Other views: Our No. 1 export is people
I knew I had arrived home when the driver raised a hand from his steering wheel for a classic two-finger North Dakota salute. Imagine, waving to a perfect stranger on a desolate road -- only in North Dakota. After 10 years, and a couple other sta...
I knew I had arrived home when the driver raised a hand from his steering wheel for a classic two-finger North Dakota salute. Imagine, waving to a perfect stranger on a desolate road -- only in North Dakota. After 10 years, and a couple other states under my belt, I had finally managed to rumble back across the border for good.
I chose to move back home, thanks to employment from Bank of North Dakota, of my own volition and for many of the same reasons I chose to leave. It's funny how the snow is always whiter after you leave and how words take on new meaning: boring becomes safe; baby-sitter means out-of-pocket expenses, not a phone call to mom; and low crime doesn't reflect the entire state, only your immediate neighborhood.
"Saving North Dakota," sponsored by Forum Communications Co., brought issues to the forefront, but culminated in a round table that seemed to focus on why North Dakotans are leaving (no jobs, poor wages, lack of cultural activities), and not how we can keep them. But without the discussion the Commerce Department's "Innovation Growth Day" scheduled for July 10 in Fargo may not have come about.
We need to change the culture of thought before we can stop the outflow of talent. People stay at their jobs because of good supervision, work environment and camaraderie. It has little to do with location or weather, and while people may leave because of the perception of low wages, priorities change as you get older.
Friends and family need to know it is easier to leave North Dakota than to return. Networking and job hunting is done from afar, new found friends are lost, home equity is sacrificed, children are pulled out of school and routines are turned upside down.
We have spent decades telling our future workforce that North Dakota has low paying jobs but we fail to reinforce the low cost of living and the remarkably low insurance premiums. We are renowned for our emphasis on education, yet we give our children our blessings as they move their families to high crime cities and sprawling suburbs. We brag about our work ethic and find it a compliment as other states raid our workforce.
Inside North Dakota people believe that our No. 1 export is wheat. But ask around outside the state and you will find that our most valuable resource is our people -- employees like the ones I have come to know at the bank.
I hope it doesn't take an over packed U-haul and 10 years criss-crossing the country to realize that now more than ever you should be as proud to call North Dakota home as I am. Today, tomorrow, forever!
Barnhardt is a 1993 graduate of North Dakota State University. After spending nine years in South Texas he returned to North Dakota in March 2003 as a coordinator for Communications and College Information Services at Bank of North Dakota.