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Published March 19 2009

Data: North Dakota, Fargo-Moorhead population growing

North Dakota’s largest cities and some of its smaller counties are growing, new census figures show. The state as a whole grew about 0.6 percent for the year ending last July.

The population figures as of July 2008 showed the Fargo-Moorhead metropolitan area, with an estimated 195,684 people, up 2 percent from the year before.

That growth also shows up in the new Minnesota county population estimates. For the past few years the counties with the fastest growth rates have been between St. Cloud and Rochester, including the Twin Cites metro area.

This year the top three fastest growth rates were in Scott, Wright and Carver counties, but in fourth place was Clay County, which includes Moorhead.

While it had the smallest growth in the group in real terms - 1,172 people - its 2.1 percent annual growth rate was among the largest in the state for the year.

The Bismarck metropolitan area, including Burleigh and Morton counties, grew 1.7 percent during the same period, to an estimated 104,344.

The Grand Forks metro area, in Grand Forks County and Minnesota’s Polk County, reported a 0.5 percent increase, to an estimated 97,279 people in July last year, said the report released today.

The Census Bureau figures show Ward County grew by 39 people over the year, to 55,986. The “micropolitan” area that includes Ward, Renville and McHenry counties lost 58 people, dropping to an estimated 63,399, or a tenth of a percent.

The Wahpeton-Breckenridge area population dropped 1.2 percent, to an estimated 22,620.

North Dakota demographer Richard Rathge, the director of the state Data Center, said 18 of the state’s 53 counties gained people over the period. He said 55 percent of the population growth was in the eastern part of the state and 45 percent in the western part of the state.

“For a long time, it’s really the East that was growing. This is one of the few times that we actually see the distribution about the same,” Rathge said.

The county with the greatest change was Bowman, in the southwest corner of the state, with a 2.6 percent population increase to 3,019 as of July 2008, Rathge said.

Besides oil development, Bowman has benefited from a “pretty aggressive medical community and a pretty good recreational area,” Rathge said.

North Dakota as a whole grew to 641,481, “more than 3,500 folks,” for the year ending in July 2008, he said.

Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy also attributes the increase in the Fargo-Moorhead area to a booming economy driven by North Dakota oil and high prices for grains in late 2007 and early 2008 in the Red River Valley.

"The economy was clicking along pretty well, at least through 2008, in Clay County,' he said.

He also gave some of the credit to regional economic development polices that ignore state lines, and cooperation between higher education and business.

"I think that part of it is the colleges and universities that are working with businesses,' he said. "They are using each other's strengths.'

It's a recent growth spurt. Since 2000 the Clay County population has grown about 9 percent; 19 other Minnesota counties have grown faster.

Nationally, the figures show slower growth in such areas as Atlanta, Las Vegas, Phoenix and Tampa.

“That’s largely driven by housing and economics,” Rathge said. “Our state is buffered a bit by having a fairly robust economy, therefore we’re doing fairly well.”

Regional centers

The latest release from the U.S. Census Bureau shows that the populations of regional centers including Rochester, St. Cloud and Fargo-Moorhead continue growing at a quick pace, while some southern Minnesota cities are losing population.

Selected metro areas 2007 2008 Change

Duluth-Superior 273,757 274,571 0.3%

Fargo-Moorhead 191,930 195,685 2.0%

Fergus Falls 56,869 56,786 -0.1%

Grand Forks-EGF 96,781 97,279 0.5%

Minneapolis-St. Paul 3,197,620 3,229,878 1.0%

New Ulm 25,967 25,862 -0.4%

St. Cloud 185,543 186,954 0.8%

Wahpeton-Breckenridge 22,899 22,620 -1.2%

North Dakota 2007 2008 Change

Bismarck-Mandan 103,127 104,344 1.7%

Ward County 55,947 55,986 0.1%

Minnesota counties 2000 2008 Change

Becker 30,000 32,000 6.7%

Clay 51,229 55,767 8.9%

Mahnomen 5,190 5,128 -1.2%

Norman 7,442 6,605 -11.2%

Otter Tail 57,159 56,786 -0.7%

Polk 31,369 30,694 -2.2%

Wilkin 7,138 6,286 -11.9%

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