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Fargo-Moorhead Area Earns Rankings and Recognition

Jobs, creativity and innovative spirit bring accolades to Fargo-Moorhead

By Stephanie Stewart-Howard on August 1, 2014

TEDX Conference in Fargo, ND
Fargo / J. Alan Paul Photography

The Fargo-Moorhead region may be the country’s best-kept secret.

Big cities may consider North Dakota rural outback, but this is easily one of the country’s most innovative and entrepreneurial areas, with three universities, a revitalized, walkable downtown and a community that supports innovation and progress from the tech sector to the arts.

With a growing population approaching a quarter million and one of the largest proportions of 20-24 year olds among hte 50 states, the area is thriving. While the state’s energy boom has spurred some of that growth, Fargo-Moorhead has been steadily drawing attention on its own.

Look for Us on Lots of Lists

Recently, Fargo has received media praise from list makers. It earned a ranking as No. 1 City for Finding a Job, according to U.S. News & World Report, 2012; No. 3 on Farmers Insurance’s Most Secure Place to Live list; No. 5 among Best Places to Live in America, according to Moving.com; and moved from No. 98 in 2014 to No. 22 this year on Livability.com’s Top 100 Best Places to Live.

The accolades simply provide evidence that more people are getting wind of a place known for capturing new residents who’ve been lucky enough to stumble upon it on their own. One example is the company Misfit Inc., whose founders stopped here on a whim during a cross-country trip, fell in love with Fargo, opened a local office and produced two major conferences here in 2013 and 2014.

The company uses its web design work to finance philanthropic causes and also has offices in London, New York and the Philippines.

Newcomers like Dane Johnson, who works for Misfit Inc., and came here for the 2014 conference, praise residents’ warmth, kindness and welcoming nature, as well as their active support for innovation. He even points to chilly winter weather as one of the contributing factors to the community’s friendliness.

“I think the cold weather is part of what makes the community so strong; it traditionally makes the community and neighbors more willing to reach out and help one another,” Johnson says. “That same spirit has survived here. People help one another.”

New Development

Newcomers are drawn to Fargo’s beautiful downtown, which is a result of a concerted effort on the part of business and community leaders working for many years to create an attractive, revitalized city center.

Dave Anderson, now with Sanford Health, led the Downtown Community Partnership from 2000-2010, and oversaw many of the improvements to downtown over this time, including the Broadway area.

“We brought together the legislature and local leaders and created incentives for private investment. We had great partners in the businesses that were in place as owners and stakeholders, and brought in more, including small galleries, restaurants, things that created an atmosphere that made people want to hang out,” Anderson says. “That brought in the first real downtown condos, and more residences followed, with owners as well as renters, which got the attention of local retailers. The end result is the recognition that the whole environment makes for a great entertaining experience.”

Anderson forecasts the need now, as the city grows, for a regional center for meetings, a conference space and hotels to meet the city’s future needs.

“It’s a dense, tight, interesting space for visitors,” he adds. “After 15 years of extraordinary progress and lessons learned, it’s a laboratory for urban development.”

Innovative Spirit

Now, that same innovative spirit that brought about such dramatic change downtown reaches across the metro, impacting business growth, technology and the arts, while attracting new ventures and programs. With three college campuses in the immediate area, 30,000 students provide ready candidates for new jobs, especially in the tech sector. The Kauffman Foundation’s 1 Million Cups, which helps entrepreneurs connect and define their business models, has one of its largest groups nationwide in Fargo.

Fifth-generation Fargo native Greg Tehven of Emerging Prairie, a Fargo digital media company intent on encouraging entrepreneurship, is a true evangelist for the area. Tehven also serves as curator and organizer of TEDx Fargo, co-organizer of Startup Weekend, a founder of the local 1 Million Cups and a plethora of other roles, including successful promoter of the area’s arts and culture scene.

People get a sense of just how forward thinking and exciting the Fargo community has become just by visiting, Tehven says.

“Fargo has huge appeal; business supports the creative process here,” he says. “The draws include incredible universities, a growing culinary scene, the arts, financial stability, education, walkability. People want to be here.”

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