Build a new home in the town of Northwood and reap a cornucopia of benefits.
The new housing incentive program there offers an energy efficiency rebate of up to $2,000 and a $75,000 exemption on the first two years of property taxes.
That’s just the beginning. New home builders get a pass for school activities, a golf membership, a free tree for the front yard, $4,000 in Northwood Bucks and – our favorite – a free subscription to local newspaper, the Northwood Gleaner.
And this is just one set of benefits from just one Grand Forks-area community.
A report in today’s Herald outlines the many offerings being made by small towns in the area who are putting out proverbial welcome signs in hopes of convincing potential residents to make a commitment to their city. From the long list of goodies in Northwood, to $1 lots in Argyle, Minn., to free building permits and pool passes in Warren, Minn., communities in the region are working to fight a trend that does not bode well for rural life.
As North Dakota’s population has ballooned – up an estimated 13% since 2010 – most of the rural counties in northeast North Dakota have not benefited from the influx. The same goes for northwest Minnesota, where counties have seen decline even as the state’s population has climbed an estimated 5.8% since 2010.
Draw a big circle around Grand Forks and the line will touch 16 counties in North Dakota and Minnesota. Of those counties, 14 showed at least some population decline between 2010 and 2018, according to estimates from the U.S. Census Bureau.
Again, this comes as both states have seen population increases in that time. And it also comes as seemingly uncountable numbers of jobs remain open.
As many as 14,000 jobs are unfilled in North Dakota, according to the Job Service; others believe the number may be as high as 30,000. In Minnesota, it’s worse yet, with a reported 140,000 openings.
Those vacancies will continue to plague the region, since companies considering opening here will be wary to do so if there are not enough workers to fill their positions, create their widgets and allow them to do business here.
So whether it’s boosting population in hopes of maintaining or developing business, or to increase school enrollment and thereby gain stability for the local school district, or to simply try to keep a town alive for another generation or two, towns need to fight to have a modicum of hope in the future.
It's why we’re pleased to see so many towns not just waving at folks who pass by on the highway, but instead are taking steps to get them to stop and consider the possibilities in places like Hatton, Buxton, Crookston and beyond.
Towns should be working to attract new residents. If that’s a pool pass, a tax break or a free lot, so be it.
We appreciate that they’re fighting for their future.