Department of Labor (DOL) sent data to the Pioneer saying that there are 28,050 households in the Northern Hills area, and 17,876 total families.

The counties that make up the Northern Hills area are Butte, Lawrence, Meade, and Perkins.

South Dakota Kids Count data center shows that in 2022, the Northern Hills area had a capacity of 1,226 slots for licensed or registered child care, and 700 slots for licensed before and after school care. Since 2021, child care slots have decreased by 36, and after school care has increased by 220.

“I’ve had a handful of very qualified candidates who wanted to join our team, but childcare is nearly impossible to find in Belle Fourche and Spearfish. And, so they had to (give up) the job offer,” said Angie Besler, HR and Communications Manager for Albany Farms.

Albany Farms is the new ramen noodle factory located in Belle Fourche, that plans to employ 300-500 people. The factory currently has 110 employees.

Besler believes a lack of childcare will persist for a while, and said she hasn’t heard anything about new facilities or care centers opening up.

“I just know it’s affecting the economy in Belle Fourche, holding it back from growing as much as it could grow.” Besler said.

In total, the Northern Hills is home to 35 state-certified child care facilities and five after school programs according to the DSS.

Prairie Hills Child Care Center has been providing care as a licensed day care center in Spearfish for 11 years now. Barb Cline, executive director of both the center and Prairie Hills Transit, said she’s noticed issues in the industry ever since she opened the center.

“When we built this building, we chose to add a childcare facility so we would have childcare for employees.” Cline said. “One of the things that I would hear is that, ‘we can’t get childcare at the hours you’re asking us to work.”

Currently, the center has 59 kids enrolled,

with only 41 kids being allowed on-site at a time, due to the child-to-staff ratio. The center is considered a daycare center, so it can have 21 children and above, depending on the amount of employees working.

They have a waitlist of 150 kids, and have had a waitlist since opening the center more than a decade ago.

“She’s got moms that let her know they’re pregnant before they tell their spouses.”

Cline said about Childcare Director Karley LaFountain.

LaFountain said that most of the waitlist is made up of pregnant moms.

“There’s some people who wait until (their child is) born, and don’t realize how bad the childcare crisis is, and then they panic because they can’t go back to work or, you know, they’re trying to work from home and that doesn’t work very well.” LaFountain said.

The center’s priority goes to the pregnant moms who already have kids at the center, so they can keep families together.

Cline said there have been a few instances in which parents have had to take their kids to separate centers due to the lack of availability at each center.

In the fall of 2022, LaFountain and Cline had to turn away 10 kids.

“Going into the school year we had to tell several families that they were gonna have to find alternative care.” Cline said. “Which right now is problematic because if they were going to … Kid’s Club … (during) vacations, it’s closed, so you have parents who more than likely are having to take vacation to stay home with the kids.”

The child age range for the center is 6 weeks to 12 years old.

Located in Deadwood, The Northern Hills Alliance for Children’s Director Kaylee LinnWellford said that the licenced day care center can hold a maximum of 50 kids, and it currently

fell. The center has a waitlist of 20 to 30 kids right now, with at least six pregnant moms on the list.

In the past, Linn-Wellford said the center used to offer drop-in care, and a pay-by-thehour system.

“We just have so many kids on the wait, that we don’t even offer those hourly contracts anymore.” Linn-Wellford said.

It takes around one year for kids to get off the waitlist and into the program.

“Like, right now with our full classrooms, we won’t do another input of kids until the fall (2023), when our seven pre-K students move into kindergarten.” Linn-Wellford said.

The center offers spots for children ranging from 6 weeks to 6 years old, or going into kindergarten.

Kids Club Kids in Spearfish has been around for 29 years, offering before- and after-school care for kids ranging from those in kindergarten to 13 years old.

Director Sandy Tarrant said that she can enroll 100 kids at West Elementary, 100 kids at Creekside Elementary, and 95 kids at Mountain View Elementary.

Currently, each school ranges from 45 to 68 kids enrolled, with West Elementary seeing the largest number of kids in the program.

“Those buildings are seeing 42 (kids) a night. And 42 kindergarteners, (that’s) a lot.” Tarrant said. “So, the more staff I can keep on board and on the floor at a time, the better.”

Tarrant said she’s had up to 80 kids enrolled at West Elementary, but doesn’t like to do that due to staff-to-child ratio and changing schedules.

“We don’t always see (all the kids at one time) because they’re on rotating schedules. We’ve got parents that only need us one night a week, parents that need us three nights a week, or parents that need us from morning to night.”

The Black Hills Pioneer Page 10, Our Towns 2023
CHILDCARE Pg 14
Courtesy photo
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The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 13

Tarrant said. “Sometimes we see those kiddos more than the parents do.”

Between the three schools, there is a waitlist of 9-10 kids.

“Our program fills pretty quickly in the fall when we start school and then we have to say, you know, ‘you’re on a waitlist,’ and I try (to) get them moved off that waitlist as soon as I can.” Tarrant said.

A common occurrence with childcare centers is their inability to run at full capacity due to the lack of staffing. Many center and program directors cite the inability to pay employees a livable wage as the reasoning behind this issue.

The DOL provided statistics to the Pioneer regarding 2021 employment and wage rates for the Northern Hills area. When it comes to hourly wage rates, the mean of all occupations in the area is $22.48. The mean hourly wage rate for childcare workers is $12.03.

The mean annual wage rate for all occupations, according to the DOL, is $46,754, while the mean rate for childcare workers is only $25,015.

Prairie Hills Child Care Center starts employees at $10.80 per hour, which is the current minimum wage in South Dakota.

“For us, we can’t pay much more than minimum wage and still keep the rates where they are for the parents.” Cline said.

The center has 22 employees, with most of them in college for early and elementary education.

Under the age of 3, the center has five kids for every adult, and they have an adult for every 10 kids over the age of 3.

“I try to, a little bit, over-staff because if you have five infants by yourself, you know, it’s legal but it’s not ideal.” LaFountain said. “It’s stressful and they don’t get the care that they need.”

Cline and LaFountain said that all childcare staff have extensive training requirements to become state certified, and licensing and training costs’ are expensive.

Linn-Wellford, from the Northern Hills Alliance for Children, said the main crisis in the childcare industry stems from employee matters. She gave examples like only being able to provide a certain amount of income, not being able to hire as many employees as they could utilize, employees leaving due to the pay, and other aspects like that.

The center starts their employees at $10.95 per hour.

“If it was up to me, I would pay my employees so much more, because they deserve so much more.” Linn-Wellford said. “We can’t keep up with McDonalds or Walmart or these big corporations being able to pay their employees $14, $16, $20 an hour with no experience and no schooling needed.”

The center uses a similar ratio to Prairie Hills, with one adult for every five kids under the age of 4, and one adult for every 10 kids over the age of 4.

“I think it’s very important that kids have the maximum amount of time with one-on-one teaching skills, so we … kind of over staff.” Linn-Wellford said.

Childcare can never run on the bare mini -

mum of staff, due to the possibility of somebody calling out, thus causing an incorrect ratio. If that happened, children would legally have to be sent home.

Linn-Wellford said the center is education-based, and even infants have lesson plans and schedules, and have to meet certain requirements.

“I just feel like parents bring their most precious thing in the world to us, and … the jobs that these teachers do are incredible, and I just wish that the industry had a higher standard of paying their employees.” LinnWellford said.

After school programs are seeing the same issues, if not worse, when it comes to staffing.

“It’s a crisis that we don’t have enough staff to service the kids we could.” Kids Club’s Tarrant said. “Especially with after school programs like mine, it’s more difficult, because we only have a few hours a day to offer (employees).”

Due to being open before and after school, Tarrant can only offer 20 hours per week.

The starting pay at the club is $11 per hour.

“It’s a great college job, but unfortunately the fast food chains and coffee shops and everything can offer more money than we can.” Tarrant said. “As a private nonprofit we’re not in it to make the bucks. We’re in it to take care of kids.”

The club has 25 employees, and tries to run a CHILDCARE Pg 15

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from Pg 14 CHILDCARE
“ ”
It’s a crisis that we don’t have enough staff to service the kids we could
Sandy Tarrant Dirctor of Kids Club Kids

10 to one ratio, as the state requires a 15 to one ratio.

If they had the funds, Tarrant said she’d like to start employees at at least $14 per hour.

“I just remind (parents) that I have to pay my staff. You know all those lovely people that work with your children … they need a way to live.” Tarrant said.

Tarrant said she’s been thinking about implementing childcare beyond the fifth grade for around four years.

“You can’t do it without people, and people require payment.” Tarrant said about expanding.

She said although it’s not a money hungry field, it’s still important that people earn a livable wage.

“You don’t get into this business for the money. If you do, you better check yourself.” Tarrant said. “It’s not a money-making industry, it’s a care provider industry, and I think you’ll hear that from nurses and teachers as well.”

Not only lack of workforce, but a lack of funding, prohibits existing centers to expand and increase their services.

Cline would like to expand services at Prairie Hills Child Care, but can’t due to lack of funds. As a nonprofit, like most centers, they rely heavily on grants and beneficiaries.

“We need a sugar daddy, or mama,” Cline said, laughing.

Cline has met with Spearfish Economic Development Corporation (SEDC), Monument Health, the city of Spearfish, and Black Hills State University (BHSU) about expanding childcare services.

“For us to go out and borrow $2 million, we’d never be able to make payments. And the parents would never be able to afford the childcare rates if we had to borrow money.” Cline said.

Putting expansion aside, daily costs of running a childcare center tends to get expensive as is. LinnWellford said that her center works in a deficit, and LaFountain expressed something similar.

“We always say that there’s no profit margin in daycare, and I was looking at it yesterday actually, and the national average is like a 6 percent profit margin for childcare. So, you’re barely breaking even every month between liability insurance and food and cleaning supplies and everything to keep up with state standards, or even just quality care.” LaFountain said.

While providers are struggling to keep up with paying employees, and providing quality care, parents are struggling to pay for that quality care.

According to the DOL, the mean annual wage rate for statewide South Dakota in 2021 was $46,808.

According to Kids Count, the average annual cost for a licensed center or facility is between $7,020$9,830.

At $7,020, this is 15 percent of an average annual wage. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services states that an affordable childcare threshold is 7 percent of a family’s income. At that rate, childcare would cost $3,277, putting a $3,743 gap between the lowest current cost and affordable cost of care.

As previously stated, the mean annual wage rate for the Northern Hills is $46,754. Finding no data on the average cost of childcare in the Hills, the Pioneer calculated the cost of the individual centers that were interviewed.

The average family attending Prairie Hills pays $1,200-$1,400 per month.

At $1,200 per month, or $14,400 per year, if the parent(s) were making an average annual wage, that would be about 31 percent of their income.

Putting that in a different perspective, Black Hills State University undergraduate tuition and fees is $8,763 per year, according to the website. Adding costs such as books and supplies, a room, and a meal plan, it brings the number up to an estimated yearly cost of $17,265.

“If you need to make more (money), you have to ask the parents to pay more, and it’s just a domino effect.” LaFountain said. “We don’t like raising rates, we try to do it every four-ish years, just with inflation and minimum wage increase, when we do have to do it, you know.”

Through the DSS, there is a child care assistance program, which is only available to families receiving care from state certified providers. To receive assistance families must meet certain work/school requirements such as: working 80 hours per month and are within the established income guidelines, or attend a minimum of 80 hours per month at a university. If a parent is pursuing an education beyond a bachelor’s degree, they’re not eligible for assistance.

According to Kids Count, Child Care Assistance recipients in South Dakota have declined consistently for a decade, dropping 41 percent between 2011 and 2021. No information was found on the exact reason why the number of recipients has declined at such a rate.

After extensive research, it seems as if the childcare crisis is nowhere near being solved. But, steps have been taken federally to try and alleviate some of the issues.

On Jan. 30, DSS announced that Gov. Kristi Noem has approved the release of $12.5 million in federal funding over the next year to “fuel the expansion and startup of new child care facilities in South Dakota.” The DSS will administer the grants.

Grant requests can be made for needs including: facility expenses, payroll and benefit increases, pre-operational health and safety resources needed to meet licensing requirements, and equipment and supply purchases.

The Deadwood-Lead Economic Development Corporation's mission is to promote the growth and development of existing businesses, attract and pursue quality new businesses, and create quality jobs in Deadwood, Lead and Central City. DLEDC's efforts provide businesses with a larger toolbox to help meet their needs and cultivates a network of partners whose resources are shared and maximized throughout the communities. The work that DLEDC is doing fosters clear communication and an environment for action. To learn more about DLEDC visitwww.deadwoodleadedc.com.

BELLE PACKAGE LIQUOR

City owned Belle Package Liquor boasts the largest beer cave in Belle Fourche, a vast selection of wine, and a great collection of craft beers — buy a single bottle, or create your own craft beer sampler!

Stop in and shop and enjoy our everyday low prices, volume discounts and great in-store specials. If we do not have your favorite wine, beer or spirit in stock, let us know and we will be happy to place a special order.

AUTO VALUE

Sturdevant's Auto Value has been a regional leader in parts, accessories, and equipment for 100 years with 50 locations throughout South Dakota, Minnesota, North Dakota, Iowa, and Nebraska, including local stores in Central City and Belle Fourche. Sturdevant's has been locally owned since 1922, and its history has spanned nearly a century as it moves into its fourth generation.

The Sturdevant Company is a proud employer of veterans, which make up 16% of its total employee base. Sturdevant's has seen many changes as it has evolved and grown to meet customer needs; however, one thing that remains steadfast for this locally owned family business is its core values of integrity, quality products, and commitments to the needs of the customer.

Belle Fourche: 1413 5th Ave., 605-892-2658

Central City: 101 US Hwy. 14A, 605-578-3552

ALL BALANCED BOOKKEEPING

All Balanced Bookkeeping is a small, local business doing the books for industries big and small. Our services include payroll management, payroll taxes, and federal and state filings. Through ongoing certifications and seminars, our bookkeepers stay up to date with the latest laws, regulations, and practices in our field.

As a local business, we want to help other local businesses succeed by allowing owners to focus on building and growing their ventures. We pride ourselves in taking a personal interest in every client and stive to give each one of them a truly one-on-one experience. When you work with us, you will always find a friendly bookkeeper ready to listen to your needs and answer all of your questions. Everyone at All Balanced Bookkeeping would like to thank our clients for their continued trust in our bookkeeping expertise. Don’t hesitate to give us a call or stop by our office to get your personalized services today.

The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 15
from Pg 14 CHILDCARE
Courtesy photo

Shea Charitable Trust carries on longtime business owners’ compassion for Lawrence Co. residents

Black Hills Pioneer DEADWOOD — Jim and Lillian Shea had hearts for helping people in need.

That’s why they established the Shea Charitable Trust in 1999, a fund that has given more than $312,000 to Lawrence County residents who have pressing needs like major medical bills or emergency expenses after a fire, accident or other distressing event. As longtime residents of Deadwood, the couple had great compassion for any of their local brothers and sisters in need, and they wanted to make sure there would always be a way for them to help.

Jim started out in Deadwood working with Porter Lumber Company for 15 years. Then, in 1960 he started his own hardware and building business, Shea’s Inc., which he operated until 1997. Jim and Lillian also owned The Trial of Jack McCall and The Ghost of Deadwood Gulch — regular dramatizations about Deadwood history and lore that were intended to draw tourism to the town.

In addition to his business ventures, Jim also helped established the Black Hills VFW Post 5969 in 1945. He and his wife, Lillian, were also active in many other community ventures,

and Jim served as president of the Deadwood Chamber in 1960 and as Deadwood mayor in 1968-1970. In 2005, Deadwood Mayor Francis Toscana declared Jan. 30, 2005 as James E. and Lillian E. Shea Day in Deadwood, and in 2007 James was inducted into the Lead-Deadwood High School Hall of Fame. Jim was also declared the Deadwood/Lead/Central City Citizen of the Year in 2007.

Lillian was known in the Deadwood community and Lawrence County for her kindness and compassion that she showed to others on an individual basis. She carried a “Daily Prayer” that she distributed to people in need, to let them know of Jesus’ love for them.

Jim died at the age of 84 in 2007, while Lillian lived to be 100 years old and died in 2013. The Shea Charitable Trust is part of their legacy and assurance that they will continue to help those in need in perpetuity.

“They were involved in this community,” said Aileen Brunner, president of the Shea Charitable Trust. “They were known for helping people personally through the years. The primary purpose of the charitable trust is to provide funds for emergencies for residents of Lawrence County who may not have funds available to cover. Most recipients have high medical

needs, but some also have needs due to fire for example.”

The trust is governed by a board of five Lawrence County residents When members become aware of someone who has a need, the board votes on how to distribute funds. At the end of the year, Brunner said any remaining funds are donated to a local nonprofit organization.

Brunner said the Sheas were also great supporters of Deadwood business.

“They were always promoting business,” she said. “They were active in tourism and so they promoted the area as well. Jim would always say what’s good for business is good for Deadwood. He was also very helpful with individual needs. They told me personally they always felt so bad when there was a high need from the community, like when somebody had a high medical bill. I think the reason this trust was established was because of their compassion for helping people in need.”

The most common use of the funds is to help people with cancer treatment expenses, which can multiply quickly. In 2022 the Shea Charitable Trust helped six people with medical expenses, and also gave money to Lawrence County Teen Court, the

Lord’s Cupboard, Belle Pregnancy Resource Center, Twin City Animal Shelter, NeighborWorks, the Adams Museum and House Endowment Fund, the Good Shepherd Clinic, and Twin City Clothing Center.

The most important qualification for funds, Brunner said, is that recipients have to live in Lawrence County. For more information about the Shea Charitable Trust, or to apply for assistance with funds, email gabrunner73@outlook.com, or contact any one of the board members.

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Jim and Lillian Shea. Courtesy photo

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Featuring

AMERICAN COLLOID COMPANY DIV. OF MINERAL TECHNOLOGIES, INC.

American Colloid Company Div. of Minerals Technologies, Inc. is a major employer in the northern Black Hills with production and mining operations locally in Belle Fourche SD and Colony WY. MTI is a resource and technology-based company that develops, produces, and markets worldwide a broad range of specialty minerals, mineral-based and synthetic mineral products, and related systems and services.

INTEGRITY MEATS

Black Hills tourism trends for 2022 and a look-ahead to 2023

Integrity Meats is a custom meat processing plant. They carry South Dakota made cheese, Hutterite chickens, fresh and frozen cuts of meat, beef and pork, and a variety of readyto-eat products including summer sausage, German sausage, jerky, beef sticks, keilbasa, jalapeno pickled Polish, and pickled eggs. They also offer wild game processing in the fall. Their excellent customer service allows them to put quality and honesty at the top of the list.

Serving customers for 23 years, stop by today at 404 Industrial St., Belle Fourche.

Black Hills Pioneer

Jim and Kelli Ryan purchased K&K Kustoms in May of 2019, rebranding the business to emphasize RV repair in addition to the horse and utility trailer repair services already offered. Progress RV offers a wide range of RV products and services, with a friendly atmosphere and caring employees welcoming all jobs, large or small.

As camping and rodeo seasons gear up, now is the perfect time to make those repair lists and schedule appointments to fix all the little things you noticed during the winter. For more information, visit ProgressRV.com, call 723-1132, or stop by their location at 18731 US Hwy 85 in Belle Fourche.

DEADWOOD CHAMBER OF COMMERCE

NORTHERN HILLS —Unexpectedly strong visitor numbers, a marked increase in in-state travelers, a focus on families, and a trend toward “out -of -the-way” spots the locals frequent reported in individual Black Hills locales combined to keep tourism traveling right along in 2022, leaving local tourism officials highly optimistic about 2023.

SPECTACULAR IN SPEARFISH

Visit Spearfish Executive Director Mistie Caldwell said a marked tourism trend she saw over the last year was people looking for an off-the-beaten path experience.

“They want to have a ‘local experience’ away from home,” she said. “There is a growing interest in agritourism, as well. It has been less about checking iconic attractions off the bucket list and more about experiential travel — enjoying the moment, if you will.”

In regard to the sites and offerings visitors are frequenting and demanding, Caldwell said they are varied.

“Spearfish is an eclectic community that offers something for everyone — the food, coffee and craft beer culture rivals that of communities far larger than Spearfish. The unique retail offerings and historic downtown serve not only as a shopping hub, but as a destination in itself with the events hosted throughout the year,” she said. “Spearfish Canyon is the crown jewel of the area because it caters to every type of visitor. One can appreciate it from the comfort of the car, take a leisurely hike or climb the rugged walls. The DC Booth Historic National Fish Hatchery, the High Plains Western Heritage Center, and Matthews Opera House present the trifecta of quality entertainment.”

Encouraging trends Caldwell is seeing deal with one highly positive Spearfish commodity.

The Deadwood Chamber of Commerce & Visitors Bureau promotes partnerships with businesses and professionals to create opportunities for economic growth and community improvement.

Membership includes many benefits such as a listing on Deadwood.com (which has over 1 million views annually) and in the Official Deadwood Visitor Guide and Membership Directory (these guides are distributed to over 100,000 people annually); monthly mixers, ribbon cuttings, newsletters, and citywide event participation. Energetic staff ensure that members get the most from their investment.

In addition, the Deadwood Chamber allocates 60% of its annual budget for advertising and generating visitation to Deadwood.

The Deadwood Chamber is located at 501 Main Street, Deadwood, SD. www.deadwood.com 605-578-1876; info@deadwood.org

In regard to estimating tourism numbers, Caldwell said answering that particular question is a challenge.

“2019 was a fabulous year for tourism; 2021 was a record-breaking year everywhere. Everyone who could wanted to get out and travel,”

Caldwell said. “As a fair comparison, 2022 was not as strong of a year as 2021, but I’m not sure we will see numbers like 2021 for the foreseeable future. Most people in the visitor industry are using 2019 as the measuring stick for 2022 comparisons. With that as the standard, 2022 was up from 2019 so, we see that as a positive trend.”

“The number one comment we hear from visitors is the people from South Dakota are the number one thing that keeps bringing them back, everyone is friendly, kind, courteous and welcoming,” she said. “Without those types of people offering their welcoming disposition, Spearfish would not be the popular destination that it is.”

Challenging trends in Spearfish’s tourism trade deal largely with the state of the economy.

“With the competitive nature of tourism marketing, inflation is creating a challenge,” Caldwell said. “It costs a lot more to do the same amount of marketing that it did prior to 2020.”

LOVELY IN LEAD

Lead Area Chamber of Commerce

Executive Director Leigha Patterson said one marked tourism trend characterized Lead’s visitors over the last year.

“Lead is for families,” Patterson said. “A lot of people come to Deadwood because of the history, but then find that it’s not the greatest for long-term family stays, so they discover Lead and all we have to offer here.”

That said, tourism numbers are trending upward in Lead.

“This can be seen through Lead’s yearly tourism tax. People are coming into town and spending more money,” Patterson said. “Also, a lot of residents are keeping their money local.”

In regard to what area businesses can do to stay relevant with the visitor market, Patterson encouraged them to do these important things.

“Keep their digital advertising up to date. Post actively on social media. Keep consistent store front hours,” she said.

In regard to recent visitor trends, Patterson said she is seeing one big craze.

“People are wanting to get out and sight see more. They’re taking those road trips,” she said. “The Black Hills, Lead, and surrounding areas here in western South Dakota are great for that.”

In regard to what she feels drives the positive tourism numbers seen in Lead, Patterson attributes it to the town’s innately quiet nature.

“Lead is a hidden gem,” she said.

The Black Hills Pioneer Page 18, Our Towns 2023
TOURISM TRENDS Pg 19
Spearfish Canyon is the most visited spot in Spearfish, drawing tens of thousands of visitors annually, especially during the fall colors peak. Pioneer file photo

TOURISM TRENDS

“During the South Dakota tourism conference, one of the trending factors for visitors determining their vacation was finding those hidden gems that are not going to be crazy busy. Lead is just that. We have lots of convenient outdoor recreation, museums, attractions, wonderful small businesses. Lead is great for families and a lot of summer tourism is families.”

Because Lead is nicely situated for off-season adventure, visitor numbers are strong year-round.

“We have the trails close by for snowmobiling, snowshoeing, and cross country skiing,” Patterson said. “We also have Terry Peak right in our backyard for downhill skiing and snowboarding. Winter sports greatly impact our economy. The Lab helps more so with local business yearround. Overall, the off season is slow, but with the events that the chamber, Homestake Opera House, and businesses do attract crowds into Lead during that off season, Lead does well.”

DEAR OLD DEADWOOD

Deadwood Chamber & Visitors Bureau

Executive Director Lee Harstad said the most marked tourism trend of late across the state is being experienced locally, as well.

“Statewide, South Dakota is seeing a lot of instate travelers, around 40 percent. We see a lot of in-state guests in Deadwood too, and we have a big fanbase in our surrounding states who make multiple trips to Deadwood annually,” Harstad said. “Inflation is impacting young families most, but people are still traveling. They make changes to duration, distance traveled, food and beverage and entertainment expenses to make vacations

work into their budget. As far as the time in which people book their trips, this window of time has started to lengthen towards pre-pandemic norms, rather than last-minute travel reservations.”

Taking into account hotel and restaurant numbers, Harstad said tourism numbers in Deadwood are definitely trending upward.

“In recent memory, 2021 was truly a banner year. In 2022, we nearly surpassed 2021 numbers. In fact, we did in some areas,” he said. “That said, we are trending up from pre-2021 and starting the year relatively flat over 2022. I don’t consider that a negative, considering some of the economic issues on a national level. However, as for those visiting our website to find out more about Deadwood, we’ve seen double-digit increases in web traffic, with travelers from Illinois, Colorado, Texas, Arizona and Montana showing double-digit increases in interest; and we actively market to four out of these five states. Our marketing works, and that will pay dividends as the year progresses.”

In order to stay relevant with customers, Harstad said it’s focusing on fundamentals.

“It seems like a broken record, but businesses must continue to provide terrific customer service, as well as be in multiple forms of communication with their visitors,” Harstad said. “Information is overwhelming, especially in the world of travel. Those relying on visitor traffic should have a strong communication stream to reach these visitors. Also, and it’s always been the case, but provide a good value for the dollar, especially in the coming years as we look at potential economic shifts.”

In terms of where visitors are frequenting and what they’re demanding, a uniquely local experience tops the list.

“Deadwood’s visitors continue to frequent our tried-and-true sites, of course, and they really want the ‘Deadwood experience,’” Harstad said. “That

experience is different for everyone. It could be being part of the Trial of Jack McCall, playing poker with locals, having a whiskey at the Saloon 10, checking out the Brothel Museum, walking around Mt. Moriah Cemetery, taking in some free live entertainment, placing a sports bet, playing slots and table games, shopping our unique stores, dining in our restaurants, riding the Mickelson Trail or being part of one of our big citywide events,” Harstad said. “Deadwood continues to raise the bar on experiences, and there’s no sign of that slowing.”

Harstad said that continuing to be a popular destination for repeat visitors is very encouraging.

“Seeing a new era of visitors in town, who will soon become repeat travelers, is even more encouraging. Our increases in website traffic bodes well for upcoming peak seasons, and our marketing hits home for potential travelers.”

Incredible visitor numbers comes with challenges, as well, and Harstad pointed to a most troubling and persistent trend he is seeing.

“There’s been a shortage of workers in Deadwood for quite a while. Every year we hope that improves, and to a certain extent it does, but to a certain extent it requires businesses to make changes that affect their customers when they don’t have a proper workforce,” Harstad said. “There’s also the AirBNB and VRBO property discussion; such properties have increased more than 10 percent statewide in the last couple years. There’s a place for these properties, of course, and they need to be regulated like our existing lodging properties who pay our city taxes, including BID taxes. Those dollars are what allow us to continue to organize our major events in town, among other benefits that help the community. Those properties purchased and used for vacation properties also cut into our workforce housing. Having such

The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 19
from Pg 18
TOURISM TRENDS Pg 21
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TOURISM TRENDS

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As far as what drives Deadwood’s tourism numbers, the trend is well-ingrained.

“This town has always been pretty good at entertaining guests in one way or another for the last 147 years,” Harstad said. “So long as Deadwood keeps being Deadwood, the visitors will keep coming to see the Wild West alive and well.”

BEAUTIFUL IN BELLE FOURCHE

Belle Fourche Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Miranda

Gallagher said that plainly put, the most marked tourism trend she saw over the last year is an increase.

“And I feel we will see the same this year as more and more people are traveling,” Gallagher said. “I would say our tourism numbers continue to increase here in Belle Fourche over the past few years.”

Gallagher said she feels area businesses need to retain quality employees, housing options, and continue offering a variety of services to stay relevant with the visitor market.

She added, Belle Fourche events during the summer continue to grow and visitors continue to frequent the multiple campgrounds and hotels available in town, as well as the TriState Museum and Visitor Center, the Center of the Nation Monument, quick access to the Warrior Trail on Highway 212, and numerous outdoor recreational opportunities.

What are the sites and offerings visitors are frequenting and demanding?

Belle Fourche events during the summer continue to grow.

In regard to local trends, Gallagher said the Belle Fourche community is growing.

“So we can offer more things to not just our local residents but also visitors,”

she said. “Once people come to visit Belle Fourche they decide they want to relocate to our community.”

Gallagher said she feels a desire people feel to come to the Black Hills drives local tourism numbers, as well as Belle Fourche being a gateway to the Northern Black Hills.

During the off-season, Belle Fourche tourism numbers decrease and local officials are looking at ways to address the decline.

“We have noticed our off-season that is affected the most is January through March,” Gallagher said. “The chamber is partnering with multiple organizations to do more marketing to encourage more people to visit our community all year around. We will also be doing more advertising ourselves.”

STELLAR IN STURGIS

Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Veronica Grosek said in Sturgis, tourism has been excellent over the past year.

“During 2021, we saw a large surge in visitor traffic that we anticipated would taper back off to normal levels moving into 2022. Instead, that high number of visitors continued into 2022,” Grosek said. “All indicators so far suggest that our local tourism numbers will remain constant (or even grow) moving into 2023. It seems that visitors and prospective visitors are more familiar with our area and are prioritizing travel to places like Sturgis and the Black Hills in recent years.”

In order to remain relevant with visitors, Grosek said businesses need to keep in mind that visitors are looking for local experiences that they can’t get just anywhere.

“Sturgis fits that interest well by offering unique outdoor recreation, incredible history, a thriving local foods culture, and one-of-a-kind products for shopping,” Grosek said.

“Visitors are often surprised by how many gems there are in Sturgis, and catering to that appeal can keep a business relevant. Businesses might ask themselves: ‘What sets this community apart from others? How can my business add to that uniqueness and

appeal by offering local products that in turn support other local businesses?’ Developing that business network and focusing on local appeal is a huge help for any business.”

High on the list for visitors, in terms of what they’re demanding?

“I’d say one of our yearround biggest draws is our outdoor recreation, including over 50 miles of Sturgis Trail System for mountain bikers, equestrians, and more,” Grosek said. “Our community is unique in that you can access our trails from several points within city limits. We also have a thriving local shopping scene, a prominent community of local foods producers and chefs, and an incredible community history including Native American culture, the Cavalry and Fort Meade history, and of course the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally.”

In terms of trends in Sturgis Grosek is seeing that are encouraging is continued interest in small businesses.

“Visitors love getting that “local” perspective and supporting the mainstay businesses of Sturgis. Our Welcome Center has noticed more and more visitors honing in on the ‘ma —and —pop’ shops and activities rather than the big flashy attractions,” Grosek

said. “Our visitors have been incredibly supportive of our community over the last couple years. Our businesses recognize that support and strive to offer better and better hospitality to our guests to keep them coming back, and sharing their experiences with others.

Grosek feels that tourism numbers in Sturgis are being driven by personal choices and a desire to unwind off the beaten path.

“I feel that tourists in the last couple of years have really taken a close look at their own quality of life and are prioritizing living in the moment,” she said. “Sturgis is an ideal location to explore the outdoors, enjoy rich culture and history, and seek unique finds without the hustle and bustle of more urban areas.”

In regard to the off-season, a challenging time period for many business, Grosek said off-season visitor traffic in Sturgis has grown substantially over the last couple of years.

“And that trend appears to be continuing into 2023. I believe it’s a combination of factors – our welcoming businesses, unique experiences and shops, and the idea of the ‘road less traveled’ destination with hidden gems and friendly faces,” she said.

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The Black Hills Pioneer Our Towns 2023, Page 21
from Pg 19
Deadwood saw record visitation in 2021 and numbers almost as high in 2022. Pioneer photo by Jaci Conrad Pearson

A Bed in Need providing families with a hand up

B y m ark W at S on Black Hills Pioneer BELLE FOURCHE — A bed. It’s a simple piece of furniture that many of us take for granted. We get tired; we go to bed and sleep.

But, what if you didn’t have a bed? Where would you sleep?

For many families in the Black Hills, that is a reality that they face on a nightly basis, and it is the mission of a local nonprofit organization to fill that need.

In August 2020, Caroyle LaneKemp and her husband, Gary, saw the demand.

“When we came to the Black Hills, we have a daughter who is 11. She’d come home, and she let us know that she had these friends and they didn’t have any furniture,” Lane-Kemp recalled. “So Gary and I’d go down to Budget Appliance, and we’d buy twin beds for Abby’s friends. After about the fifth time, Cheri Tripp asked me, ‘what are you doing with all these beds?’ ‘Well, we’re giving them away.’”

Tripp owns Budget Appliance N Furniture in Belle Fourche.

“One day, Gary and I approached her because there apparently is a huge need, not only in Belle Fourche, but surrounding commu -

nities, for people who don’t have beds.” Lane-Kemp said.

They partnered and formed the nonprofit, A Bed in Need.

“The rest is history. In 2021, we gave away 25 beds,” Lane-Kemp said.

And in 2022, the number of beds provided exploded to more than 90.

“We work with South Dakota Kids, the Artemis House. We give beds to people who were victims of fire, to single parents; the hail storm that came through Belle in June. It devastated Belle, we live in Belle so we experienced it too,” she said. “We are very thankful that we have insurance. A lot of these families: none of their stuff was insured.”

Providing the simple beds is very personal to Lane-Kemp.

“Before I met Gary, I was a single mom,” she recalled. “And I couldn’t provide a bed for my child.

“I wanted to do something to help,” she continued. “I can’t be the only person in the world who wasn’t able to get a bed, and I can’t be the only single mom who’s struggling.”

While living in New Mexico, she and Gary owned a consignment

store. When families in need came in, often they donated items to those in need.

“Single moms, families, what not,” she said “There was one family in particular: she was a foster mom, and she’d call us up and ask us if we had any mattresses.

Of course we did. We took them out of our home, and we’d give them to her.”

Now that it is not just Lane-Kemp and her husband providing items to those in need, the nonprofit is providing the beds, the bedding, pillows, and more.

“A lot of these are single parents, and they have nothing,” she said, “We try to go above and beyond.”

To apply for assistance or for more information, visit, abedinneed.com.

The Black Hills Pioneer Page 22, Our Towns 2023
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