Housing is a common topic of discussion in Grand Forks. Many questions surround the topic, too many in fact. As a frequent contributor to the Jarrod Thomas program (1310 AM Grand Forks), I receive a fair share of these questions. For every question I answer, or attempt to answer, it seems like two take its place. All this because, as I maintained throughout these last few years, we are not asking appropriately defined questions.
Seventeen years ago the Red River flooded caused immense damage in Grand Forks and East Grand Forks. It seems natural to take a look at the state of the economy. Certainly there were major changes, and it is important to note which changes had more impact or longer durations than others. The time patch of the Grand Forks experience is also important. Lessons for other communities about what went right, and what went wrong could be gleaned from this nearby history.
The shale oil expansion began in North Dakota, and the expansion of oil output in the U.S. has been nothing short of revolutionary. However, I think it is time to recognize that the fanciful notion of “energy independence” is less and less likely to happen, if it ever really had a chance. We are surely less dependent on foreign oil as the graph shows, but it is not clear that it is going to go to zero anytime soon, if ever.
The big story for North Dakota is not just about oil in western North Dakota, it is about the adjustments to the underlying economic dynamics in the state. Consider the situation of labor markets in two North Dakota cities, Williston and Grand Forks. These data are for the Williston micropolitan area and the Grand Forks metropolitan area from 1997 to the end of 2013.