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



GF County population up in past year

New U.S. Census estimates indicate Grand Forks County gained some people in the latest year counted, but is still less than the 2000 Census figures.

New U.S. Census estimates indicate Grand Forks County gained some people in the latest year counted, but is still less than the 2000 Census figures.

Meanwhile, Burleigh County is growing at a faster rate even than "King" Cass County, the figures released Wednesday show.

Grand Forks County's population as of July 1, 2006, was 65, 435, down 1 percent from the 2000 Census figure of 66,109, but up 225 people, or 1 percent, since July 1, 2005.

Fallout from the Flood of 1997 meant thousands moved away from Grand Forks. Added to reductions in personnel at Grand Forks Air Force Base, which is the main reason cited by local leaders for population loss.

As is often the case, local government leaders challenge the Census estimates as low-balling them.


Ed Nierode, director of personnel and administrative services for Grand Forks County, said the best estimates used by county officials - for insurance purposes, for example - peg the county with 68,000 residents right now. "And I think that is low," Nierode said Wednesday. Grand Forks Mayor Michael Brown recently said the city's population is up to 54,000, which would buttress a higher county population than 65,000, Nierode said.

"We've had a lot of growth," he said, referring to rural housing developments that have sprung up in the past decade, as well as the record number of building permits issued in the city of Grand Forks last year.

Most counties in northeast North Dakota also are down, according to the latest U.S. Census Bureau figures, which also indicate growth is continuing in western North Dakota counties. Burleigh, which includes the state capital of Bismarck, enjoyed the largest percentage increase of all the state's counties since 2000. Together, Burleigh and Morton County - where Bismarck's twin town, Mandan, is the county seat - now total 100,000 people."In three years, the community has made dramatic changes," said Russell Staiger, president of the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association that includes Burleigh and Morton counties. "I'm not particularly surprised about the estimates, when we looked at some of the information we've accumulated in the last six months."

Staiger said the trend of people moving from Bismarck to Cass County and larger areas appears to be reversing. "Now people are coming from Fargo to Bismarck," he said.

In this region of the state, the new Census estimates show the only county with positive growth between 2000 and 2006 was Benson County, which gained 33 residents, a 0.5-percent increase to bring the population to 6,997, which actually down 26 from a year earlier.

Also from 2000 to the estimates for July 1, 2006 released Wednesday: Traill County was down 299, or 3.5 percent, Ramsey lost 799 or 6.6 percent, Walsh was down 1,027, or 8.3 percent, Pembina lost 679, or 7.9 percent, Nelson down 426, or 11.5 percent, Griggs lost 298 or 10.8 percent, Steele was down 315 or 14 percent and Cavalier lost 732, a 15.2 percent decrease.

In the latest year counted, until July 1, 2006, estimates show every county in Northeast North Dakota, except Grand Forks, lost people. The Census estimates show 15 North Dakota counties grew in population from 2005 to 2006. Cass County had the largest total increase of people at 2,070, followed by Burleigh at 1,484. Other counties showing growth were Billings, Dunn, Foster, Grand Forks, Hettinger, McKenzie, Morton, Rolette, Sargent, Sioux, Slope, Stark and Williams.

"I think probably the biggest item I see is the growth in the western counties," said Rod Backman, a member of the North Dakota Census Committee. "It's probably not surprising in light of what's going on with energy development."


Future growth in those counties likely will depend on energy prices, Backman said.

Staiger said the energy boom is helping Burleigh County because many of the coal and oil companies are based in the Bismarck area, which also is the center of state government. Job openings for engineers and other professionals have increased, he said.

"It doesn't hurt that Burleigh is the political hub for the state, but the county is very diverse in its economy," said Richard Rathge, director of the state Data Center.

Estimates show more than 3,400 people have moved to Burleigh County from other parts of the United States since 2000, compared with 1,437 moving to Cass. But Cass County has attracted more than 2,200 people from other countries - far more than any other county.

Doug Burgum, senior vice president for Microsoft in Fargo and a lifelong North Dakota resident, predicts larger cities no longer will enjoy the "easy growth" of people moving in from rural areas because of the state's aging population.

"That isn't going to happen the way it did the last 20 years," Burgum said. "What's going to cause people to move here is going to be more the effects of companies like Microsoft and others, where you're actually recruiting people from outside the region."

The state's overall population is 635,867 - up from 634,605 last year but still down more than 6,000 people from 2000, or about 1 percent. Rathge highlighted the fact that 11 of the 15 counties showing growth in the last year had more people move into their counties than move out.

"This a very great report for us," Rathge said. "Overall, we're still struggling, especially for rural areas, but we're seeing an upward trend. We're seeing very positive signs."

What To Read Next
Get Local