Clay leaders to discuss population trends
City, county and school district officials across Clay County will gather today to discuss how to maximize the region's growth potential. Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy said Clay County faces a quandary that's gaining momentum across th...
City, county and school district officials across Clay County will gather today to discuss how to maximize the region's growth potential.
Minnesota State Demographer Tom Gillaspy said Clay County faces a quandary that's gaining momentum across the state and nation: how to balance a need for services in an aging population while filling labor gaps as more baby boomers retire.
The population in northwestern Minnesota and North Dakota is older than the national average, Gillaspy said.
The Fargo-Moorhead area, however, contradicts that pattern, he said.
Young people from outlying regions are settling rapidly in Fargo-Moorhead. That brings opportunity to build on the area's changing demographics, Gillaspy said.
"There's a strong growth opportunity here and a strong pool for talent and activity," he said.
"There's some interesting growth that's occurring here both in business, housing developments, new schools and things like that, which really attract people."
An ability to continue attracting a quality work force to Fargo-Moorhead will determine the region's future economic fate, Gillaspy said.
Finding the right mix to recruit those people is an ongoing challenge for cities, he said.
Gillaspy will speak about trends in demographic changes around Minnesota and the nation today during an all-day retreat for local government leaders at the Moorhead Area Conference Center.
Moorhead is seeing the effects of its aging population in its housing trends, City Manager Bruce Messelt said.
"Moorhead's housing has been up significantly, but the number of kids in our schools hasn't been going up as significantly. The issue is, 'why?' " Messelt said.
"It's because the average per-person household is going down. What that's telling us is the types of people who are buying and building homes in Moorhead aren't the type of people buying and building homes in Moorhead five years ago."
Moorhead has already stumbled across unexpected service requests driven by an aging population, Messelt said.
For example, a top want cited by residents when the city researched its Metro Sports Facility Plan was more pathways for walking and biking.
City leaders were partly expecting a wish list that included an aquatic center or other facilities geared toward families with children, Messelt said.
Moorhead School District Superintendent Larry Nybladh said the demographics discussion will help for future planning.
Readers can reach Forum reporter Melinda Rogers at (701) 241-5524