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Summit showcases ND prosperity

FARGO - An internationally recognized authority on economic and social trends said Thursday that compared to 20 years ago, Fargo has transformed itself from a gray, lackluster place into one that is humming with activity and possibility.

Joel Kotkin, author and authority on global, economic and social trends, delivers the keynote address at the 2015 North Dakota Governor's Summit on Economic Growth Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Fargo.Dave Wallis / The Forum
Joel Kotkin, author and authority on global, economic and social trends, delivers the keynote address at the 2015 North Dakota Governor's Summit on Economic Growth Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Fargo.Dave Wallis / The Forum

FARGO - An internationally recognized authority on economic and social trends said Thursday that compared to 20 years ago, Fargo has transformed itself from a gray, lackluster place into one that is humming with activity and possibility.

"It's an amazing thing to see," said Joel Kotkin, speaking at the Governor's Summit on Economic Growth at the Radisson Hotel in downtown Fargo.

Kotkin, a regular visitor to North Dakota over the past two decades or so, said the state as a whole is prospering and that while the energy sector is one reason for that, the region has much to offer potential transplants - particularly those looking for an affordable place to live and raise families.

In places like Orange County, Calif., homes have become so expensive that even a biomedical engineer can no longer afford to buy one, said Kotkin, author of "The New Class Conflict," a book that describes the changing dynamics of class in America.

In order to build on its success, North Dakota should focus on things like marketing itself as a lower-cost alternative to the coasts and as a great place to start a family, he said.

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Immigrants should be among those courted, because new Americans bring "a lot of energy, a lot of talent," Kotkin said.

In remarks opening the summit, North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple shared statistics showing how far the state has come economically in recent years.

According to Dalrymple, North Dakota:

• Saw a 41 percent increase in average wages over the past five years.

• Was ranked 38th in the nation for personal income per capita in 2004, but by 2014 the state had jumped to fourth in the country. Average wages in the state are now 21 percent higher than the national average.

• Is seeing its population getting younger and the state now has the fourth-youngest population in the country.

Thursday's one-day summit also touched on the severe labor shortage affecting the region, with panelists talking about what some companies are doing to attract and retain workers.

Bev Adams, general counsel for Sanford Health, said the health care concern has about 680 job openings and expects to have another 300 to 500 positions to fill when a new medical center opens in south Fargo.

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Adams listed some of the things Sanford Health offers in order to hold onto employees, including day care facilities and a tuition and scholarship program for employees' families.

She said the combination of attractive benefits and Fargo's improving image as a place to live appear to be helping.

Before 2008, Sanford Health had to offer job prospects a premium to take a job in Fargo, Adams said.

"We find we don't have to pay that premium anymore."

Joel Kotkin, author and authority on global, economic and social trends, delivers the keynote address at the 2015 North Dakota Governor's Summit on Economic Growth Thursday, Oct. 8, 2015, in Fargo.Dave Wallis / The Forum
N.D. Gov. Jack Dalrymple speaks Thursday at the summit on economic growth that his office helped to host in downtown Fargo. Dave Olson/The Forum

Related Topics: SANFORD HEALTH
I'm a reporter and a photographer and sometimes I create videos to go with my stories.

I graduated from Minnesota State University Moorhead and in my time with The Forum I have covered a number of beats, from cops and courts to business and education.

I've also written about UFOs, ghosts, dinosaur bones and the planet Pluto.

You may reach me by phone at 701-241-5555, or by email at dolson@forumcomm.com
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