Go North for a Bold New Future

Rock Creek, Minnesota (PHOTO: Jerry Huddleston, Flickr CC)

In “Why Millennials Should All Move to North Dakota,” Sean Braswell of Ozy.com dives into a recent analysis of economic opportunity around the U.S. He finds that seven of the top 20 states in the opportunity index may be found in the Great Plains. They include Minnesota, Wisconsin, Iowa, North Dakota, South Dakota, Nebraska and Kansas.

Braswell writes:

So why are these Great Plains states doing so well on the opportunity front? With respect to the Opportunity Index, good performances on the health dimension play a key role in states like Minnesota, Iowa and North Dakota, says Monique Rizer, executive director at Opportunity Nation. Entrepreneurship opportunities are also key. Young adults who identify a problem in their community and who are able to start a business to fix it are critical because, in doing so, “they’re creating opportunity for themselves and jobs for the community,” says Rizer, “a community they know and love — not in Silicon Valley, New York or Boston.” Take Minnesota, for instance. The Gopher State has long been the home of giant corporate employers like 3M, General Mills and Target, but a new slew of early stage companies and local retail tech startups are also now thriving, including a burgeoning solar-power industry.

Braswell points out that indexes like these aren’t perfect. For instance, lower poverty rates in these states gives them a head start in any analysis. An older population and higher investment in health care also adds an element of stability.

But that also means opportunity. States like ours need workers. The Upper Great Plains boast lower cost of living and cheaper real estate, coupled with strong regional centers like Minneapolis, Fargo and Sioux Falls.

Like many popular articles, Braswell’s refers to future midwestern millennials as though they were some foreign monolith. Amusingly, some of the comments on the story complain that “millennials make things expensive whenever they show up.”

Millennials are a generation. All states have them. We have them right now. The fact that costs run so high for them compared to their parents is their challenge, not their agenda.

In this, the Great Plains, Minnesota, and Northern Minnesota could represent a viable alternative to large coastal cities.

Last year, I wrote a column about the message we send millennials in our communities. I titled it for a quote from Cuyuna Range booster Aaron Hautala, “If you want to predict the future, listen to the future.”

Braswell’s point, that the Great Plains offers opportunity is true. We want that opportunity to translate into new ideas and reinvigorated communities. To do this, we must understand what new generations seek and why.

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