Wednesday, September 05, 2007

GF a job seekers' market?

It seems to me that, as of late, Grand Forks has become a rather good place for job seekers. Businesses around town seem understaffed and in need of workers. Last week, one major store on 32nd Avenue South was reportedly forced to temporarily bring in a dozen employees from the Fargo store because the Grand Forks store was both so busy and so understaffed. Major stores like Wal-Mart and Target have also reportedly been having a very difficult time filling empty positions. Not only are there not enough people to fill jobs around town, but there seems to be more traffic at local businesses which, in turn, requires those businesses to have more and more employees.

I need to mention that it isn't just the retail and service sectors that seem to be underemployed lately. From what I know, all sorts of Grand Forks businesses seem to be in need of workers. If you're looking for a manufacturing job, LM Glasfiber seems to be always hiring. If you're looking for a medical job, I believe both Altru and Aurora are hiring...I would have to think the upcoming construction of the new Aurora Hospital would only add to the need for more medical personal and staff in town. In short, it seems to be a good time to find a job in Grand Forks no matter what line of work you're looking for. At least, that's the impression that I get.

This bring us to the problem...who is going to fill all of the open positions around town? Yes, Grand Forks has been experiencing moderate population growth in recent years, but it still seems as though businesses are having a harder and harder time staffing. With more stores, restaurants, medical centers, manufacturers, and other businesses coming to Grand Forks over the next couple of years and with existing businesses expanding, who are those businesses going to find to hire?

It seems as though this must be a good time to make the move to Grand Forks. We have plenty of jobs, but not enough people to fill all of those jobs. I believe city leaders need to look into how we can attract more people to move to and work in Grand Forks. With so many open positions now and in the near future, it seems to me as though Grand Forks could experience a large gain in population if we can find ways to get the message out that there are jobs to be had in Grand Forks.

I suppose this job seekers' market can be seen in both a good and bad light. It's good in the fact that almost everyone who wants to work can find a job in Grand Forks. On the other hand, will new businesses continue to locate in Grand Forks when existing businesses are having such a hard time finding employees? Unless we can attract a larger population base and more workers to fill empty positions, our economy could potentially start to discourage new businesses from setting up shop here. That would be too bad, in my opinion.

44 comments:

ec99 said...

What the average annual income in GF?

What percentage of workers hold more than one job?

Where does the cost of living for GF figure compared with the rest of the country?

How do the taxes in GF (sales, property, etc) impact people?

Peter said...

I'd love to move to Grand Forks.

The cost of even a low-range home is prohibitive, though. Just too darned expensive. It's not like it was twenty years ago, when a retiree from a smaller town could afford to make the move to GFKS and take advantage of the many services of a town that size.

dale said...

Home prices are out of control everywhere. The Twin Cities has an enormous housing glut, and you're still hard pressed to find a sub $200k house with a reasonable commute.

But it's true that, unless you're in a management position, no one is going to move here to work at Target, WalMart or a restaurant. These positions are more likely suited to new workers, people taking a second job (counting those retired getting a supplemental income,) college students, and those making a lateral move within such unskilled jobs. Not a huge pool, there, so it drives wages up in a classic supply and demand scenario.

Pity as much, though, the company that needs to recruit experienced people to come to Grand Forks. In some cases, it doesn't matter what you're willing to pay, it's a challenge to get people to come here. The positives of the city, such as the low crime rate and friendly populace, pale, in some minds, with the negatives of weather and cultural isolation (true or not, it's a perception that has to be dealt with.)

It's unfortunate that we have, within a two hours drive, a culturally diverse and interesting city that would be able to detract from some of these issues. Unfortunate, in that it's in another country, with the perceived hassle of going there. I know that I haven't been to Winnipeg but once since 9/11, and even that was a nuisance, as we had our dog with us and had to produce a bunch of paperwork.

When I'm in the Cities, it often takes an hour to get from the western suburbs, where my in-laws live, to a restaurant, show or something. So it's not entirely out of the question that I'd drive up to Winnipeg for the day to shop, eat out and see a show or Blue Bomber game. If I could skip the whole crossing the border business, that is. Something about that process just creeps me out for some reason.

Maybe someone should start up a "once a month Winnipeg weekend bus" to haul people up there from Grand Forks for tours and pubs crawls and hockey games or something.

MattFacingSouth said...

Build a big dome.

It is my vision.

C. Y. said...

Maybe it will force wages to increase. Of course the city will no longer be able to brag to prospective companies that they can hire cheap labor here.

Dan said...

Just because it interested me...I have been following Alberta and in particular the situation in the Fort McMurray area for the last 7 years. The boom that that province and in particular Fort Mac has experienced and still is has been unparalled. Oil and gas has been driving much of it, and in Fort Mac's case the many growing projects in the oilsands regions nearby. Alberta overall has been desparate for people to move there to work as many jobs go unfilled, esp service jobs. In Fort Mac, lack of housing and severe demand has increased prices tremendously with average single family home there near $500,000 CDN and the rents for 1-2 BR apartments are the highest in Canada on average...1 BR nr $1500/mo. Many folks can find good jobs paying $40-60CDN/hr for the oil companies but service sector just cannot keep employees as lower wages for these jobs make living there not possible due to high cost of living. I read that some fast food places are offering $15-20CDN/hr like Burger King to try to get people. Many restaurants are forced to close early. Obviously Grand Forks and North Dakota are not Alberta but the same idea applies that there is a great need for employees in the service sector especially, but how to pay a living wage to these and yet keep prices low that the consumer demands. A big quandry.

Anonymous said...

Williston, ND and Sidney, MT are experiencing an oil boom right now as well. It's not as crazy as Ft. McMurray, but there is a huge housing shortage, housing prices are rising VERY fast, and places like McDonalds are having a hard time finding folks even paying several dollars more an hour then usual due to the oil field wages. (it is not uncommon for 18-20 year olds to be making 100K-150K/year driving truck or working on the rigs). Super Walmart in Williston is actually busing in workers 70 miles one way from Poplar, MT (on the Ft. Peck Reservation).
I've heard rumors from relatives in Williston about 5 and 10 year population projections for Williston and it is set to experience a lot more growth (that is, as long as oil prices stay up...)

Anonymous said...

I enjoy living in Grand Forks and have only been here for about a year. I was disappointed as to the lack of jobs for professionals though. I have my master's degree and am making the same wage as my son who has a 2 year degree from the Technical College. I was surprised that the costs of apartment life here is more expensive than when I lived in Fargo and unfortunately, buying a home is out of the question.

Anonymous said...

I have also only lived here about a year. Although I ended up finding a wonderful job (I have a bachelor's degree) within the University, I was offered a job from one of the major retailers here in MANAGEMENT for $11/hr. Are you kidding me? I haven't made that little since I was working part-time while going to school. If they are paying a manager that much, how much are they paying sales clerks and floor associates? Low wages in service and retail may very well play a part as to why there is a worker shortage.

Anonymous said...

Renting in Grand Forks IS really expensive. Most people I know that rent pay around 50% or more of their wages every month just in rent. I know we do. Both of us have full time jobs & our only debt is student loans, but the idea of one day being able to save up enough money for a house is a far fetched dream right now. I don't know how people get ahead while they pay rent. There's just no way. Even having 3 college degrees between the two of us isn't helping right now. An option we are seriously looking at is moving out of Grand Forks so we can make more money and to save more money. We really don't want to as we love it here and we have lots of family around, but the thought of renting for the next how many years is depressing.

ben said...

It is quite simple...if the places need employees, they need to pay for them. As soon as they start paying a living wage, the jobs will be filled. Not only that, but most places will find that they will have more qualified and dedicated employees.

ec99 said...

The rumor used to circulate that the movers and shakers of GF, mainly business owners, did all the could to keep high paying jobs out of the city, thus assuring a low payroll for their own employees. Have never seen any solid evidence of that, though. Still, all these service establishments, with bottom of the barrel wages, seem to do that for them.

GrandForksGuy said...

Some very interesting observations here, folks. I figured this topic would get some thoughtful posts.

I too am concerned that the high prices of housing in Grand Forks are preventing people from moving here. With all of these available jobs and with the promise of more and more jobs in the future, I really think Grand Forks could experience a major population growth spurt if people could find housing.

I'm also thinking that companies are going to have to start paying their people more money if they want to fill empty positions. I would think that would be a very good thing. If people were paid more, the cost of things like housing wouldn't be quite as much of an issue. If that's the case, higher wages just may be the answer to many problems: filling empty positions, increasing the population and tax base, and making the community more appealing to businesses looking to expand. Now, if we could just convince some of these businesses that they should start paying more...

ec99 said...

"Now, if we could just convince some of these businesses that they should start paying more..."

Hate to sound cynical, but you have a better chance of convincing Islamic men to have their wives remove the burka.

ben said...

A big part of the problem is the flood of 1997 wiped out much of the "starter" housing stock in GF. The subdivisions that were built to replace these homes don't have the low pricing that a true starter home has. The Lincoln and Riverside neighborhoods provided that starter housing, and much of those homes are simply gone now. What GF really needs if affordable housing, but that is a big challenge for anyone.

dale said...

"Now, if we could just convince some of these businesses that they should start paying more..."

Hate to sound cynical, but you have a better chance of convincing Islamic men to have their wives remove the burka.


Okay, if I have a business here, and I can't hire the labour that I need to keep the place open, I have two options. I can pay more, or I can move my company. (Sure, third option is to do nothing and go out of business, but let's assume that I'm not that dumb.)

A restaurant, a store, something that has local investors, these probably make zero sense to move. If I'm a manufacturer making widgets, well, then it's just an accounting decision, as to whether the costs of moving and hiring and training a bunch of noobs is lower than the cost of paying people in the current location more.

In a general sense, the only business that really matters for growth is the manufacturing one, because it takes money from another location and brings it in. Stores and restaurants pretty much just move the same money around a fixed area, though in Grand Forks we do have a lot of economic contributions from all of the Canadians that come here to shop.

But, back to our story, assuming that I stick around, I pay more for my people. Well, now the guy down the street loses his staff, because they come work for me. So he raises his rate of pay to steal workers from someone else. Pretty soon, we're all paying more than other areas, and people move in, on hearing that they can make more money in this city.

Classic "pull migration" model, and it will be how Grand Forks will grow.

Of course, the other side of the coin is that, with higher wages come higher prices, both because I have to charge more to cover a higher payroll, and there's more money in the economy for the same amount of stuff. But that's a worry for another day.

Anonymous said...

Grand Forks/East Grand Forks did loose too many starter homes in the flood, but this area does have one advantage. You are able to go to a small town within 10-20 minutes and still get a great starter home. The taxes are also lower if you leave Grand Forks.

Anonymous said...

Did someone say taxes? Seriously folks, can someone explain to me why they are so blazing high here? I lived just North of St. Paul in a 3,000 sq ft home, now I'm in a 2,000 sq ft home and my annual property taxes are about $1,100 more here.

Anonymous said...

Yeah its obvious.

There are less people to tax. That's why you get taxed more. duh.

St. Paul isn't paying for a dike, etc. They can share economies of scale with other cities in the surrounding area. GF can't.

Pretty simple. Get over it.

Anonymous said...

Who here is excited to start paying even MORE property tax because of the jail fiasco??

Why do the citizens always have to pay for the mistakes that a small group of people make? They should have to pay. Not people who are just trying to get by and probably can barely afford their property taxes the way it is already.

Ok, so I understand that would never happen, but I can wish.

Anonymous said...

Affordable housing ? Yes there is. Check out the mobile home/trailer parks. Buy or lease your own affordable home, for less than $500 a month. Get over it you whiners. Go to work, pay your taxes.

Anonymous said...

Yeah, get a mobile home payment for $500 a month and then pay $300 to $400 a month in lot rent. You might as well buy a house. I encourage people to go to a home buying seminar offered by Village Family Services or any other similar agency. When a mortgage is stretched out over 30 years, it's amazing how similar payments can be for it as they were for your rent plus tax deductions, etc.

Anonymous said...

Exactly, if you think housing is overpriced here, you really need to get out more.

To the guy saying he has 3 degrees between he and his spouse yet pays over 50% of his income in rent? Even if you pay an exhorbanant $1000 in rent a month, you're telling me you and your wife can't clear over 24k a year? It might be time to look in the mirror, your problem isn't lack of opportunity, its lack of skills and ambition.

To st. Paul guy, so you paid $1100 less property taxes there, can you compare income tax? Part of the reason why property tax is high in ND is because of the way income tax is structured.

If you look at national studies, this area is middle-of-the-road when it comes to tax burden. I'd also argue that we do get something for what we pay... a clean, safe city, a well-performing school system with very solid ED and special ed programs, and a parks system with solid programs and per capita park acreage that is certainly above the average if not top 1/3.

I am NOT saying taxes are low, so don't go there, but I AM saying is we have it pretty good.

Dan said...

I have been following the whole housing bubble and now in parts of the country burst going on...a good read is the www.housingbubbleblog.com site. Anyway...affordable housing is such an open ended thing. What is affordable and to whom? The GF housing authority has the Promenade area west part of town...and I know the city tried to get involved with some builders to have more affordable housing built south of Walmart (affordable being 120-160,000) It seemed to work initially, but now many homes there are in the 180-210 range. I am not a builder...but would imagine it is very hard to keep costs down with so many forces outside your control pricing things such as lumber. And so many folks nowadays want the granite countertops, heated garage, jacuzzi..so hard to keep prices down.

I follow the local MLS listings frequently and anyone notice how many listings now. Of course we got nowwhere near the crazy market that other areas did...but prices now locally are just too high. I dont know what some people are thinking. In 2003 our home we built with 3500 finished was 224,000 with 3 car garage. I see on the MLS listing a 1950 sq ft split level in EGF 2 yrs old listed for 236,000 No fence, smaller lot than ours. What are the owners thinking. Two years ago homes were going like hotcakes but lately I have seen many homes on the MLS for months (those not priced right). Anyway...I think we should and probably will see a fall of housing prices a good 30-40,000 from this year in the near future.

Anonymous said...

I will say this...although I think GFK housing prices are exorbitantly high for a small-ish town in the middle of nowhere (I like it, but the fact is, it's the middle of nowhere...), they are pretty darn cheap compared to 75% of the rest of the country.

In the southern state where I lived up until last year (in a metro area), a person could have a custom-built, brand-new, 100% brick home with all the extras (stainless steel appliances, custom cabinets, granite countertops, jacuzzi tub, etc.) for $125k-$150k, depending upon square footage and location. Going up to $175k would get a REALLY nice home, with several extra luxuries that just don't seem to be available or popular in new-builds up here.

So, when my spouse and I started our home search when we moved here, were we disappointed in what you get for the money? Sure. However, we kept it in perspective. We bought a 4 bdr, 100+-year-old move-in ready home in the historic district in GFK for slightly under $120k. You couldn't even get in a single family home in MOST housing markets across the U.S. for $120k.

The key here is perspective. Move to another city across the U.S. and you will find you housing prices even more sky-high.

Anonymous said...

The market here is slowing down after a rapid growth in home values.

At any rate, the 2006 average home price sold in GF was still less than 3 times the average family income, which is considered affordable.

That said, there is a housing shortage to a certain extent for low income folks, and a lot of that is still a supply-side problem caused by yes, the flood. The record housing starts here in 2005-2006 has helped alleviate that, which is part of the reason for the more stagnant home prices.

Overall, anyone who says housing is "not affordable" here is just flat wrong.

Prices are not set by some magical force or "the man" who wants you to pay more taxes, they are set by people ACTUALLY PAYING those prices.

Lynsey said...

To the person wondering how much retail stores pay their floor employees...When I worked at Target, I made $7/hr. As a college student working 40 hours a week, I was still paying half my income into rent, and I didn't have much left over for gas and groceries.

Goon said...

.Did someone say taxes? Seriously folks, can someone explain to me why they are so blazing high here? I lived just North of St. Paul in a 3,000 sq ft home, now I'm in a 2,000 sq ft home and my annual property taxes are about $1,100 more here.

We will continue to pay high taxes until the people of Grand Forks decide they have had enough of income confiscation and decided to vote the cities leaders out of office in droves, it is the only way to do it. If you don’t like your city leader run against them in the next election. I personally am tired of seeing the same old faces on the city council and purposely voted for the person running against incumbent in my ward.

I believe that Mac is on the right track but he can't do it alone, the city of Grand Forks, ND needs new leaders on the city council, the park board and on the county board.

Also, my if you don't like the civilian job market in Grand Forks, apply for a federal job; there are many positions even in grand forks, North Dakota... Of course they take time to get in but it’s worth the wait, and eventually I believe the Government is going to have incentives such as student loan repayment because eventually even in towns like Grand Forks, ND the business people in hr that do the hiring for jobs in all sectors of the public work force are going to have to pay more for their workers because the baby boomers generation is going to retire in mass, so if you can make ends meet until then by all means stay where you are. If you don’t like your current job status keep looking and applying. Sometimes it takes applying for 20 jobs just to get a couple of job offers. The job market in Grand Forks is great if you want to work in a low paying service job, there are not a lot of jobs for professionals unless you’re in the medical field. If you don’t like working for the man buy your own business.

dale said...

there are not a lot of jobs for professionals unless you’re in the medical field.

Goon, can you define what you mean by "professionals"? Sales? Marketing? Management?

If you don’t like working for the man buy your own business.

I agree 100% with that comment. There are a lot of great resources here in Grand Forks for someone wanting to start up their own business. Check out the Centre for Innovation, for starters.

ec99 said...

"If you don’t like your city leader run against them in the next election."

Sorry, they have already fixed the system. They have the time, the money, and the ambition to stay in office. The bulk of the citizens of GF do not. Those who do are already part of the inner circle. McNamara won because he had name recognition through a radio show. And, quite frankly, he is a bit of a dolt.

ben said...

to the person who pays $1,100/yr in property taxes just north of St Paul...how much do you pay each year in your state income taxes? Cities need money to run, and ND provides next to nothing in aid to cities compared to MN. That money needs to come from somewhere. Also, please realize that 24% of your property tax bill goes to the city. That, and the city has cut mills each of the last several years. Much of the "problem" comes from the school board and the county raising taxes and spending like mad. Those entities certainly need more scrutiny and accountability than they have been receiving.

dale said...

Much of the "problem" comes from the school board and the county raising taxes and spending like mad.

I don't know about the county, but supporting better schools benefits us all. Referenced above was my comment about the difficulty in recruiting workers to Grand Forks, but the great schools and progams that we have are one of the carrots that help.

Better schools keep crime down, bring the community together, and can help foster growth. As much as those without children might complain about what they pay in this area, it does benefit them indirectly.

Anonymous said...

Speaking of better schools, I really hope Wilder Elementary does not close down...The North End gets screwed enough.

ec99 said...

"I don't know about the county, but supporting better schools benefits us all."

I have posted before on how I feel the GF Public Schools offer a great education. And I would have no problem with money going to the schools to continue that. I'm also aware of the criticism that while enrollment has gone down, the budget has gone up. So why is
it once again this year elementary kids are going door-to-door selling candy bars? Why do they have to subsidize the school they attend? Why do they, in effect, have to pay a part of their education? Why do the elementary schools need that extra money? Why isn't the district providing it?

Anonymous said...

I agree we should definitely support our schools however we can. Although it seems some people in EGF don't agree with me & refused to give any more money last year. I guess if you don't have kids of your own you don't need to worry about the quality of education in your town.

Anonymous said...

They need to sell candy bars to supplement the administrations' salaries.

Like everything else, school systems put the most money where it is least warranted.


(Only half-ways kidding.)

Goon said...


Sorry, they have already fixed the system. They have the time, the money, and the ambition to stay in office. The bulk of the citizens of GF do not. Those who do are already part of the inner circle. McNamara won because he had name recognition through a radio show. And, quite frankly, he is a bit of a dolt.


If the people in this town got serious they could throw out the old guys on the city council. So I dont' agree with that assessment. I think it is time for some of them to go.

Anonymous said...

I know that there are many families that are able to afford good homes in Grand Forks but I am having a difficult time as a single person. I also am a below the knee amputee so need wide doors, etc. which are almost impossible to find. I looked for an apartment for months before finding what I needed. I'm not whining, just making an observation. All of this still wouldn't make me leave Grand Forks though.

Anonymous said...

I am in the rental dilemma myself . It is my girlfriend and myself looking for something that we can afford as students that doesn't require living in a bee colony that was mass produced in which you have to deal with the loud ridiculous neighbors or the crazy who tap dances upstairs.

Also Grand forks needs a collective place to advertise for rentals or for sales. I am feed up with weeding through massive stacks of paper and the Internet and come up empty handed. Most of the cities I have lived in have such things.

So on that note, if there are any recommendations for my search PLEASE HELP?!?

And is Grand Forks classified as a city or a town?

dale said...

There's an "Apartment Guide" magazine that I see in little stands around town. Don't know if that's specifically Grand Forks, though. There's a stack of them at the Golden Corral, for example.

Grand Forks / East Grand Forks / Crookston is defined as a SMSA by the federal government. Suspect that the rest is just semantics.

Anonymous said...

anonymouis said, I guess if you don't have kids of your own you don't need to worry about the quality of education in your town."

If you don't have kids you want that money spent even more wisely.

Anonymous said...

Sorry-I think the schools could trim a little excess. All the schools in EGF were completely rebuilt after 1997-primarily with FEMA funds. While I realize this doesn't help with day to day operations, including staff salaries, it must have some inpact somewhere! Sending kids out to raise money for their classrooms and activities is emotional blackmail that doesn't register with me.

ec99 said...

"If the people in this town got serious they could throw out the old guys on the city council."

And whom do you get to replace them? Who has the time, the money? Who can get up and leave their jobs at 11:00 am for a committee meeting without having their pay docked? Kruen, Gershman, Dougie, and the rest can. That is why I say the system is fixed; you own a business, are the boss, or are retired, you are set. The council had its rebels. One gave up in exasperation, the other was booted out, because he kept harping on the lousy wages in GF. The GF aristocracy will continue to run the city, either as elected officials, or like Newman and Marshall and Rydell, working in the shadows.

Matthew said...

Why give up before you even start? This is what exasperates me time and again. Thank god I have no desire to go into politics.

How about moving the city elections so that students can vote? Who do we have to kill to get that to happen?


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