Yesterday, I met a friend for coffee downtown to catch up on life. Though we talked about everything under the sun during our three hour coffee date, at some point the conversation turned to North Dakota (like it does so often with me). She asked me if I had seen the study that voted ND #1 state for 18-24 year olds. I said I had, though unfortunately I fall outside the age bracket (so sad). She then asked if I had seen the follow up article addressing this study titled, “Why I’ll Never Move to North Dakota”. My friend gave me a brief summary and then said she’d send me the link. While I encourage you to read the entire article and weigh in, I’ll give you a brief summary:
A young journalist from New York City (who has probably never been to North Dakota) thinks it’s a crummy state, that the study is ludicrous, and that people are ridiculous to live here over big city life. Her three main reasons: 1. Yeah, there are jobs but I mean… they are probably just oil job. 2. It doesn’t matter if there are a lot of 18-24 year olds, with only 200,000 residents there is clearly no real social scene. 3. ND isn’t ethnic enough… forget the strong Native American heritage and the unique German and Norwegian culture that still is incredibly prominent. 4. The vibe… wait… what? (Note: I may have given myself a little liberty in the paraphrasing).
Alright, well let me address all four of your points from the perspective of someone who actually chose to move to North Dakota from a more populous state:
The job market. “No one can simply look at employment rates for a state and count on finding a job in their field. North Dakota’s economy may be booming, but that’s mostly due to its mining and shale industry.” True, jobs are plentiful out on the Western side of the state, however, the rest of the state isn’t doing too badly either. According the the Bureau of Labor and Statistics (July 2012), the unemployment rate is still only 3.3%. Additionally, Job Service North Dakota notes that there are more than 20,000 open positions across the state.
The social scene. Yes, Fargo is the largest city in the state and only has 200,000 residents. Yes, I have lived in bigger communities before and Washington DC was only a quick metro ride away. However, no town that I have ever lived in has provided so many community events for both young and old. And with three universities and various community and technical colleges near by, the community has provided plenty of opportunities to keep those “young people” occupied.
The diversity. Ok, I agree North Dakota lacks a bit of the diversity you might find on the east or west coast or in a larger city. At the same time however, I feel like much of the state realizes this. In turn, communities seem to put forth the effort to offer cultural opportunities to people as to not keep them in the dark about diversity.
The vibe. I don’t know what this means. “No matter how stellar a state’s economic report card may be, the personal connection people feel to a place is what truly matters. I’m a city girl and though I’m always up for traveling off the beaten path, I don’t thrive for very long outside of the concrete jungle.” Oh, so wait. Is she saying she wouldn’t move to North Dakota because she loves where she lives no matter what, and you should stay where you are happy? Hmm… interesting. I may be wrong, but couldn’t the same be said to those of us that are happy and content living in North Dakota? Additionally, as someone who has moved around a bit, if you don’t branch out of your comfort zone ever, you sure miss out on learning a lot about yourself.
So obviously I got a bit defensive when I read that article, and maybe I shouldn’t be. After all, when I wrote a blog post about a year ago addressing how outsiders have a negative image of North Dakota and the state needs some serious positive PR to show the true ND, a few readers disagreed. They said that the reason many communities are able to keep that “everyone knows you, small town, be kind to your neighbor feel” is because people aren’t flocking to move here. So I guess if a journalist from New York City wants to shout from the top of a mountain how she would never move to North Dakota… fine. Because really, the people that have made the decision to move to North Dakota (yours truly included) as well as those individuals who have lived here their entire life know the truth. NoDak rocks.