By Brett Nachtigall
HOT SPRINGS – A representative with a Missouri-based development company specializing in the construction of workforce housing was in Hot Springs last week and spoke to a group of economic development professionals from the Southern Hills.
And what he had to say was music to the ears of all those in attendance.
The meeting was the quarterly get-together known as SHEDS – Southern Hills Economic Development Summit – where economic development and other business professionals from Custer, Keystone, Hill City, Hermosa, Edgemont, and Hot Springs gather to discuss regional opportunities and learn a little more about each other’s communities. The event this time was hosted by Fall River County’s Southern Hills Economic Development group, spearheaded by Director Andrea Powers, and held at the Chautauqua Artisans Marketplace. Following the early morning breakfast meeting, the dozen or so attendees then took an Impressions Walking Tour of downtown Hot Springs where they visited with many of the town’s small business owners.
During the initial meeting at the Chautauqua Artisans, John Woodhead with Williams & Kramer (W&K) told the group his company has over 50 years combined experience in the Commercial Real Estate Industry focusing on development and acquisition, but where he feels they can most benefit this area, is through the construction of high-quality, factory-built workforce housing units. While building homes is a big part of what W&K does, Woodhead said they also work with communities every step of the way and can be as involved as the community wants them to be, with free consulting on any aspect of the process, provided there is available land on which to work together.
Woodhead said they help small towns that have “kind of been forgotten by many builders.” He added that W&K currently has a project in development in the Northern Hills, for the community of Deadwood, where, over the next five years, they plan to build 11 single-family homes, as well as some twin-homes and potentially a multi-family complex.
He said his company, whose partners included John Kramer who is a formerly from Yankton, is one of the only company’s in the region who is addressing this segment of the construction market, due to it being difficult for most construction companies to build affordably-priced new homes. Compared to a normal stick-built home with a price tag of $300,000, Woodhead said his company can build similar 1,200-square foot homes in their factory for $220,000, and have completed from start-to-finish in as little as seven weeks.
While the concept of building workforce housing was something all the attendees were excited to be hearing about, the price tag still seemed a bit steep for the needs of the Southern Hills.
Hot Springs Mayor George Kotti told Woodhead that based on the community’s recently completed housing study, homes should ideally fall within the $140,000 to $180,000 range. A representative from Custer agreed and said their housing study showed a maximum price tag of $185,000.
Woodhead replied by stating that they could easily fall within that price range with their twin-homes, and added that single-family homes could be priced as such as well, simply by adjusting their overall size or overall options, like countertops, cabinets and other fixtures. He added that all of their homes are of high quality, whereas walking into them, you wouldn’t know they were built in a factory and placed on a foundation.
While all of the Southern Hills towns represented at the meeting showed an interest in what W&K has to offer, Hot Springs however may have a leg-up on some of them as they currently have land owned by the city that is ready for development, as pointed out by Mayor Kotti to Woodhead.
It was also discussed how some efficiencies and price breaks could be achieved if multiple communities could come to the table with similar projects and approach the situation as a region, as opposed to each community putting forth separate and different projects.
Joe Fiala, a Hot Springs native now with the Governors Office of Economic Development, was on hand at the SHEDS meeting and said workforce housing is a need in every community across the state. Fiala admitted he was skeptical at first when he heard about what W&K was offering, but said he was pleased to hear Woodhead’s ideas and welcomed his company to begin future conversations with GOED.
In addition to potentially working directly with the communities to build workforce housing, Woodhead said their company is also potentially looking at constructing a production facility to build their homes somewhere in the region. He said the site would provide factory-built homes for a surrounding service area of 500-600 miles and employ 75-100 people in all phases of a home’s construction process. The construction of the plant itself could potentially be in the ballpark of $15 million, Woodhead said, and produce 300 single-family homes per year and 200 multi-family units.
While everyone in attendance expressed excited interest in W&K potentially building its plant in their Southern Hills community, or at least somewhere along the Hwy. 79 corridor between Rapid City and Hot Springs, Fiala urged Woodhead to have W&K provide the details of their factory needs ASAP to the GEOD and then they would facilitate all of the state’s communities an opportunity to submit proposals.
Woodhead will be back in Hot Springs next week on Nov. 13 for a meeting with local Fall River County representatives to discuss further opportunities in the area.
Brett Nachtigall/Fall River County Herald
John Woodhead with the Missouri-based company Williams & Kramer (W&K) sits at a table with economic development professionals from the Southern Hills during a meeting last Wednesday morning at Chautauqua Artisans Marketplace in downtown Hot Springs. Woodhead spoke with the group about how his company helps smaller communities address their workforce housing needs. W&K recently closed on a deal to construct a number of homes in Deadwood.