Standing on the leading edge of 2013, North Dakotans need to get reacquainted with their state. They need to because the state is undergoing heavy-duty change. That change will ramp up in the year ahead with complicated new challenges. And expectations are that we’ll see more growth, more jobs and more people.
North Dakotans will feel the excitement and, sometimes, the pain of that rapid growth.
Old assumptions about North Dakota, once pigeonholed as a farm state, are no longer valid. Certainly the state continues to have a powerful agriculture sector, but its economy has become more diversified and deeper.
Over the past 12 months, the state has set one record after another, until only Texas leads North Dakota in domestic oil production. It’s helped create an economy with less than 3 percent unemployment. It’s meant a large surplus in state tax revenue. The state’s economic good fortune has played out before a national backdrop of slow growth and high unemployment. There’s a stark contrast between the North Dakota and the national economy.
People are migrating to the state. Predictions are that we’ll see record population numbers in a few short years. The landscape in the western North Dakota oil patch has rapidly become industrialized. The state has funneled huge amounts of money into roads, schools and housing to serve the oil industry. There’s impact — good and bad — and the people who live here are trying to understand both the growth and its consequences.
The state Legislature will convene Jan. 8. In the coming session, lawmakers and other state leaders will be tasked with meeting the changes and challenges that have come to North Dakota.
It will be a pivotal session in regard to taxation, infrastructure and protecting certain quality of life issues — public safety, conservation, health care, education — that affect North Dakotans across the state.
Lawmakers and citizens of the state should take a fresh look at what’s happening around them. They ought to assess the changes in communities across the state. People should look back as well as into the future. They should brush away the assumptions held for generations about the state and its future.
With a new year rolling out and the Legislature about to meet, it’s a perfect time for citizens to express their hopes for the state’s future.