U.S. Sens. John Thune (R-S.D.) and Mark Kelly (D-Ariz.) today introduced the Metropolitan Statistical Area Preservation Act, legislation that would protect more than 140 Metropolitan Statistical Areas (MSAs), including Rapid City, South Dakota, from losing their MSA classifications. Losing this classification could, among other things, harm communities’ access to certain federal funding opportunities and their ability to grow and attract businesses. The bipartisan Thune-Kelly bill would prevent the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) from increasing the minimum population that is currently required to be considered an MSA and ensure these communities retain their classifications.
“Increasing the population threshold that is needed to be considered a ‘metropolitan statistical area’ would adversely affect communities in nearly every state, including South Dakota,” said Thune. “The Metropolitan Statistical Area Preservation Act would protect communities like Rapid City from losing their current classification as a metropolitan area, address concerns I have heard from constituents in western South Dakota, and protect them from potentially losing access to certain federal funds.”
“As we work to beat this virus and rebuild our economy, it’s a priority for me to ensure a strong recovery in rural and small-town Arizona,” said Kelly. “I’ve heard concerns from Mayors across Arizona about how this policy change could impact their ability to support their communities by qualifying for federal transportation, housing, and other funds. That’s why I’m introducing this bipartisan legislation to ensure communities can get the support they need to continue to grow and prosper.”
“Rapid City’s trade area is nearly 150,000 people, so losing its MSA status because its corporate boundary is only 80,000 people is counterproductive,” said Tom Johnson, president and CEO of Elevate Rapid city. “It provides cities incentives for bad growth policies like unnecessary annexation and sprawl and could saddle small cities with excessive infrastructure costs to try and get to a new and arbitrary 100,000 MSA designation. Additionally, as small cities continue to grow and attract talent, it’s critical that they be seen as MSAs by young professionals who are relocating from large cities to small cities, but seeking similar amenities.”
“The National League of Cities thanks Senators Thune and Kelly for stepping up to the calls from America’s cities and towns who are working to meet their economic development and recruitment goals and recover from the recent pandemic,” said Clarence E. Anthony, National League of Cities CEO and executive director. “Every action in Washington can lead to consequences in communities across America which is why it is imperative that Congress continue to ensure they receive and react to valuable feedback from local officials directly when Washington wants to make a change, even when that change is as small as the definition of a metropolitan statistical area.”
“The National Association of Development Organizations endorses this important legislation designed to help protect the status of smaller metropolitan regions across the country,” said Joe McKinney, executive director of NADO. “Maintaining the status of smaller MPO designations will help ensure that they remain eligible to receive federal funding needed to carry out critical planning functions. NADO stands in opposition to OMB’s proposal to change the population standard that constitutes the core of a Metropolitan Statistical Area from 50,000 to 100,000 minimum population. Such a reclassification would effectively redefine existing distinctions between ‘urban’ and ‘rural’ which could have wide-ranging complexities, risks, and potentially harmful impacts. NADO commends Senator Thune’s and Senator Kelly’s leadership in taking steps to protect the status of smaller metropolitan regions, and their eligibility to access federal resources.”
On January 19, 2021, OMB issued a notice and request for public comment on a set of recommendations from the Metropolitan and Micropolitan Statistical Area Standards Review Committee to revise certain requirements for communities to be classified as an MSA. Among other things, the recommendations would increase the minimum urban area population needed to qualify as an MSA from 50,000 to 100,000.
In response to the OMB notice, Thune, Kelly and a number of their colleagues sent a bipartisan letter to OMB Acting Director Rob Fairweather urging him to reject the recommendations that would increase the minimum urban area population threshold for MSA designations.