Recently, the Mitchell Area Development Corporation, and therefore, our community, became the recipient of a generous gift of land for the express purpose of addressing a critical need: attainable workforce housing.

The most common barrier to filling local jobs as voiced by businesses and organizations is housing — not apartments and not low-income housing, but affordable, attractive single-family homes.

Currently, Mitchell is out of balance. Only 54 percent of our residents own homes, compared to a national average of 64 percent ownership. For our local employers, this means that we are more likely to lose our workforce to other towns because we have a more transient population.

Thanks to this gift, we are now in a great position to attract new workers and support the current employees who wish to purchase a home in a reasonable price range.

Over the past six months, community leaders have spent many hours working toward a project that would fill this need. We have a plan that would create homes for working families with annual household incomes between about $50,000 and $70,000, in jobs like teaching, nursing, welding and plumbing. Let’s do the math on community impact.

  • 94 homes x an average income of $60,000 = $5.64 million in annual income.

  • Those dollars are typically multiplied by a minimum of 2.5 times when spent on local goods and services, for an annual impact of $14 million.

  • Over 10 years, more than $140 million in economic impact would be realized.

The positive impact of these tax-paying residents would be growth to our tax base with an end result of more and better community services and amenities.

The property that was donated is partially zoned for urban development, which is why the Planning and Zoning Committee has been asked to rezone to the residential category. Without any public input, this property could be used for storage units, a 24-unit apartment complex, a cemetery, a parking ramp — none of which would provide as much economic enhancement as a single-family housing project.

We propose a planned neighborhood that will support our greatest community need: affordable housing. This aligns with the Forward 2040 surveys that indicated Mitchell residents, particularly those under 40, see the lack of housing as a negative factor for the future growth of the community.

What is affordable? With available financing for families in the target income range, home values will be between approximately $200,000 and $250,000. They are nice homes, with neighborhood covenants. We will address the concerns of neighbors by reconfiguring lot sizes. In fact, this and other compromises will be the key to success in this project. But ultimately, this is not a project for one neighbor or one company. It is a project for the entire community and our collective future.

Locals have been vocal, telling me we need new retail and restaurants. But did you know that large retailers and many chain restaurants will not consider a town with fewer than 20,000 residents? Growth is the solution.

In the last few months, I’ve been told by local industry leaders that they are turning away business because they cannot find adequate workforce, and when they do find workers, those people cannot find homes. Those lost sales amount to about $30 million that should be coming into Mitchell’s economy. Those lost sales could create up to 180 new jobs. Jobs, at an assumed rate of $18 per hour, which would equate to nearly $7 million in annual wages in Mitchell, with commensurate taxes funneled into our community coffers.

Why would we not embrace this generous gift and do everything we can to be a community that supports its businesses and improves the quality of life for its residents?