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Vendors set up before the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally, the city's major economic event.
Vendors set up before the annual Sturgis motorcycle rally, the city's major economic event.
Black Hills Knowledge Network photo/Chelsea Gortmaker

Sturgis - Work & Economy

A Veterans Administration medical center is Sturgis' biggest employer with around 751 workers, according to the Sturgis Economic Development CorporationBlack Hills Special Services Cooperative, a public education agency, ranks second in employment with a staff of around 578.

The community’s emphasis on healthcare and education might surprise outsiders worldwide who know Sturgis as home of an annual motorcycle rally. Touted as the nation’s largest, the Sturgis Motorcycle Rally was launched in 1938 by the local Jackpine Gypsies motorcycle club. Today, motorcycle racing and other competitions, outdoor concerts by major rock ‘n roll and country performers, and late night parties under the stars lure rally fans back year after year. The event generates big profits for vendors selling everything from food to tattoos, and it boosts revenue for state and city sales tax coffers, and for charities. 

There is no denying, though, that the rally also generates its own brand of difficulties, including law enforcement issues. A year-round rally-related problem for Sturgis has been the loss of activity in the town’s central business district. Some Main Street buildings owned or leased by rally vendors sit empty for eleven months each year. The town’s current comprehensive plan calls for an aggressive downtown revitalization effort. Simultaneously, municipal government and economic development leaders are working to attract new retail along Interstate 90.

Since it was founded, Sturgis has profited by providing retail services to area livestock ranchers, lumber producers, Black Hills vacationers, and small manufacturers. According to Pat Kurtenbach of the Sturgis Economic Development Corporation, in the 1980s Sturgis began attracting metals manufacturers to its new industrial park. Today around 215 people are employed by 21 small companies in the park, mainly producing firearms and motorcycle parts.

Business activity

The Sturgis economy generated nearly $4,072,169.75 in business activity subject to state sales tax in fiscal year 2016 (July 2015-June 2016). This represented an 18.21 percent increase over FY2015. To see complete, monthly reports of sales tax information on Sturgis, visit the South Dakota Department of Revenue website.

Gross Sales Revenue 

Business in Meade County did $527,247,901.46 in gross sales in 2016, as reported by the South Dakota Department of Revenue . 

Employment and Workforce 

The largest employment industries are administration, sales, management, production, food & serving. Administrative jobs is the most common job description in Sturgis, according to the census bureau. 

In 2015, Meade county has 6,941 total jobs, a 3.5 percent increase from the previous year. South Dakota had about 416,020 jobs and the United States about 139,491,699. Both South Dakota and the United States had a 14.3 and 7.4 percent increase in total jobs respectively.

Sturgis had a 79.0 percent proportion of adults working, larger than both the South Dakota average of 76.4 percent, and the national average of 68.7 percent. 

Income & Wages 

At $35,818 in 2015, the Median Household Income of Sturgis, was less than both the South Dakota median of $53,017 and, the United States median of $55,775.

The Median Household Income for those 65+ in South Dakota was of $37,896, and the United States median of $40,971. 

1,022 people live in Poverty in Sturgis, approximately 15.8 percent of the total population. The state’s poverty rate is 13.7 percent as compared to the United States average of 14.7 percent.  

The percentage of people who pay 30 percent or more of their income on monthly housing costs, also known as Housing Cost Burdened is 36.8 percent. South Dakota’s Housing Cost Burdened is slightly less than Sturgis’s at 24.5 percent, but the United States’ is larger at 33.3 percent. 

Chamber of Commerce

The city of Sturgis is served by the Sturgis Area Chamber of Commerce. To contact the Chamber of Commerce, email [email protected] or call 605-347-2556.

More Information 

For more data on the economies of South Dakota and the Black Hills, please check out our interactive graphs and charts on the South Dakota Dashboard. 

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