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Published March 04 2013

Forum editorial: Economy sustains population

Projections that the Fargo-Moorhead-West Fargo metro area will be home to 300,000 people 30 years from now should come as no surprise. The region, anchored by the economic engine that is Fargo, has been growing steadily for more than 25 years. Population estimates during that time usually were conservative, as the economy and amenities the economy supports made the metro area more attractive. Smart growth begets growth, so the population upswing is a natural consequence.

What is noteworthy during North Dakota’s oil boom in the west (which certainly has a huge beneficial spillover in the eastern cities), is that Fargo’s growth now and in the future will be driven by factors that have been in place for years. Undergirded by the vibrant agribusiness sector, Fargo’s economic vitality depends on diversity in an ever-broadening economic base. As the region’s unrivaled center for health care, banking, transportation, media, retailing, entertainment, research, education and technology innovation, Fargo is not – and has not been for years – a one- or two-horse economy.

That factor is in stark contrast to economies heavily dependent on either farming or minerals extraction, or (as history confirms) what is always a relatively short term combination of both. The boom-and-bust (if not bust, the inevitable decline) that is characteristic of such economies is directly linked to the vagaries of global markets and other forces over which North Dakota has no control. A diverse regional economic hub like Fargo has the elements in place to thrive even if one or two ingredients in the mix experience a turndown.

That basic and sustainable strength tips the population growth equation in Fargo’s favor for the long term. Indeed, it’s a safe bet that the projections reported last week are a little low.

Forum editorials represent the opinion of Forum management and the newspaper’s Editorial Board.