FEB. 9, 2017 - VOL. 52 No. 5

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Chair´s Column

A new era for a growing city

By Dave Kapaska, D.O.
2016-17 Chair of the Board

Dave Kapaska
Dave Kapaska, D.O.
2016-17 Chair of the Board

Jason Ball couldn't be joining us at a more exciting time.

Our new leader comes to Sioux Falls — and the Chamber — at a time of great opportunity and challenge and frankly I can't wait to be a part of this new era. I hope you feel the same way.

Jason will be attending most upcoming Chamber events as he gets to know the membership, and I encourage you to stop by and say hello. He wants to hear from you.

I couldn't help but think about Jason's arrival as I digested the most recent stats showing our city gained 3 percent last year — about 5,200 — to reach a population of 178,500.

This place we love is growing in a way that would be the envy of countless other cities, and from a business perspective, it's hard to imagine more fertile ground for both startups and established businesses looking to build on their success, both longtime leaders and the latest wave of entrepreneurs. The numbers help tell the story of change.

Many of us can remember the days, not that long ago, when Sioux Falls was really an island economically — not deeply affected by the wild swings up and down so common in other cities. That phenomenon helped us get through some tough times relatively unscathed.

As our city and economy matures, we tend to more directly mirror the trends evident in bigger cities. We see that in the increasing diversity of our city, certainly, as immigrants and refugees from around move to Sioux Falls in search of their share of the American dream. The non-white population increased to nearly 17 percent – the highest it's ever been. In a similar way, the percentage of the population living in poverty increased three points, to 14 percent, as Sioux Falls mirrors a national trend: the erosion of what we once called the middle class.

Where some folks might see these trends as challenges, I see opportunity. As I told more than 1,300 Chamber members at the annual meeting in October, these newcomers — from small South Dakota towns, as well as South Sudan — represent the best possible response to our workforce needs. And I encouraged our business leaders to think creatively about how to train, mentor and acclimate these willing workers. As schools go about the crucial business of preparing our kids to be engaged citizens, I said, how is business helping? We must be visible partners in this important work.

We find ourselves in a time of significant transition and tremendous opportunity. I challenge us all to continue to build on the amazing history of this community and this chamber.

Please join me in welcoming Jason Ball as our new president. And now — let's get to work!

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