Elevate Rapid City CEO Reflects on Second Year

October 14, 2021

Written By: Tom Johnson

Posted In: Business News

Last week marked two years since I came to Rapid City to lead the area’s community, workforce, innovation, and economic development efforts.

There have been some things I expected—the friendly, midwestern work ethic, the magic of the Black Hills after it snows, and the growing landscape of housing developments east of town. There have been some things I sort of expected—housing shortages, workforce challenges, and not enough purple kale. And then there are the things I didn’t expect at all—losing a parent, losing a chairman, and a once-in-a-century pandemic.  

There have been some good, exhilarating times, like announcing one of the biggest wins in the history of Rapid City or completing the new David Lust Accelerator Building (formerly the Ascent Innovation Center). Or winning an award from the Governor for Community of the Year. There have been some days of complete frustration, like hearing from an investor that Elevate was only in it for the big corporations after helping to save dozens of small businesses with emergency loan funds. Or having someone drop their investment because we featured someone or something they didn’t like in Elevate magazine.  

All of it, and I do mean all of it, both the good and the challenging, has been humbling, to say the least.

Now, the stoics would tell you that’s the way life goes. There are things you can control and things you can’t, and the key to life is knowing which is which. That’s also a good summary of the famous Christian Serenity Prayer. And if you like 80’s hair bands as much as me, I’ll even do you one better: “Every rose has its thorn,” said the once-in-a-generation-poet Brett Michaels. 

I prefer to make it even simpler and stick with the advice Dan Tribby gave me when I first got to town, which is the type of advice you wished you had buried deep in the marrow of your soul when you were twenty years old. He said something like this: people are going to criticize you no matter what you do, so you might as well do what’s right.  

At the time I didn’t think much of it, but he was absolutely correct. When your mission is to Elevate the Rapid City region for all, criticism comes with the territory. And rightly so. The people and communities of this region, big and small, native and non-native, republicans and democrats, retirees and tourists, entrepreneurs and generational businesses, old and young, deserve an area that’s world-class, that is second to none, that is the very best that it can be. A place they can be proud of. And because there is still work ahead of us, it means Rapid City’s best days are always just ahead.  

And so, as I enter year three at Elevate Rapid City, I can tell you that that’s what we intend to keep doing—making the Rapid City area the place people want to be. We’re going to work hard. We’re going to face challenges. And, with your help, each and every one of you, we’re going to lead the change together.  

Why? Because it’s the right thing to do.

Stay safe and God-speed.

Tom