Grand Forks: Economy

Major Industries and Commercial Activity

Grand Forks has a stable, agriculturally-based economy that has been expanding and diversifying since the early 1980s. Abundant moisture assists the growth of the hard spring wheat, corn, oats, sunflowers, durum, barley, potatoes, sugar beets, dry edible beans, soybeans, and flax that represent its major crops. Cattle, sheep and hogs also contribute to the local farm economy. Plants operate for the processing of potatoes, for the conversion of locally grown mustard seed for table and commercial use, for the refining of beets into sugar, and for the pearling of barley. Much of the area's durum wheat is marketed through the North Dakota State Mill and Elevator.

While in the early 1980s almost all businesses were agriculturally based, other enterprises such as high-technology firms, a wood products company, and concrete firms now play an important role in the local economy. Some important local firms include: J. R. Simplot, which processes potatoes and other foods; American Woods, a relatively new company that produces outdoor lawn furniture; Strata Corporation, which produces ready-mix concrete and handles asphalt and masonry; the American Crystal Sugar refinery; Young Manufacturing, which custom designs, engineers, and manufactures metal products; Energy Research Center, which conducts research on energy-related products; and R. D. O., which deals in processed foods. In 2001 and 2002, after its 1999 acquisition of Acme Tool Crib of the North, Internet retailer expanded and located a portion of its customer service operations in Grand Forks. is now one of the region's top employers.

The University of North Dakota (UND) is a major contributor to the city's economic life as well as its cultural and entertainment life. UND is the second largest employer in the state.

Grand Forks U.S. Air Force Base is one of the bases in the Air Mobility Command, headquartered at Scott AFB, Illinois. The base is home to the 319th Air Refueling Wing. Announcements in early 2005 about military base closings and realignments may bring changes to Grand Forks AFB, affecting jobs in the community.

Items and goods produced: farm crops, fertilizer, chemicals, seeds, wood products, metal products, concrete, computer software

Incentive Programs—New and Existing Companies

Local programs

The Office of Urban Development (OUD) is responsible for the administration and management of a variety of economic development programs. These activities are performed under the guidance and supervision of the Grand Forks City Council, Growth Fund Board of Directors, Grand Forks Housing Authority, and miscellaneous advisory bodies. For example, the OUD works with the Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corporation to assist businesses and industries wishing to expand or locate in Grand Forks by helping secure funding through various local, state, and federal resources. With the grantsmanship available through the OUD, the city has been successful in securing grants and loans to update the Grand Forks Industrial Park.

State programs

North Dakota's Economic Development & Finance Division assists businesses with start-up, expansion, and recruitment. Dakota Certified Development Company (CDC) administers the Small Business Administration 504 program in North Dakota. The program creates and retains jobs via the financing of real estate and equipment. The North Dakota Development fund provides secondary sources of funding to businesses through loans and equity investments.

Job training programs

The North Dakota New Jobs Training Program offers incentives to businesses creating new job opportunities that are expanding or relocating to the state. Job Service North Dakota works with businesses to develop training programs, and administers state and federal training programs including the Workforce Investment Act, New Jobs Training program, and Workforce 2000.

Development Projects

Slowly but surely downtown Grand Forks has rebuilt itself. To prevent another flood disaster, the city, along with East Grand Forks, Minnesota and the St. Paul District of the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, has begun an estimated $386 million flood protection project. The city recently secured $40 million of the U.S. President's 2006 budget to assist with construction, which includes a 100,000 gallon per minute pump station to divert runoff that would otherwise flow into the community. Other major features include 12.3 miles of levees and 1.1 miles of floodwall. Completion of the five-year project is scheduled for 2005.

With a scheduled completion date of 2006, the Wellness Center at the University of North Dakota will provide for the wellness needs of the university community. The $19.3 million building will offer fitness oriented programs such as group exercise and personal training, fitness assessments, weight and cardio machines, and massage therapy.

Economic Development Information: Office of Urban Development, 1405 1st Ave. N., Grand Forks, ND 58203; telephone (701)746-2545. Grand Forks Region Economic Development Corp., 600 DeMers Avenue, Suite 501, Grand Forks, ND 58201; telephone (701)746-2720.

Commercial Shipping

Burlington Northern-Santa Fe schedules 200 freight trains peer week through the region. Seventy motor carriers and several package service carriers are located in the city.

Labor Force and Employment Outlook

Post-flood, Grand Forks civic leaders are looking for ways to make Grand Forks more appealing to professionals and young people.

The following is a summary of data regarding the Grand Forks metropolitan area labor force, 2004 annual averages.

Size of civilian non-agricultural labor force: 50,800

Number of workers employed in . . .

construction and mining: 2,800

manufacturing: 3,500

trade, transportation and utilities: 10,900

information: 700

financial activities: 1,600

professional and business services: 3,000

educational and health services: 8,300

leisure and hospitality: 5,300

other services: 1,900

government: 12,800

Average hourly earnings of production workers employed in manufacturing: $14.35 (North Dakota average)

Unemployment rate: 4.1% (February 2005)

Grand Forks: Economy

Largest employers Number of employees
University of North Dakota 4,945
Grand Forks Air Force Base 4,265
Altru Health System 3,550
Grand Forks Public Schools 1,310
Hugo's Stores 775
Simplot 539
City of Grand Forks 517
Valley Memorial Homes 500 400

Cost of Living

The following is a summary of data regarding several key cost of living factors in the Grand Forks area.

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Average House Price: $243,600

2004 (3rd Quarter) ACCRA Cost of Living Index: 96.0 (U.S. average = 100.0)

State income tax rate: Ranges from 2.67% to 12%

State sales tax rate: 5.0% (food and prescription drugs are exempt)

Local income tax rate: None

Local sales tax rate: 1.75%

Property tax rate: 2.25% of appraised value (2005)

Economic Information: Grand Forks Chamber of Commerce, 203 Third Street North, Grand Forks, ND 58203; telephone (701)772-7271