Other views: Out-migration will follow work shipped out of state
A recent article in USA Today, "Big cities lure away North Dakota youth" (Feb. 23), should be read by anyone interested in the reasons why our state keeps losing its best and brightest young people at an alarming rate. In the article, Dennis Cauc...
A recent article in USA Today, "Big cities lure away North Dakota youth" (Feb. 23), should be read by anyone interested in the reasons why our state keeps losing its best and brightest young people at an alarming rate. In the article, Dennis Cauchon succinctly states the problem:
"But the emphasis on higher education -- part of a strategy to compete economically -- has backfired in a way. The state is producing economic thoroughbreds: educated young people with the farmers' work ethic. North Dakota has plenty of jobs, just not the jobs college-educated young people want."
North Dakotans recognize this problem. The "Saving North Dakota" roundtable brought the issue to the forefront last year. Unfortunately, however, the answers to the problem are not entirely clear.
I do not presume to know the answers either. As a (fairly) young lawyer, however, I can make an observation. A significant amount of legal work in North Dakota routinely gets shipped out to places like Minneapolis, Denver, Chicago and beyond. This is work that can be performed by North Dakota lawyers, often at rates that are less than half of what "big city" firms charge their clients.
Whether it is school funding litigation that is farmed out to Billings lawyers, oil and gas work that's done in Denver, or Minneapolis lawyers handling much of the state's agricultural cooperative, banking and intellectual property matters, it is legal work that is forever lost to the very capable lawyers practicing in our state.
Although my personal experience with this issue is limited to the practice of law, I know from my conversations with other professionals and simply from my review of The Forum's business section that it is not just the legal profession that loses in this fashion. (I wouldn't expect many people to shed tears for lawyers in any event.)
North Dakota-based companies and individuals routinely go to places like Minneapolis and Denver for professional services in many areas: architects, design firms, accountants, engineers, investment professionals, advertising firms, the list goes on and on.
There are some instances where it is necessary to hire "big city" professionals. Those occasions are quite limited, however. Moreover, in those rare instances where a North Dakota professional gets in over his head, it's been my experience that he will appropriately refer the client elsewhere if necessary.
This problem is not unique to North Dakota. It exists in northwest Minnesota as well. From Wheaton to Fergus Falls, Moorhead, Crookston, and Roseau, the "brain drain" to Minneapolis and beyond is as strong as it is in North Dakota. Having grown up in northwest Minnesota (Stephen) I can attest to the fact that out-migration of young professionals is just as strong there as it is in North Dakota.
Why does this happen? I wish I knew the answer. Perhaps there is a perception among successful North Dakota companies and individuals that they cannot get quality professional work done in this state. If so, that perception is wrong. Perhaps there is some other reason afoot. If so, I would love to hear it.
In the end, most everyone agrees that we need to stem the flow of professionals out of our state. I would encourage (if not beg) North Dakota companies and individuals to step up to the plate and hire North Dakota computer consultants, have their accounting work done by North Dakota CPAs, and use North Dakota architects to design their new office buildings. And please don't forget us lawyers either.
Don't tell North Dakota professionals that they need to live in Minneapolis or Denver to do challenging work for companies in North Dakota. Give them a reason to stay.
Carlson is an attorney with the Vogel Law Firm of Fargo. E-mail email@example.com