The state of North Dakota, despite its relatively remote regional position, has served as the fastest growing economy in the United States for five years in a row now, including a GDP growth of 6.3 percent achieved most recently in 2014.
And while many correctly point to the longstanding defense presence and burgeoning oil industry as the main catalysts for such, one cannot overlook the numerous other industries that have taken root and sprung up across the state, creating a diverse economic landscape in 2015 that has caught the attention of many different businesses on the national and global level as well.
This growth has led to certain areas of the state taking on new identities as economic hubs as of late, chiefly among such being Minot, a city of 50,000+ inhabitants whose forward-thinking investments and strong labor force developed over the years have led to a new level of success and overall prosperity. “Minot has really served as a bright spot in not only North Dakota, but the entire U.S. economic landscape and world stage in terms of the economic growth and job creation it has been able to achieve in recent years,” says Stephanie Hoffart, President and CEO of the Minot Area Development Corporation, the guiding agency behind the city’s effort to attract and grow business in the area.
Breaking down’s the city’s industrial presence, Hoffart says that of the 34,600 individuals employed in the area, 16 percent work in oil-related jobs. “But our city is so much more than that, as Minot ranks first in the state for 12 other agricultural commodities. ” It’s a position that has been a long time coming, as it was back in 1990 when the city voted to dedicate a percentage of sales tax strictly towards economic development. “At the time, the vote ensured that 40 percent of a one cent sales tax would go towards economic development, and although it has been reduced a bit in recent years, I think it sends a very strong message about the level of commitment we have to ensuring a strong present and future for our city.”
This gradual investment over time has begun to bear its fruits, with the city attracting worldwide leaders like AGT Foods to come in to set up operations as well as facilitating expansions for a number of other businesses in the area, like Cognizant, Delta Vacations, Sure ID™ (previously known as Eid Passport) and Minot Milling. “AGT has told us about an impending $30 million expansion they plan to execute over the next year, and it’s our goal to keep developing this kind of sustainable environment we have long fostered, so that we can continue to not only maintain our businesses, but also attract new ones from out-of-state as well.”
But what makes an expansion into Minot so attractive? Well for one, businesses in certain industries are able to save significant amounts of money with a move to the city. Hoffart says that companies are able to reduce business costs by 35 percent with an expansion into Minot, if they are:
- An oil production or servicing company that needs a more stable workforce in the Bakken and easy access by rail, land and air to move people and products in and out;
- An agriculture processor that needs rail-served property and identity-preserved product movement;
- In need of warehousing or distribution. The 3,200-acre expansion of the Port of North Dakota is the largest distribution hub between Chicago and Seattle;
- A knowledge-based employer in need of off-site engineering or other software office functions.
It’s an attractive pitch, and one that is extended not only to companies in the U.S., but those abroad as well, as the MADC’s recruitment stretches far beyond U.S. borders, an endeavor highlighted most recently through their trade mission to Telemark County, Norway. “The Norwegian delegation frequently travels to our Magic City and this year’s trade mission was essential for Minot to continue to strengthen its partnership with Norway,” Hoffart says, adding, “Since 2014, the Telemark Trade Office in Minot has served as a local footprint to promote business opportunities, education, and heritage on behalf of Telemark, Norway.”
Aside from its dynamic, far-reaching approach to growing its economy, one of Minot’s defining traits as a business destination is its ability to overcome challenges and emerge even stronger than before. Let’s look at 2011, when the city was hit by a massive flood that damaged or destroyed over 25 percent of the homes and buildings in the area. “Since then, we have rebuilt an even stronger city, installing brand new piping in our water and sewage systems, erecting a new school to support the population influx that has occurred over the last 4-5 years, and have sponsored a number of new construction and expansion projects in the downtown area, including a new wing to our courthouse, multiple parking ramps, and a slew of entertainment-based destinations.”
A large part of their ability to rebuild and continuously fund new business projects across the area is due to the city’s MAGIC Fund. The MAGIC Fund (Minot Area Growth through Investment and Cooperation Fund) is a growth fund financed through the aforementioned one percent sales tax voted on and approved by the city back in 1990. Used primarily for economic development, capital improvements, and property tax relief, the fund has invested over $33 million into 200 projects across 44 communities over the last 25 years. “The existence of the MAGIC Fund displays just how strong our commitment to growing business in the Minot Area really is,” says Hoffart, adding, “It’s a fund that doesn’t necessarily cover an entire project’s costs, but rather provides an initial and sometimes critical boost to companies looking to take their business to the next level.”
Although Minot is currently the 4th largest city in North Dakota, its high level of activity in both national and global recruitment as well as business expansion suggests that it could soon elevate itself to one of the more attractive locations in the Midwest to do business, period. But for now, it’s just about getting the word out. “North Dakota is an extremely business-friendly state, and Minot is a city that serves to further highlight such,” says Hoffart, adding, “Everything about our city makes it just the right place to do business, and as we continue to grow, we believe many more businesses will be able to see that.”
Stephanie Hoffart, President and CEO of the Minot Area Development Corporation, North Dakota
About the Minot Area Development Corporation (MADC)
Founded in 1950, the Minot Area Development Corporation (MADC) is the lead economic development group for the City of Minot, North Dakota. MADC’s mission is to facilitate the retention, expansion, start-up and relocation of primary sector businesses and to recruit workforce to the Minot area to diversify and grow the region’s economy. For more information, visit http://www.minotusa.com/.