Saint Joseph the population has decreased to 72,000 people over the past 10 years. But Sioux City, Iowa, has defied the odds of the rural exodus and offers some insight into how to thrive.
Sioux City is a straight line from Interstate 29, about two hours north of Omaha. Like St. Joseph, it sits on the banks of the Missouri River. But unlike Saint-Joseph, it is increased to 85,000 people.
Local citizens and city officials pointed to aspects of Sioux City that St. Joseph could emulate, the first being its Riverfront.
âI think their river is more open than ours,â said Brad Lau, vice president of economic development for the St. Joseph Chamber of Commerce. “Maybe we can learn with the opportunity with I-229 is that it potentially opens up the river for future development.”
In Sioux City, I-29 cuts between the Riverfront and downtown, similar to I-229 here in St. Joseph. But the space along the Missouri River in Sioux City is much more open and includes trails, parks, and a small amphitheater. The city is currently undergoing redevelopment that will cost between $ 12 million and $ 16 million.
âThere is a huge project going on on the Riverfront right now which includes parks and recreation areas, basketball courts and pickleball courts,â said Chris McGowan, President of the Chamber of Commerce. from Siouxland. “Just a basic recognition that the river is an asset to the community and that we have historically underused it.”
Sioux City has an advantage over St. Joseph. It can grow across the river in what is considered South Sioux City, Nebraska. This area includes a campground, baseball fields, and a hotel. Saint-Joseph does not have the space for this kind of development.
Directly across the highway is downtown Sioux City, with a Hard Rock Cafe Hotel and Casino and the Tyson Event Center – a 10,000 seat arena.
âThey have a real hotel-casino with a great restaurant and a convention center in their downtown area,â said Councilor Brian Myers. âOne thing that our downtown really lacks is a modern convention center big enough to host the events that some of these other cities our size are capable of hosting.â
The revitalization of downtown St. Joseph is not to be laughed at, however. Mosaic Life Care’s move into the German American Bank building spurred growth and resulted in the emergence of new restaurants and shops.
But when Scott Meierhoffer of Meiehoffer Funeral Home visited Sioux City, he noticed that the central location of the casino, arena, hotels, bars and restaurants created more business and foot traffic.
âI think the infrastructure – event center, casino, hotel, all in one place, entertainment district,â Meierhoffer said. “Just the number of people who were out there enjoying and using this infrastructure.”
McGowan said constant investment in the city is what keeps it competitive and growing.
âIt requires major investments in the quality of life, so that we can not only retain the people we have, but attract new people, so that the businesses that we have that want to grow have access to human capital to be able to do it, âhe said.
However, Sioux City has some valuable aspects that St. Joseph just doesn’t. For example, it is a three-state zone.
âWhen a business looks at our community, when I recruit a business, I have the opportunity to show them sites or buildings in Iowa, Nebraska, and South Dakota,â McGowan said. “Very few places have so much flexibility.”
While there are clear differences between the two cities, their geographic locations provide opportunities to learn from each other.
âWhat we’re doing as a community doesn’t include a lot of reinventing the wheel,â McGowan said. âWe looked at other communities that we identified or recognized as being successful in some ways, and we tried to emulate and replicate what they used to be successful. If the leaders of St. Joe’s take the same step, I applaud and encourage him.