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Grand Forks has more poverty than similar size towns across Great Plains

Compared to metropolitan areas of similar size in the Great Plains, Grand Forks is experiencing about twice the poverty rate than other towns, with rates for those under 18 nearing 18.6 percent, according to data presented to the city’s Blue Ribbon Commission on Social Infrastructure Thursday.

The need for more focused efforts to improve both the city’s poverty and workforce rates dominated discussion during a presentation given to committee members by Praxis Strategy Group consultants.

“Job growth has flattened out in Grand Forks when looking back to census data since 2001,” consultant Mark Schill said. “We need to be more fluid with these social problems that we’ve identified.”

In recent months, there have been nearly 2,600 job openings available in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks, according to Barry Wilfahrt, president of the local Chamber of Commerce.

Some of the “social problems” Schill referred to include childcare and housing options.

About 40 to 44 percent of the population’s childcare needs in Grand Forks are being met, below the industry-targeted 50 percent mark.

One of the biggest problems the city is facing in relation to workforce is the lack of young professionals entering into the market, Wilfahrt said. With a large student population in post-secondary schools, he said retention needs to be addressed.

“The Grand Forks Workforce Committee met to come up with a variety of ways to address workforce in the area,” Wilfahrt said.

While Schill said poverty rates in Grand Forks are influenced by the large concentration of college-aged students in the area, he presented data showing there may be a potential poverty problem among single-family households with children under five years old, putting that demographic at a higher poverty rate than any others in Grand Forks.

Additionally, Schill said 57.7 percent of people in Grand Forks County have no children under 18, and these families are comparatively better off than those who do.

Bret Weber, City Council member and co-chairman of the Blue Ribbon Commission, said the committee must address these problems in the future for the city to move forward.

 “I hope Grand Forks will be an innovator,” he said.


This article incorrectly cited poverty statistics about the city. The poverty rate for those under 18 in Grand Forks is 18.6 percent.