When the details of the 2020 Census were recently released, we found out that Minot did not reach the 50,000 level we had hoped to achieve. How should we interpret that data? I’m guessing it depends on who you ask.
Scenario 1: We have failed in our attempt to reach 50,000 in population. Minot will never be a big city, and this Census proves that belief. We remain just a big small town, and we won’t be able to attract significantly more residents or businesses in the future. During a decade with an energy boom that helped drive the population of North Dakota from 672,591 in 2010 to 779,094 in 2020, a 15.8% jump, Minot still couldn’t reach 50,000. All is lost, and we are doomed (cue gloomy background music.)
Scenario 2: While we are disappointed we didn’t quite reach 50,000, there are countless positives included in the Census information. Minot grew from 40,888 in 2010 to 48,377 in 2020, a 16.7% increase. Does anyone realistically think during the height of the energy boom that Minot wasn’t home to more than 50,000 people? Now, after several years of economic downturn in the energy sector, Minot is still home to more than 48,000 people. It’s clear we’ve retained a lot of those folks who moved here during the boom years, and that our current population sets us up to reach the 50,000 mark in the next few years.
Obviously, we reject the notion of failure in the first scenario above. It’s nonsense, and anyone pushing that narrative hasn’t been paying attention to what’s actually happening our community.
Yes, it’s true we didn’t reach 50,000 population in the latest Census. But the fact that we are approximately only 1,623 residents away from reaching 50,000 is remarkable when you think about the enormous ebbs and flows our community has been through in the past decade.
An energy boom brought thousands of people to North Dakota from across the United States in seek of work and a better life for themselves and their families. They came to western North Dakota in particular, immediately boosting the population of cities like Minot, Williston, Dickinson, Watford City, and a host of others. In some cases, the growth happened so fast communities couldn’t expand their essential city services fast enough to accommodate the massive growth. And then, a few years ago, the energy industry slowed dramatically, and thousands of those same people left our state, in search of the next great economic opportunity.
A devastating flood destroyed hundreds of structures and disrupted thousands of lives in Minot. Make no mistake, we are on the road to recovery when it comes to flood protection, but the economic and psychological damage done to our community still exists a decade later.
We went into the Census of 2020 hopeful that as a community, we had weathered the economic roller coaster and managed to hold onto enough population to breach the 50,000 plateau. And then COVID-19 happened. When we should have been in grocery stores and other locations in Minot helping people register for the Census, we were instead working remotely, social distancing, and doing everything we could to reduce the spread of the virus. It was not an ideal situation, to say the least.
And yet, in the end, our population stayed strong. It didn’t drop to 45,000 or 46,000. Instead, many of those who moved here during the energy boom stayed, influenced by Minot’s greatest assets, such as great school systems, employment opportunities, and sense of community pride and togetherness. The flood of 2011 certainly was a catalyst for some residents moving away, but hundreds of others impacted by the flood vowed “We will be back,” and despite financial and spiritual struggles, made good on their promise to themselves and their community.
Had it not been for the restrictions brought on by COVID, I believe Minot would very likely have reached the 50,000 level. But despite the significant challenges we faced in the past decade, we grew by 16.7%, and in that time, 7,489 more people decided to make Minot their home. That’s equates to almost 750 new people in our community every year in the past decade. That’s a great accomplishment, and it sets us up for future growth.
So, yeah, we didn’t reach 50,000 as we would have liked. But that level is well within our reach. When we do attain it, we’ll become a federal entitlement community, and that opens up multiple opportunities for Minot to receive additional federal funding through a variety of sources. It also increase our chances of attracting more national business chains, who often use 50,000 as a requirement for population when determining where to expand. Our community’s future is bright, and we are on the cusp of a major accomplishment.
A population of 50,000 remains our goal, and I believe we will continue our steady growth and reach that milestone in the next few years. I’m already excited about the opportunities that will accompany that accomplishment.
Sincerely, City Hall
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