Sponsored By
An organization or individual has paid for the creation of this work but did not approve or review it.



ECONOMY SUMMIT: Smaller cities may be in line for population spill

As the population of the U.S. and Canada continues to grow, large coastal cities will become more crowded and housing prices will reach critical levels, leading many to move back to smaller towns and cities in both countries' interiors, according...

As the population of the U.S. and Canada continues to grow, large coastal cities will become more crowded and housing prices will reach critical levels, leading many to move back to smaller towns and cities in both countries' interiors, according to author Joel Kotkin.

Kotkin, an authority on global, economic, political and social trends, said cities such as Grand Forks, Fargo and Winnipeg could be well positioned to take advantage of reverse migration in the coming decades because of a high quality of living, affordable housing, more space and a less hectic environment.

"People are looking for a little more space and something that gives them more privacy," Kotkin said Tuesday during the second day of the two-day CONNECT USA/Canada Economic Summit at the Alerus Center in Grand Forks. "This search for an affordable standard of living is great for a city like Winnipeg."

Kotkin said he expects the current trend of migration to suburban areas to expand to include more growth in rural and midsized cities. He said he thinks older workers and retirees in particular would trade the hassles of city life for a more simple life complete with activities such as bird watching and gardening that are made easier with more open space.

But Kotkin said after his speech Tuesday that the expected population growth in smaller and midsized cities as well as larger cities masks rural population losses in small towns, some of the very places that have helped contribute to growing populations in cities such as Grand Forks, Fargo and Bismarck.


He said that some smaller towns may become satellite cities feeding off the growth of nearby larger cities like Fargo. Kotkin said those communities closest to larger cities should fare relatively well, suggesting that if you drew circles around cities like Grand Forks and Fargo that some communities within about 20 miles could be in line for reasonable future growth.

But he said, while some smaller rural communities will likely prosper, others, particularly those without infrastructure like schools and hospitals, will die off.

"A significant number of these small towns will continue to lose population, and some will die," said Kotkin, a Presidential Fellow in Urban Futures at Chapman University in California.

Cross-border connections

The first two-day CONNECT USA/Canada Economic Summit focused on building cross-border connections and collaborations between business interests, universities and economic development officials. The diverse program of speeches, work group sessions and discussions drew 151 attendees Tuesday.

Summit organizers are tentatively planning to make it an annual event, with the summit planned to go to Winnipeg next year and return to Grand Forks in 2010.

"This is regional economic development," said Klaus Thiessen, president and CEO of the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp. "We have to collaborate to attract more growth."

Thiessen said he expects the summit will begin paying actual dividends with connections made during the conference leading to future partnerships that will help businesses and communities on both sides of the border.


As an example of the potential power of collaboration, Thiessen said the local economic development corporation is competing against larger cities and large research universities in an attempt to lure a research and development opportunity from a European company. Instead of just pushing Grand Forks (where the central facility likely would be located), Thiessen said he is working on a packaged proposal to utilize expertise from UND, North Dakota State University in Fargo and the University of Manitoba in Winnipeg.

The presidents of UND and the University of Manitoba also spoke at the summit and said they planned to work together in the future.

"It opens a lot of doors to cross-border opportunities," said Barry Wilfahrt, president and CEO of The Chamber of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. "That's what this is about."


Speaker Livio Di Matteo, an Economics professor at Lakehead University in Thunder Bay, Ont., spoke Tuesday of the importance of building more integrated cross-border regional connections.

Di Matteo floated the idea of starting an economic regional organization encompassing North Dakota, Minnesota, South Dakota, Manitoba and northwestern Ontario to help build trade and collaborate on common economic issues.

"What we're doing today is essentially planting a tree," Di Matteo said.

What To Read Next
Get Local