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‘They’re coming:’ New businesses see opportunity in Dickinson

Press Photo by Dustin Monke A new mixed-use development for commercial property and housing is under construction east of State Avenue and south of 21st Street West in Dickinson.

Click here to view an interactive map of some of the new developments coming to Dickinson.

After years of an influx of people to the Dickinson area, businesses are finally starting to follow.

A drive up State Avenue or 30th Avenue West is enough to see that Dickinson isn’t the quiet community it once was just a few years ago. Several commercial developments are in the works around the city, bringing with them new restaurants and retailers to serve the growing community.

“We’re pretty excited about that, actually,” city administrator Shawn Kessel said. “It’s the kind of stuff that residents have been wanting a long time.

“We keep talking about population gain and population gain, and that’s what it takes to bring those retailers in. And they’re coming.”

West Ridge, home of Menards, Wells Fargo and the recently opened Tractor Supply Co., will soon feature a Family Fare supermarket and Buffalo Wild Wings. JoAnn Fabrics and PetCo are still attached to neighboring Dickinson Hills. A number of new businesses — among them Cash Wise Foods, Qdoba, Jimmy John’s and City Brew — are attached to projects at the Prairie Hills Mall.

Where once the Dickinson Chamber of Commerce had to actively attract big-box stores and chains to build here, executive director Cooper Whitman said businesses are now well aware of the opportunities in the Bakken.

“Our purpose as community leaders had been served,” he said. Now, developers “are doing a great job of enticing businesses.”

Large retailers may have shied away from Dickinson based on its 2010 census, which put the city’s population at under 18,000. But with estimates now in the 30,000 range, businesses are taking notice.

“Every time it seems like they go back and revisit those numbers, we have to expect an increase in our population,” Kessel said.

City officials approved an expanded extraterritorial boundary last month, pushing the city’s boundaries even further west and north. The West Dickinson Area Plan, which leaders are reviewing for development, could add as many as 6,100 acres to the city, including almost 4,000 housing units.

Some business owners say the rapid population growth has put pressure on existing restaurants and retailers, who struggle to keep up with the demand.

Bill Leiker, a co-owner of the Domino’s Pizza off of 12th Avenue West, said the restaurant is “crazy busy.”

“We cannot get enough people in our current store to make the pizza that we’re getting calls for,” he said. “It does more business than four of our other stores combined.”

A new theater-style, sit-down Domino’s is one of two restaurants confirmed for the American West Plaza, which is expected to open early next year. Dickinson’s third Subway restaurant will be located in the same building, developer Bryan Nelson said.

Leiker said he isn’t sure what he and his partner will do with the existing Domino’s inside of DJ’s Tesero. It may continue to operate as a delivery-only location while the new 2,500-square-foot store serves as a carry-out and sit-down restaurant.

Which brings up the question: Who will staff all of these new businesses? Leiker said staffing is an issue, and will be even more so at the new location.

“We’re importing employees from out of town to cover extra business,” he said. “It’s real hard to hire.”

Kessel said companies moving into the area are aware of the workforce challenges, and know what to expect.

“They’ll be prepared to pare a wage that’ll attract their staff,” he said. “They definitely will have to pay a little more than they would in other locations.”

And even with all of the new development, there is room — and demand — for more. Whitman said he frequently fields calls from businesses, both chains and independent ventures, looking at the feasibility of moving to Dickinson. The community has more needs to fill, he said, but it won’t happen overnight.

“Restaurants, retail and entertainment —all those things are coming, it just takes time,” he said.