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Grand Forks population / commercial development


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Why are people moving to the Fargo area but leaving the Grand Forks area? Is it because of the lack of commercial development in the area?


Cause: lack of commercial development

Effect: Population decline


Cause: population decline

Effect: lack of commercial development

Cause: Flood of 1997.

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G.F. population was actually over 1990 levels before the '97 flood, so attributing part of the decline to the flood is not a huge leap. From MPR:

About 5,000 people moved away from the devastated communities after the flood. Five years later the population is still below pre-flood levels.

The reduced mission of the air base certainly also affects population (not everyone lives on base). The shutdown of the 321st missile group was predicted to have an impact of about 2113 jobs lost in the Grand Forks County economic area.

Grand Forks is certainly hurt in attracting new population by being a small town (i.e. limited development), but also by being in North Dakota. As a one man example, I'm not at all afraid of the weather, but Fargo and Grand Forks are too small and too far from a major population center for my current tastes.

For its size, though, I think Grand Fork has seen pretty decent commercial development since the flood. You can't just build a bunch of giant stores and then hope people will move to your town to shop in them, the current development has to be supportable by the population.

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I really don't trust metro population figures regarding cities in the RRV, because the area is so isolated that there's little towns 40-50 miles away from Fargo or GF that basically have nothing to do with either city. For example: Crookston is considered part of the GF metro area, but that town is almost completely seperate from GF/EGF in terms of economics and demographics. So I prefer to go by the population of the urban area proper. The current (2004 estimate) combined population of Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo-Dilworth proper is around 160,000. The combined population of Grand Forks-East Grand Forks-Grand Forks AFB proper is about 62,000. That makes Fargo-Moorhead over 2.5 times bigger than GF/EGF.

One reason I think that Fargo is growing rapidly is because there's a large enough population base to work with. But I think The Flood had a stake in it too. I just have to be frank when I say that GF got destroyed from The Flood and Fargo didn't. And I think that made an impact on outside economic investment and migration. Now that GF is fully recovered from it, I think the pieces are in place for GF to make a bigger impact in the economic and demographic scene in the North Central US. But it will take time. I'd like to see downtown Grand Forks become alive again. I mean, all those nice-looking buildings sitting vacant is a darn shame.

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