Aberdeen is a big draw to area residents, Mayor Mike Levsen said Thursday in his annual State of the City address at the Ramada Inn.
It wasn’t just an opinion, Levsen had the data to prove it.
“The only one close to us is Huron with 61.6 percent,” said Levsen, adding that Brookings saw a 41.4 percent increase and Mitchell saw a 29.4 percent increase.
“The individual numbers are not important,” he said. “What’s important is we are so far ahead of those other cities on how we advanced from 2000 to 2010. The others aren’t even comparable to us.”
In raw numbers, Levsen said Aberdeen’s retail sales of $1.478 billion in 2010 is double the retail sales in Watertown, where sales were $719 million. Those figures don’t include sales information for agriculture and construction equipment.
Another statistic that had Levsen fired up was the pull factor of 2.11 given to Aberdeen for 2010. According to the study, that pull factor increased from 1.49 in 2000. Levsen said a pull factor of 1 means retail sales are where they should be for a specific-sized community. A higher number reflects a regional draw and a lower number means people travel elsewhere for their shopping needs.
“Our pull factor of 2.11 dwarfs the other cities,” said Levsen, pointing out that two factors contribute to this regional draw, one of which is Aberdeen’s location. “The key in pull factor is how far do you have to drive to get more than you can in Aberdeen.”
People in Brookings can drive 45 minutes to Sioux Falls and someone in Watertown has maybe an hour drive, but those who live in Aberdeen have more than a three-hour drive to Sioux Falls and, Levsen said, that fact gives Aberdeen a geographical advantage.
“That geographic advantage gives us something here that others don’t have,” he said.
As a result, Aberdeen has an obligation to provide services not only for the 25,000 people living in Aberdeen but for the people living in surrounding communities, according to Levsen.
“We have to have all the things a person in Groton needs to conduct their lives; and do it well enough so it’s not worth them to drive to Sioux Falls or Fargo or Minneapolis to get those services,” he said. “We are not a city of 25,000. That’s our listed population, but we’re a city much bigger than that.”
Levsen said the need to provide services for a regional population is why Aberdeen built a pool that will accommodate a higher population; it’s why the YMCA is bigger and it’s why the Brown County fair draws an estimated crowd of 250,000 a year.
“What I’m saying is let’s not compare ourselves or think about ourselves in relation to cities with 25,000 people. We’re not. The numbers prove it. Let’s match our reality with our self identity. Let’s make sure we always, no matter what we’re doing, think we’re doing it for other people,” said Levsen, pointing out that improved amenities and offerings for everyone results in an improved quality of life for all. “It adds to our way of life here that makes it so much better than other cities, and, at the same time, we get to live in a small community.”
A major setback
While there has been a lot of forward momentum, Levsen said, there have been setbacks, and the most notable was when Northern Beef Packers closed.
“We all have regrets about that,” he said. “The harm done to those individuals . . . we may never be able to make up. The damage they suffered as a result of coming here and making a commitment to our city . . . is a source of regret for me and should be for all of us.”
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Increases in retail sales
from 2000 to 2010
Aberdeen: 72.2 percent
Brookings: 41.4 percent
Huron: 61.6 percent
Mitchell: 29.4 percent
Rapid City: 15.7 percent
Sioux Falls: 4.9 percent