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Fargo’s ‘killing it’

 Fargo once again finds itself in the national spotlight, thanks to the recent launch of “Fargo,” the television series airing on FX, a nod to the 1996 Coen brothers movie “Fargo.” As with the movie, the series’ connection to Fargo is slim. There’s a strikingly different tone, however, to the coverage the Fargo area has received this time around in the fleeting fame that accompanies Hollywood’s interest in a locale.

Case in point: “No Joke: It Couldn’t Get Much Better In Fargo.” That’s the headline that topped a glowing essay by Joel Kotkin in a recent issue of Forbes. Kotkin, an urban studies professor at Chapman University in California, has a long familiarity with the area and has charted its rise, which he is quick to note started before the oil boom. He notes that the metro area’s population is up 20 percent in the past decade, double the national average, with a gain of 8,000 people.

An engine of much of that growth, as Kotkin pointed out, is Fargo’s focus on expanding its industrial and technology center. Jobs in the so-called STEM fields — science, technology, engineering and math — are up 40 percent since 2001. That’s more than tenfold the 3 percent national growth rate over that period. Job growth also is strong in middle-skilled positions for those who have two-year degrees or certificates, a rate Kotkin said exceeds the national average about tenfold. As Marge of “Fargo” might have said, “Jeez.”

Kotkin also noted the visible signs of Fargo’s growing prosperity and opportunity, including the downtown renaissance, emergence of high-end restaurants and blossoming apartment complexes catering to “millennial professionals.” He also observed that “the feel has certainly changed.”

Vivid proof of that came in another Forbes piece, an item commenting on Fargo’s rich culture of community building written by Ben Hanten, an entrepreneur associated with Two Bridges Capital, who came here recently to participate in one of those community building events. One tech CEO even passed up a chance to attend Austin’s South By Southwest to participate as keynote speaker of Fargo’s Startup Weekend, spearheaded by Emerging Prairie, and pronounced it the best he’s ever attended.

The word is getting out. Fargo is “killing it” in important ways. We’ve got a lot more to offer than meatloaf and hotdishes. OK then.