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Grand Forks continues 'healthy' trend of growth

Grand Forks is not growing as fast as other cities in North Dakota, but it is showing "healthy and sustainable" growth, U.S. Census and city officials said Friday.

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Grand Forks is not growing as fast as other cities in North Dakota, but it is showing "healthy and sustainable" growth, U.S. Census and city officials said Friday.

Census estimates as of July show Grand Forks had 57,011 in 2015, adding 796 people from 2014 for an increase of 1.4 percent. The recent estimates, released earlier this week, peg the city as gaining almost 4,200 residents, about a 7.8 percent increase, since the Census Bureau recorded Grand Forks' population in 2010 at 52,876.

Grand Forks' increase isn't as high as other major North Dakota cities. Williston, which is in the heart of the Oil Patch, grew to 26,977 in 2015 for a 9.8 percent increase from 2014. Bismarck jumped 3.2 percent while Fargo increased by 2.1 percent.

Cities in western North Dakota have seen rapid spurts of growth in recent years due to oil activity. Williston has almost doubled its 2010 population of 14,716, though it is not considered a metropolitan by the Census Bureau. The agency's definition of a metropolitan is a city that has a core population of 50,000.

Since Grand Forks is far away from oil activity, it may have not seen the growth other cities in the state have, said Kevin Iverson, manager of the North Dakota Census Office. But it also means Grand Forks won't suffer as much from a slowdown in oil prices, as has happened over the last year.


Grand Forks has shown steady growth over the last several years, Iverson added.

"It continues to be positive growth," he said. "It's obviously going in the right direction. ... Grand Forks is doing just fine."

This "sustainable, healthy growth," as Barry Wilfahrt called it, is needed in Grand Forks, he said.

"We continued to have a lot job openings in our community," the Chamber of Grand Forks and East Grand Forks CEO and president said. "Those are the type of numbers we like to see from a chamber perspective."

East Grand Forks estimates were not available for 2015, though the Census estimated the Minnesota city had 8,651, 50 more people than it had in 2010.


Iverson compared population change to starting a ship's engine, adding changes tend to accelerate or decelerate slowly.

"If you consider the economic activity as the engine, surely it is a driver of population change, but it's not like a speedboat when you throw on the throttle or like a corvette when you lay rubber down and go zero to 60 in a half a second," he said.


He also pointed out a lot of the workers who lost their jobs in the Oil Patch were not residents. North Dakota's population has increased dramatically in the last five years,-the Census Bureau estimated North Dakota had 756,927 residents as of July 1, a gain of 84,000 from 2010. The oil industry has slowed down, resulting in layoffs, and though Iverson believes the increases will plateau in the near future, he said he doesn't expect see a decrease in population.

"They may be laid off, but they are laid off back home, not in North Dakota," he said. "I guess you could kind of say we are coasting now."

The increase for Grand Forks speaks well for the city, Mayor Mike Brown said, adding it is proof of the importance to have an attractive community with activities and amenities

"We are an attractive community, a welcoming community," he said. "All of that adds up."

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