BOX ELDER | Local media outlets and municipal officials are touting the potential economic impact that the Air Force’s newest bomber will have on the Rushmore Region – five years before that first airplane will even land at Ellsworth Air Force Base.
"There is going to be a lot of personnel changes and that will be big for Box Elder," Mayor Larry Larson told KOTA Territory News. "It will affect housing, people buying gas, going to stores here. We've even got some contractors that are ready to put in some space because we know there will be contractors coming in to the base to get ready for the B-21, so we are thinking ahead in all of those ways."
The new B-21 bomber will be nuclear-equipped, which the existing B-1s are not, explained Scott Landguth, executive director for Ellsworth Development Authority.
"With that nuclear capability, there will be an increase in jobs,” Landguth told KOTA. “And when a new mission comes in there is always a presence that built the bombers so we anticipate other contractors to be present in Rapid City for a short term."
Larson says with contractors in the area, it will increase trade in Box Elder, and entice more businesses to open up shop. Box Elder has a population of 10,000 people and is the third fastest-growing community in the state of South Dakota, he said.
Larson hopes the introduction of B-21s will boost population even more, and he says initial talks with the base have indicated that as a possibility.
Currently, nearly $1 million dollars a day make its way to the local economy from Ellsworth, according to the Development Authority. And estimates of an additional 500 jobs around the area, thanks to the new bombers, indicate the trend will continue, and also solidify the future of the base.
"We will be a bomber base well into the next century and we will continue to have a mission here at Ellsworth," said Landguth.