U.S. census results: North Dakota cities among fastest-growing in nation
WILLISTON, N.D. — Several North Dakota cities are among the fastest-growing communities in the nation, with Williston leading the way as the fastest-growing micropolitan area, the U.S. Census Bureau said Thursday.
Census population estimates show that the Williston area grew 10.7 percent between July 1, 2012, and July 1, 2013, faster than any other small city in the nation.
The other hub cities in the Oil Patch also ranked high on the list of fastest-growing micropolitan areas, which are communities with a population between 10,000 and 50,000. Dickinson ranked No. 2 with 5 percent growth and Minot ranked No. 5 with 3.7 percent.
The figures do not include oil boom workers who work in North Dakota but maintain residences in other states.
“We have a lot more people living here, but not ones that would say that this is their home,” Williston Mayor Ward Koeser said.
North Dakota’s oil-producing regions were not the only areas to see growth.
Fargo-Moorhead ranked No. 4 and Bismarck ranked No. 5 on the list of fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country. Each community had a 3.1 percent population increase between 2012 and 2013.
“Things are good in Fargo. We’re benefiting from what’s happening in Williston and Watford City and so forth,” Fargo Mayor Dennis Walaker said. “It’s definitely had some snowball effects from what’s going on out there.”
Kevin Iverson, manager of the Census Office at the North Dakota Department of Commerce, said 38 of the state’s 53 counties gained population.
“This is a major turnaround from just a few years ago when only a handful of counties experienced growth and the majority experienced yearly declines in population,” Iverson said.
The growth in eastern North Dakota illustrates that sectors of the state’s economy other than oil also are strong, he said.
“North Dakota is just firing on all cylinders,” Iverson said.
Nationwide, many of the growing communities are in states experiencing energy booms, which are attracting job-seekers from around the country, Census Bureau Director John H. Thompson said in a statement.
Watford City, county seat for McKenzie County, did not make the Census rankings because the county’s population is less than 10,000. However, that county where oil drilling activity is most concentrated grew even faster than Williams County between 2012 and 2013, with a growth rate of 16.5 percent.
Since the 2010 Census, McKenzie County is the fastest-growing county in the nation, growing from 6,360 in 2010 to 9,314 in 2013, a 46.5 percent increase.
The Williston area now has a greater population than the Dickinson area, with 29,595 in Williams County compared to 28,212 in Stark County.
Koeser said he thinks it’s impressive that Williston, which gained 2,851 residents from 2012 to 2013, has been the fastest-growing micropolitan area for three years in a row. He expects the community to grow by another 2,500 residents this year as more families move to the area.
The population figures support the city’s position that it needs more state resources to support the rapid growth, Koeser said.
“To provide for 2,500 more people you need to have infrastructure in place, and we need help with that,” he said.
Census figures show that of the top 10 fastest-growing counties in the nation since 2010, seven are in the Bakken, including one county from Montana.
This is the third year in a row Dickinson has ranked in the top five fastest-growing micropolitan areas.
“It’s hard to fathom the level of impacts that has on a community of our size,” Dickinson City Administrator Shawn Kessel said.
In December, the Census Bureau said North Dakota’s population reached 723,393 residents, an all-time high. In-migration has been the most significant factor in the state’s growth since the 2010 Census, with an estimated net in-migration to North Dakota of 18,051 in 2013.
Dean Bangsund, research scientist at North Dakota State University who has studied western North Dakota’s population growth, said the figures would be even higher if more of the state’s job openings were filled.
“There’s room for continued expansion in this economy. It’s going to come down to can we attract workers from outside the state to continue to move here,” Bangsund said. “We’ve got some complicated challenges to address this growth in North Dakota.”