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Studies find Norman County on top in state as a place to live and work!

The verdict is in! If you don’t live in Norman County, you should. According to the U.S. Census, in 1980 the county population was 9379, in 2010 it was 6852. The Norman County Economic Development Authority contracted with the U of M Extension to examine what could be done to turn this trend around.

 The project, Making it Home (Brain Gain), took five months and included five volunteer study groups which met around the county to discuss strengths and opportunities in their areas. In April they completed the U of M Making it Home, “Brain Gain” project and a final public presentation and workgroup sessions. study groups and residents in attendance agreed that Norman County has a variety of positives to offer. They include extensive recreation, strong schools, active community groups, a good cost of living and an overall desirable quality of life.

 Other studies from SmartAsset, a financial technology company collaborate with the findings of the community. The organization released a study in May showing Norman County ranks #1 in Minnesota and #4 in the United states when comparing property tax rates, crime prevention and public schools. Also worthy of note in the report is the county ranked #1 with the lowest crimes per 100K and #8 nationally. Again, good job to all involved.

The August study by SmartAsset ranked Norman County at #6 in the state for small business owners. The study weighed three factors: the percentage of people in a county with small business income, the proportion of that income to overall income and taxes paid by small business owners.

Positive reports should encourage communities to keep building on those areas. That said, there were opportunities for growth noted as well. They included, lack of marketing and ready information regarding local and county assets, a shortage of childcare, good jobs, affordable housing, undefined welcoming plan for new residents and businesses, infrastructure, diversity and inclusiveness.

 With the information in hand, groups are getting to work to find solutions, partnering with local agencies and non-profits, to address the opportunities for growth. As of September, a marketing plan is being developed in preparation for the 2020 budget year; a grant to study options for childcare has been applied for with First Children’ Finance; the Northwest Minnesota Foundation awarded the Communities Thrive grant to expand businesses in Halstad and prepare for growth, the NCEDA is supporting where asked in this effort; a new assisted living center will open in the former Twin Valley Living Center; and other new enterprises have been proposed in the county with a conservative potential of 75 jobs in the next three years, 40 on the low end. Efforts will continue in these areas.

 Some areas that will take more time, planning and networking include housing, a welcoming plan, infrastructure challenges and diversity.

 For those not familiar with the U of M Brain Gain study by Ben Winchester, it has four major findings for rural Minnesota.

  • The population of residents ages 30 - 49 years old has increased in rural Minnesota counties.
  • These newcomers have significant education, skills, connections, spending power and children.
  • People migrate to rural communities for 1) a simpler life, 2) safety and security, 3) affordable housing, 4) outdoor recreation and 5) quality schools.
  • Communities can work together to attract newcomers and create a quality of life that all residents enjoy.

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