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Brandon Neeb, Fargo, Published September 29 2012

Letter: Moorhead’s fate tied to Bakken

I moved to Fargo in 1994 from the Twin Cities to attend North Dakota State University. I had no intention of making a life here. However, I found career fortune and never left. As of this month, I will have lived half my life in each state. These days, the only reason you’ll find me in Moorhead is to buy shoes and clothing (I prefer not to pay sales tax on those items.) I suspect it’s shoppers like me who keep the doors open at the Moorhead Center Mall.

In such a small metropolitan area like Fargo-Moorhead, the difference in tax policy can have a big impact on the economic development of either city. Shoppers can rather easily travel between these cities to avoid certain sales taxes, and people can choose to live in the city that offers the lower property and/or income tax rates without much impact on their commute.

The single most influential story in Moorhead’s economic success is not what development initiatives are being spun up or even what’s happening in the Red River Valley. It’s the impact the Bakken oil boom is having on North Dakota’s tax policy. Soon enough, and for the first time, property and income taxes for residents of North Dakota’s oil boom will be substantially less than in Minnesota. This will surely have a detrimental impact on housing and business development for cities just east of the river.

When I was in Moorhead on my way to the Center Mall last week, I was stuck waiting almost 20 minutes for a long Bakken-originated oil train to cross through the middle of the city. I thought to myself, what a double whammy: Not only is their economic development being undermined by these oil trains, the local traffic is brought to a stand-still by them. Sorry, Moorhead, but the success of your economy is tied to the quantity of those crude oil trains passing through.