N.D. 2.0 findings are worth a good lookNorth Dakota legislators and other policymakers would do well to take a close look at statistical data compiled in “North Dakota 2.0,” a study by USDA Rural Development.
By: The Forum of Fargo-Moorhead, The Jamestown Sun
North Dakota legislators and other policymakers would do well to take a close look at statistical data compiled in “North Dakota 2.0,” a study by USDA Rural Development. The federal agency in partnership with several private-sector partners worked for months gathering sentiments in 14 communities, large and small. The result is an impressive compilation of new data that reflects the changing economy and provide insights into how North Dakotans view the change.
USDA Rural Development State Director Jasper Schneider said the report is not a blueprint or a call to action. Rather it is information based entirely on responses from the people of the state. It’s more than a snapshot because it reveals trends in attitudes and opinions that will have to be taken into consideration as elected officials and others cobble together policies to respond to change. The report also provides baseline information on topics from education to infrastructure, from leadership to investment priorities.
The trends and priorities revealed in 2.0 are instructive. Among them, North Dakotans:
* Want more attention paid to infrastructure — roads, bridges and the like.
* Recognize the need for affordable housing, specifically for public-sector employees who provide essential services.
* Expect government to embrace technology as a tool for transparency.
* Want state budget surpluses to be distributed to local governments.
* See a real need for more support for day care and early childhood education.
While the report includes cities in the booming Oil Patch, priorities in non-oil cities and counties were often the same as in oil communities. In other words, North Dakotans, wherever they live, share the same concerns.
The USDA Rural Development study is one of many that are either under way or planned. Most are being done in response to the unprecedented prosperity — and associated impacts — of oil and gas development. But as the most recent economic numbers from the state confirm, it’s not just about oil. Prosperity also is being driven by a strong agricultural sector and overall economic diversity. The USDA report is especially valuable because its scope is statewide.
Lawmakers and other policymakers will be deluged by reports and studies in the next year. Some will be valid, objective efforts — like the USDA’s 2.0. Others will be funded by special interests seeking to manipulate data in order to feather their nests. The work of USDA Rural Development and its several private-sector partners stands as an example of the right way to gather and distribute valid and useful information.