Eye on KELOLAND: Preparing for the B-21

Eye on KELOLAND

BOX ELDER, S.D. (KELO) — As South Dakota’s 12th largest city, things are only getting busier for Box Elder, as the town prepares for an influx of people moving in the next few years. The B-21 Raider will soon call Ellsworth Air Force Base home.

“So the B-21 Mission is exciting for Ellsworth, it’s exciting for the area and for the state so we are working closely with our military leaders to ensure that as a community we are helping them in all the different ways that need help,” Lynn Kendall, Ellsworth Development Authority, said.

This new Air Force equipment is expected to bring in thousands more people. The Ellsworth Development Authority was put in place to support the air force base, its mission and its people.

“Between water projects, supporting growth for housing and then also focusing on connections around quality of life issues, workforce development, childcare, enhanced education opportunities, all of the things that come with supporting the growth and population,” Kendall said.

That’s why you will see a lot of construction happening in Box Elder over the next few years.

“The Air Force in all of our meetings has indicated that the B-21 is on time and on budget that continues to be the message so we are expected to see the first planes arrive in the middle of 2025, 2026. Of course, working back from that date there is a lot of construction that has to happen,” Kendall said.

Construction has already started here in Box Elder. Behind me here is what’s going to be called the Liberty Center.

From event spaces and hotels to fitness centers and health care facilities, the City of Box Elder plans to have it all.

“We really see Box Elder transforming, a lot of things happening, a lot of building. We’ve had lots of inquiries as far as businesses wanting to come out here so we expect that probably within the next 5 years our population could increase 6-thousand plus,” Mayor Larson said.

Box Elder Mayor Larry Larson says all this infrastructure will be needed when people start moving in.

“We are the 12th largest city, probably one of the top three fastest growing cities, we are a little over 10-thousand people so you add 6-thousand plus to that and we are getting pretty big,” Mayor Larson said.

“Quite a few people are moving in and the community itself is seeing a lot of growth because of the affordability of the housing and the increase in the amenities provided by the community which is really awesome,” Hani Shafai, CEO of Dream Design, Inc., said.

Contractors, like Dream Design International, are working on some of those big projects but also focusing on building housing for when people start coming to town.

“We are submitting a 225 apartment building project, we’re submitting the permit plans. And then we have 60 homes that will be coming out of the ground hopefully within the next three weeks,” Shafai said.

CEO Hani Shafai says there is a lot of work to do, but this could not be a more exciting time.

“It’s being a part of huge thing that will serve the community’s future and serve us for many generations to come,” Shafai said.

“Schools are going to be affected, we are going to be affected, Rapid City and the surrounding area is going to be affected,” Mayor Larson said.

That’s why the western South Dakota community is coming together to make sure the city is ready for what’s in store.

The Liberty Plaza in Box Elder, where you will see many different fitness facilities, event centers, and housing, is about a 58,0000 square feet area. It’s all there to provide specific resources for people in town, but mainly for workers on the Ellsworth Airforce Base.

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