There has been a lot of talk recently about the proposed renovations of the Corn Palace in Mitchell, South Dakota. One writer questioned whether or not the Corn Palace was important to Mitchell as a source of income or just as a part of Mitchell’s identity. It is both.
Travel around the United States, indeed in much of the world, and tell folks you meet that you are from Mitchell and the first response you get most of the time is “Corn Palace!”. Without the Corn Palace, most people would not even know we exist, much less what state we are in.
Because of the Corn Palace, about one third of a million people travel to Mitchell each and every year. These people purchase gasoline for their vehicles, souvenirs in the Corn Palace gift shop. Quite a few spend the night in the area hotels and campgrounds, often going out for supper and breakfast and shopping in local stores. Without the Corn Palace, Cabela’s may have chosen a different city in which to place their first South Dakota store. Many of the Corn Palace visitors go to one or more of Mitchell’s four museums. Without the Corn Palace, many of the people, young and old, employed at these area businesses would be working or living elsewhere.
Should we renovate the Corn Palace? Of course we should! The economic impact on tourism in Davison county in 2010 was $36,670,337 (this figure comes from the South Dakota Tourism annual report). For every dollar spent on tourism, according to some economic indicators, the community will see $7 returned. This is no small potatoes here. Can Mitchell afford not to renovate and improve the Corn Palace? I really don’t think so. The city’s annual budget is $30,619,741. Tourism revenue is as much as 8% of its income (one writer stated that it was less than 2%).
Improvements to the Corn Palace will also benefit the Mitchell Prehistoric Indian Village, Dakota Discovery Museum, McGovern Museum and the Carnegie Resource Center. Renovating the Corn Palace will also bring much needed revenue to the city so that the city may offer more programs for its citizens, better streets, better facilities. And that, folks, is what it’s all about.