Brookings wants to attract grads back

BROOKINGS (AP) – This university town in eastern South Dakota is trying to increase its population growth by marketing to a specific target group: families who left after graduation and want to put down roots.

Brookings is home to nearly 24,000 people and South Dakota State University’s campus.

Brookings Economic Development Corporation officials have launched the website, which offers resources for finding a job, buying a house and applying for child care or health care, the Argus Leader reported. The group’s year-old digital marketing campaign is looking to attract families such as Kirstin Girard’s.

Girard and her high school sweetheart attended South Dakota State University to study elementary education. They both taught and lived in Dallas for about 10 years but missed small town living.

Girard said Brookings offered a tight-knit community for their children and plenty of opportunities for entrepreneurs.

“We always knew we wanted to come home,” Girard said. “And you know, life just happens and all of a sudden it’s 10 years later.”

Stacy Aesoph, the team’s workforce development director, said, “It’s just reaching them at that right time.”

Aesoph said the city needs workers, particularly in manufacturing, retail and construction. She also said the town will need manager-level job applicants as older residents retire.

Russell Halgerson and his wife are SDSU graduates who were looking for a place that fit their vision for raising a family. Halgerson returned to Brookings after seven years because the city has a small-town feel but things to do on nights and weekends.

“Our plan, our intention: This is kind of where we’ll stay,” Halgerson said. “We really love it here.”

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