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Grand Forks, East Grand Forks both see increases in population, according to census data

Overall, North Dakota saw an increase of 15.8%, with the population rising from 672,591 in 2010 to 779,094 in 2020. It’s a boost of 106,503 residents. In Minnesota, census numbers show the population rose from 5,303,925 in 2010 to 5,706,494 in 2020, or about 402,000 residents. It’s an increase of about 7.6%.

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Town Square in downtown was filled with people Sunday afternoon as churchgoers and community members gathered for a picnic held by Freedom Church. Grand Forks Herald photo by Anna Burleson.

Grand Forks and East Grand Forks both saw population increases over the past decade, data from the U.S. Census Bureau showed Thursday.

The results of the count show Grand Forks to have a population, as of 2020, of 59,166, up 12% from the 2010 count of 52,838. In East Grand Forks, the population rose to 9,176, up 7% from 2010’s population of 8,601.

In Grand Forks, the numbers confirm what city leaders suspected – that the community’s population has grown, despite estimates that tended to show it has not, or at least by this much. One census estimate showed the city with a population of 56,000, although the local Metropolitan Planning Organization projected there were 62,000 residents in the city in 2020.

In a Herald report in July, Grand Forks Mayor Brandon Bochenski wondered how the city could increase its housing, maintain its vacancy rate and still have a lower population than it did a decade ago.

“You tell me how we lost a thousand (residents) when we added 1,400 dwelling units,” Bochenski said at the time.

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Thursday, Bochenski said he is pleased to see the census data come in higher than previous estimates, but he still believes certain data in Grand Forks – and specifically housing data – indicates greater growth than the census report shows.

“I think it’s great we have seen that growth in 10 years. Just looking at housing numbers and MPO estimates, I still think we probably have a lot of people who didn’t get counted," he said. "It’s great to see, but I think we’re actually growing at a faster clip than that.

“I was hoping to get closer to the MPO. We did think they were way too pessimistic (with) some of the early projections of 56,000. … I would say it’s about what we expected – not great, but not bad,” he said.

Grand Forks City Administrator Todd Feland said another important aspect of the census count is to “maintain representation at the state level, too.”

The goal is to ensure “a proportional (lawmaking) voice in Bismarck,” he said.

State aid payments and other funding, such as highway tax distributions, depend on census population data.

Even the census’ own website notes the importance of the counts: “The results of the census help determine how hundreds of billions of dollars in federal funding, including grants and support to states, counties and communities are spent every year for the next decade. It helps communities get its fair share for schools, hospitals, roads, and public works. That funding shapes many different aspects of every community, no matter the size, no matter the location. These funds are based on population totals and breakdowns by sex, age, race and other factors. Your community benefits the most when the census counts everyone.”

Grand Forks County, which includes Grand Forks' city population, showed an increase, from 66,961 in 2010 to 73,170 in 2020 – a rise of 9.4%. Polk County showed a population decrease, from 31,600 in 2010 to 31,192 in 2020 – a drop of 408 residents, or about 1.3%.

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North Dakota saw an increase of 15.8%, with the population rising from 672,591 in 2010 to 779,094 in 2020. It’s a boost of 106,503 residents.

In Minnesota, census numbers show the population rose from 5,303,925 in 2010 to 5,706,494 in 2020, or about 402,000 residents. It’s an increase of about 7.6%.

East Grand Forks city leaders, including Mayor Steve Gander and City Administrator David Murphy, on Thursday declined comment through a city employee, who said they had not yet had a chance to peruse the data.

Elsewhere in the Grand Forks region, Thief River Falls saw a 2% increase, from 8,573 to 8,749; Devils Lake saw an increase of just shy of 1%, from 7,141 to 7,192; and Crookston saw a decrease of 5%, from 7,891 to 7,482.

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