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EDITORIAL: Rapid City small but growing

New census data shows that Rapid City is fast approaching the 70,000 population threshold. The most recent U.S. Census Bureau data shows that 69,200 people live in the city.

The census also shows that about twice that many people live in the Rapid City metro area, which includes parts of Pennington and Meade counties, with an estimated 138,738 people.

The growth in Rapid City's population is increasing at a faster rate, according to the Census Bureau. After a slow start (Rapid City had barely more than 10,000 people in 1930), the construction of Rapid City Air Base in World War II ballooned the city's population to 25,312 people in 1950, then the post-war boom brought the city's population to 42,390 people in 1960, climbing to 50,000 in the mid-1980s and 60,000 in 2000.

The current boost in population could be because of the oil boom in North Dakota, or the migration from rural areas to population centers. Rapid City is South Dakota's second-largest city behind Sioux Falls.

Census data also shows that South Dakota's rural counties are continuing to lose population. Twenty-two of the state's 66 counties are actually losing residents who are pulling up stakes and moving to larger population centers.

State leaders have recognized that South Dakota probably will continue to be a small population rural state when compared with the rest of the country and could use the Internet to compete with larger states. Gov. Bill Janklow wired every school in the state to the Internet, and Gov. Mike Rounds continued the effort by expanding broadband access to all reaches of South Dakota.

The Internet makes it possible to work at home, no matter where you live. However, that's little comfort to many small towns in South Dakota that continue to lose population.

Rapid City remains a nice place to live. It's growing but is not too big. When Rapid City reaches the 70,000 threshold, the city still would be classified as a small city in the United States – which is fine with many residents who enjoy living in largely rural western South Dakota.

All things considered, it's better to be gaining in population than seeing jobs and people disappear.

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