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Harrisburg Wants To Woo Walmart To Town

February 21, 2012, 6:22 PM by Kelly Bartnick

Harrisburg Wants To Woo Walmart To Town
HARRISBURG, SD - Harrisburg wants to be more than a Sioux Falls bedroom community.

City leaders are hoping opposition to a new Walmart on the south side of Sioux Falls will make the retail giant consider a new location in Harrisburg. And the plan to woo Walmart is on the fast-track.

Harrisburg has ballooned from a city of about 1,000 to just over 4,000, and the projected growth doesn't seem to be stopping, but retail growth isn't keeping up with the residential surge. City leaders want Walmart and the big boost it could bring.

"It's kind of a chicken and the egg problem. Once we get one in, we expect more to follow," Harrisburg city council member Julie Bowen said.

Empty fields line Cliff Avenue north of Harrisburg. The city knows development will happen here as the three-mile gap between Harrisburg and Sioux Falls fills up and blurs the two towns' boundaries.

"The people who built Harrisburg in the past did a fabulous job with what they had. The problem is that we're getting a new demographic. We're getting younger people that expect things," Bowen said.

New residents want amenities: parks, pools, trails. And Bowen says those are expectations the city's tax base just can't support without more retail and the revenue that could bring to town. Economic development president Ashley Mayland says Harrisburg is ready for retailers.

"We have been preparing ourselves as a community and as a committee to answer questions, fill needs, see what we can do to bring different businesses in as they present themselves," Mayland said.

The opportunity for the first push may have presented itself. Walmart wants to build at the intersection of 69th Street and Cliff Avenue on the south edge of Sioux Falls. Residents have spoken out against that plan. Bowen hopes the retailer will consider moving south.

"It's always easier to go where you're wanted. And we want Walmart. And our residents, for the most part, want Walmart," Bowen said.

Right now, Harrisburg doesn't even have a grocery store. Instead, residents fill their needs in Sioux Falls. The city has a narrow window to convince Walmart that a three-mile move is worth talking about.

"Personally I want to be in our own community, and I think that's the feel of a lot of different people. But we do have ground to make up in the commercial aspect," Mayland said.

Bowen says other retailers had been looking at Harrisburg expansion, but say they would pull out if Walmart moves in. That includes the site it is already studying at 69th Street and Cliff Avenue. Harrisburg officials have not identified an incentive plan yet to get the retailer to move south.

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