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Thanksgiving time always gets me thinking about current blessings and past moments I am grateful for in my life. Having grown up on a farm in small town North Dakota, my memories may look different than yours, but we can all reflect back to a simpler time in the place we once (or still) call “home.”
One of my favorite ways to take a step back to those “home” moments is to connect with my hometown weekly newspaper, especially at Thanksgiving time. While I was growing up, the Steele-Ozone Press (Steele, North Dakota) offered up my community and the surrounding areas news weekly.
I may have grown up and moved away, but the Steele-Ozone Press has dutifully delivered the news in my absence. When I return home to visit, I love to flip through the weeklies’ pages and see a new crop of faces in 4-H or pictures from the Men’s Club Pancake Supper. In its pages I can find what the school lunches will be that week (yes, tuna noodle hotdish is still around) and what sporting events will take place. But my absolute favorite is the little reports from each community — mini-captures of what happened in one town as reported by someone living there.
These articles capture a piece of small town living in way that shows family extends to community in rural areas. They report happenings in town from community events to someone visiting a neighbor. I especially love when they have a phrase like: “Velda Thompson stopped by Marion Macklebee’s on Thursday for macaroon cookies and a nice visit.” or “Vernon Triple was ailing this week so the quilting guild took him a hotdish and noodle soup to lift his spirits.” They remind me that I am thankful for all those in my hometown who still think of me as family, those who ask my parents what I’m up to, and those who I think of often when I’m being thankful for moments past.
You may not have grown up with a weekly newspaper in North Dakota, but I hope you to are thankful for those outside your family who still care about you. Even if they haven’t seen you around in a long time. As some of you reconnect with those roots and visit your hometowns over the holidays, suck in the beauty of family, friends and the place you used to call “home.”
Oh, and P.S. – I’m also thankful for the many Ambassadors I have the opportunity to connect with, like you!
Family first. That simple priority motivated John Nelson to return to North Dakota, Grand Forks and his former company, SimmonsFlint, as an account manager.
“The strong sense of family and community in the Grand Forks region is what residents value most and what brings Boomerangers back,” reveals the January 2010 Launch Grand Forks Findings and Recommendations report. Sixty-three percent of respondents agreed: family first is what they value most about living in the Grand Forks region.
Nelson and his wife Jill couldn’t agree more. When Miabella was born eight months ago, the couple was filled with joy, excitement and slight panic, like any new parents, especially those living 1,000 miles from the people who shaped them: their parents, their friends, their community.
“You don’t realize what you took for granted until you’ve moved away. A sense of community, safe schools, family first,” explains Nelson. “We take it for granted in North Dakota, but it’s not like that everywhere.”
The Nelsons packed up their ski gear and hiking boots, their professional experience in Colorado and Miabella’s diapers and drove home to North Dakota and their future closer to family.
“Grand Forks is safe, friendly, familiar—yet full of opportunity,” explains Nelson. “It’s the perfect place for us to grow.”
When Nelson called Grand Forks home six years ago, he had different priorities. A band member and regular performer with Crimson Creek players, Nelson was heavily involved in Grand Forks’ music scene. As a high schooler, a college student and a young professional, he regularly shared his musical talents with the community, from Summer Performing Arts (SPA) performances to his college band “Drambuee” to his funk and soul band, Groove Union aka Fatlip.
Nelson’s musical interests even blended into his professional life, as he formed Matrix Recording Studio in the old hospital building in downtown Grand Forks. The studio is still in operation today as Blue Tower Studio in downtown Denver.
Amanda Bentow, president of the Greater Grand Forks Young Professionals (GGFYP) group, explains, “We know that a lot of young professionals move back to Grand Forks because of their family connections, and we’re excited that people like Nelson are seeing the opportunities in the area and coming back to their roots.”
And he isn’t the only Flint employee to return to North Dakota after experiencing life in a bigger city. Libby Hall joined the agency last year after spending five years in Minneapolis. Twenty-four-year-old Hall, recent bride and new media strategist, came back for family, old and new: her parents in northern North Dakota and her husband Jameson. “It’s nice to be closer to our families,” says Hall.
In reference to North Dakota, Nelson says, “I just can’t think of a better place for my young family to call home.”
Written by Guest Blogger – Angie Laxdal (@angie_lynnae) | Angie Laxdal was born and raised in Crystal, North Dakota. She graduated from North Dakota State University in 2009 and currently works as a public relations specialist at SimmonsFlint in Grand Forks. Angie and her husband Kelby love living, working and playing in the Red River Valley.
Annually, Forbes magazine releases its Best Places for Business and Careers rankings. The rankings look at both large and small metros across the 50 states in the categories of cost of doing business, job growth projected, educational attainment and metro area population.
North Dakota is proud to claim two of the cities that made the top 10 for Best Places for Business and Careers in Small Metros – Bismarck (4th) and Fargo (9th) — and let us not forget, Grand Forks who made the top 100 in the 45th spot. You may be saying great, but so what? What does something like a simple ranking do to help grow North Dakota?
Actually, it does more than you might think. Many companies use site selection firms when they think about where to locate or expand their business. These site selection firms do just what it sounds like they do — they help the company find the right “site” for them. They do this through a number of different tools, one of which just happens to be a variety of rankings done by many companies nationwide. These rankings help site selection companies and others quickly narrow a vast field of states and cities in which to locate. Many rankings, similar to the Forbes ranking, are then used by other services, to help them determin their rankings and so on. So when North Dakota does good in one ranking, it can sometimes help move it upward in other rankings as well.
So, while it may not mean much to us that the Beacon Hill Competitiveness Report named North Dakota number three overall for its ability to promote economic growth and provide high income for workers long term, it may mean a lot to someone the state would like it to mean a lot too.
In the end, everyone likes to come out on top in a good, fair competition and should celebrate when they do so. Please join us in celebrating the Forbes ranking, and if you are hungry for more fun North Dakota statistics check out the rankings database at NDBusiness.com.
Making a living. Making a life.
For some people, this probably means the same thing, for others, not so much.
In listening to the stories of those who are moving back or relocating to North Dakota, I am finding that those two statements “living” and “life” are mingling in exciting ways.
Those who are former North Dakotans, know that the “life” they are looking for is here, so they’re ready to come make their “living” here after spreading their wings elsewhere. For new North Dakotas–those relocating to the state–many are coming to make a “living,” driven by the need of work and a new place to be. However, they are quickly finding a “life” they hadn’t expected filled with good, caring, helpful people and that love of North Dakota “life” begins in a new way.
Here’s a great testimonial from one of our recent North Dakota relocators. Gilberto Karalus recently moved from Florida to Dickinson, N.D. (Thanks for permission to post your story Gilberto!)
I had filed an application in the North Dakota Workforce where you (Commerce’s relocation program) forwarded me in October. Around November, I received a surprise call to setup a phone meeting and 2 days later I got a job offer to start December 4. That made me run because I had only a week to be in and at the job place. At the time I never been in North Dakota. I had spent the last 18 years in Miami, Florida, with a few months in Oklahoma City.
I compared the weather with Anchorage, Alaska at that moment and it was 0 degrees farenheit in Alaska and 32 degrees farenheit in North Dakota. I said to myself: “I can survive that!” The comparison was because my grandsons are in Alaska.
So I threw all the “junk” I owned that I could fit in my Geo Metro and drove the 2,300 miles in three-and-a-half days. I got to Dickinson, North Dakota on December 1st around 3 p.m. I decided to go to my employer first, and they where surprised! Everyone was really helpful; helping me those first days. A few days ago I was at a gas station and a local notice the Florida Tag in my car, and asked me “Did you made the wrong turn in Albuquerque?”
No, I got a job!
Take a moment and read more relocation to North Dakota stories.
The below is a guest blog by Kelvin Hullet, Bismarck-Mandan Chamber President on his perspective about North Dakota’s shifting national image. A big thanks to all our Ambassadors, and especially Kelvin, for hard work in promoting what is positive about North Dakota. Check out Kelvin’s blog or visit The Bismarck-Mandan Chamber web site, but first make sure you read below.
It’s been an interesting 6-years for me in Bismarck-Mandan. One of the most exciting things to happen is the evolution of the perception of what North Dakota is on the national stage. When I was leaving Nebraska, my going away gifts included ice fishing poles, copies of the movie Fargo and other jibes about how cold it was going to be “On the Tundra”.
What a difference a few years makes for a state. In my mind, the beginning of the perception change started in August of 2006 when Joel Kotkin wrote a Wall Street Journal editorial about Bismarck-Mandan and North Dakota. That same year, the Bismarck Tribune was a headline story in the WSJ. From there, the media on North Dakota really took off. From TIME to Business Week to Outdoor life, to Forbes to broadcast media, Bismarck-Mandan and North Dakota are receiving positive attention from the national media.
What’s the result of all this media? One, there is definitely an increased positive perception of our community and our state. For a long time, we didn’t have any image regionally or nationally. I don’t have any formal studies to back up my theory about the improved image. What I can tell you is that Chamber Execs and all my Public Relations friends from around the nation now ask about what is happening in North Dakota and why are we being successful.
Second, we are seeing more people than ever express interest in moving to North Dakota. When I first arrived in 2003, we maybe sent 5 or 6 relocation packets a month. For the last year, we have sent 30 to 35 packets a month. Not to mention that the hits on Bismarck-Mandan.com have skyrocketed to over 35,000 unique visits per month.
Third, look around your neighborhood. I’m betting you are seeing new faces from places outside North Dakota. We are one of the last places in America where home values remain stable, we have jobs available and it is possible to live at least some part of the American dream.
As we grow, one of the challenges is to what I call, “maintain the integrity of the community”. That is, we like to live here because it is safe, we know our neighbors, have good schools and short commute times. As you neighborhood changes, get out, welcome those new neighbors into the fold and help maintain our great quality of life.
Golfing in North Dakota is a serious matter for all those who think otherwise. Golfweek Magazine featured a great story on North Dakota in its latest edition and highlighted 17-year old Amy Anderson of Oxbow, N.D. Amy is the latest winner of the U.S. Junior Girls championship and a great example of what the good life in North Dakota can offer. Check out the story at: http://bit.ly/1NpcZH
I had the pleasure of driving to Wisconsin this weekend. It was a lot of driving and I must admit, much beautiful scenery as the leaves are just begining to think about turning there. While I enjoyed the new scenery and the visit, I couldn’t wait to get home. It seems I always appreciate things more once I’ve left them behind for a few days … North Dakota, my family, my pillow, etc.
In the three days I was away, I missed many things, but the one that surprised me was not being able to see a mile on the plains. The fact that we could drive by whole towns and never see a watertower, church or school as they were blocked by trees was a little clausterphobic. I also missed familiar things, my home, family, friends, neighboors … and the other comforts that are often taken for granted. When your butt is numb from hours of driving, there are many things you miss.
The point of all this is, many people come home to North Dakota after leaving for the same reasons. They appreciate much more what our state has to offer, once they have left and seen what else is out there. Sometimes the experience of going somewhere new just reminds us how much we really loved what we already had. The less-is-more lifestyle, a slower pace and the closeness of family, the safeness of communities and quality of life become big wins for North Dakota.
If you are someone who has left and is looking for even more reasons to come home, or maybe you are just looking for a new place to be, see what others have had to say about North Dakota. Visit: http://bit.ly/3wlITY for great relocation stories from across the country for people who call ND their place to be.