Evaluating City Economic Performance

So a recent caller, okay not so recent, since this goes back to last year. The last time I was on the radio there was a caller that wanted to know about grading Grand Forks’ economic performance. Now I am not shying away from that topic, but there are some important subtleties and considerations I had not fully developed at the start of the process.

In any grading process there is the set of candidates for grades. We cannot give a grade without some agreed upon standards or metrics, and likely some comparison points. I doubt there is any one city we would hold up as THE STANDARD. There are no absolute benchmarks when it comes to growth and economic development particularly at the local level.

So the discussion tomorrow likely needs to be about both metrics for evaluation and any comparison points to include. My list of metrics includes:

  • Labor market measures like employment,
  • Population measures including growth, dependency ratios, sex ratios and so on,
  • Income measures, and
  • Inequality measures.

This is not necessarily a comprehensive list, but it seems to include several variables that would most would agree are important. Now the next question is comparison points. Should this include cities of similar size? Should they be in North Dakota? The broader Northern Plains region? On this point I am less certain really and hopefully JT and the radio audience have some insights to share tomorrow.

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