College students bring both revenue and life back to Spearfish

Published: Jun. 25, 2020 at 4:49 PM MDT
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South Dakota is made up of small towns, all of which have felt the impact of COVID-19. But what about the college towns who's students left half way through the spring semester, that those towns rely on nine months out of the year?

Black Hills State University brings in more than 4000 students to the town of Spearfish each year. For downtown businesses, students not only bring in revenue but also fill job openings.

"It'd be very difficult not having the university open and not having the college students back in our community. Not only do they provide sales tax and revenue for businesses downtown, not only do they serve as valuable employees in our community, but they're also a sign of life in our community," said Nathan Hoogshagen, Spearfish Downtown Business Association Executive Director.

A lot of changes hit downtown businesses, and students leaving in the middle of the spring semester was one of them. One business says they might feel that hit well into the coming year.

"But that next season, word of mouth, the under class-men coming up who would be learning about this place as seniors are graduating and leaving the town," said Robert Williamson, Barbacoa's, General Manager. "It's really going to affect us you know the coming years, rather than initially just because we'll kind of have a gap in that word of mouth and in that you know students coming in, just that cycle is going to be stopping here."

Spearfish is use to a majority of it's college students leaving in the spring, but normally tourism fills the gap.

"And so it was also difficult to have that abruptly leave and then not be offset by tourism season that usually starts right around the time the college students are leaving," said Hoogshagen.

Hoogshagen said the Downtown Business Association is excited to see the college students return and breath some life back to the community.