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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.
You only have to spend a few moments in the presence of teens and twenty-something to feel charged up when they are excited about something. The energy and passion they have to offer things they believe in is contagious. North Dakota, from the state to local community and civic organizations, is putting more and more emphasis on the resource our youth represents. For years, we’ve heard about how young people are leaving North Dakota, but that is simply becoming less true. We’re growing in North Dakota (check out the article 20 Counties Experience Growth in North Dakota) and some of the growth is simply young people choosing to make their homes and professional careers right here.
Movements like YouthForward and the Governor’s Youth Council and the tremendous amount of local Young Professional (YP) chapters (find a chapter near you at NDYP.net) around the state are helping youth be heard. It is giving them greater information earlier about what there is for them in the state, the impacts they can make, and the opportunities available to them.
Events like the upcoming Great Plains Young Professionals Summit taking place June 3-5, 2010 in Bismarck are giving youth places to connect, network and grow their professional influence in our state. The three day event is geared towards 21-39 year olds and will focus on personal and professional development, enhancing leadership skills and the importance of supporting our communities.
Getting youth to understand that North Dakota is a place worth staying takes all of us thinking differently. We need to come together to promote our youth, promote North Dakota and in the end, only great stuff can happen.