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Published March 18 2011

Bedroom communities around Fargo-Moorhead see population increases

For communities in Cass and Clay counties, the difference between celebration and disappointment in the 2010 census results seemed to relate to a single factor: location.

The bedroom communities around Fargo-Moorhead saw mixed results almost wholly linked to their proximity to regional thoroughfares, an analysis of the federal census report showed.

Community leaders attributed the trend to a town’s ability to provide “the best of both worlds” – small-town living with easy access to the big city.

Cities along major state highways or Interstates 94 and 29 tended to see moderate to significant gains.

For instance, Argusville, N.D., more than tripled its population between 2000 and 2010, according to the census report.

Argusville is about 16 miles north of Fargo off I-29. The town started the millennium with 147 residents and swelled to 475 by the census count.

In contrast, cities in more out-of-the-way, rural areas tended to see a decline in population.

Felton, Minn. – 18 miles northeast of Moorhead – lost 18 percent of its population since 2000, falling from 216 residents to 177.

Community leaders in the growing cities said they’ve tried to capitalize on the Fargo-Moorhead area’s successful growth by marketing themselves as family-friendly locations away from the urban center.

“It’s quiet, and it’s living in a rural setting and still having quick access to the big city,” said Glyndon, Minn., Mayor Cecil Johnson. Glyndon is about 10 miles east of Fargo-Moorhead.

Glyndon saw a 33 percent boost in population since 2000, with nearly 1,400 residents as of last year.

Some Minnesota cities, such as Hawley and Barnesville, launched marketing campaigns in recent years to attract more residents and businesses.

Those efforts, in some cases, seem to have paid off.

“Regionally, it really helps to strengthen the big picture when you have that employment in the big city and housing options in the surrounding area,” said Karen Lauer, executive director of the Barnesville Economic Development Authority.

Barnesville sits off I-94, about 25 miles southeast of Fargo-Moorhead.

“People will call my office and often say, ‘It’s the best of both worlds,’ ” Lauer said.

In Casselton, N.D. – 25 miles west of Fargo on I-94 – city leaders strive to maintain the image of a “nice, clean, quiet town with services comparable to any big town,” Mayor Edward McConnell said.

“There’s just a lot of the small-town atmosphere that people like,” he said. “Fargo’s drawn so many people from the rural areas of the state, and they don’t like the big towns, so it’s only natural they’re going to gravitate here.”

The side effects of a blossoming metropolis – such as higher taxes and more traffic – have begun to deter some people from the Fargo-Moorhead area, Lauer said.

She said more and more families she’s spoken with prefer living in the bedroom communities outside the metro.

“It’s really not uncommon,” Lauer said, likening Fargo-Moorhead’s situation to a smaller-scale version of the Twin Cities’ evolution.

“As Minneapolis/St. Paul got larger and larger, that’s when you started to see the ring cities and the suburbs start to grow,” she said. “It’s pretty neat to see that happening (here).”

Readers can reach Forum reporter Kristen Daum at (701) 241-5541