Grand Forks tops Cost of Living Index for North Dakota

Photo Credit to Grand Forks Convention & Visitor’s Bureau 


How does Grand Forks compare to other metros? Is it more expensive?  Less? There’s a national source for that data, but it turns out Grand Forks hasn’t been participating in the survey. Well, we are now and the first results have us below average costs and more affordable than other state metros on the list.  And that’s a good thing.

After reading “Best Cities for Young Entrepreneurs” by Jonathan Todd of Nerdwallet, Evolve wondered why Grand Forks was missing from the list of top cities for young entrepreneurs.

Todd ranked the United States’ best cities for young entrepreneurs. Within the rank of 181 metropolitan areas in the United States, Grand Forks wasn’t there. This is despite some of our peer North Dakota cities ranking well (Fargo 10 & Bismarck 14). That left us at Evolve a little puzzled – we know Grand Forks is a great city for entrepreneurs and only getting better. So, we took a closer look.

The methodology of Todd’s article is simple and included variables on 3 areas of analysis:

  • Small -business financing, which accounts for 20% of the total score
  • Local business environment, which accounts for 25% of the total score
  • Local economy, which accounts for 55% of the total score

The data included in this analysis are sourced from the U.S. Small Business Administration, U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Cost of Living Index (COLI) data collected by the Council for Community and Economic Research (C2ER).

After considering this, we keyed in on the local economy data, of which half came from C2ER. Unlike the other sources, which use federally reported data sources, it takes a volunteer organization to participate in gathering local data to benchmark the COLI. There’s a bit of foot and phone work involved to collect prices on more than 100 items from vet care to the price of eggs and dry cleaning.

Evolve discovered this index was not being calculated for Grand Forks and once we found that out, Evolve laced up its shoes (with some help from the Grand Forks Region EDC) and submitted results for the Grand Forks metro for the 3rd quarter of 2016!

According to C2ER the COLI has been the most consistent source of city-to-city cost comparisons available. COLI data is recognized by the U.S. Census Bureau, U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics, CNN Money, and the President’s Council of Economic Advisers.

Now, (cue drum roll) …Here is a summary of the results for Grand Forks in comparison to other participating North Dakota cities (Interpreted as the percentage of national average. I.e. anything less than 100 is more affordable and over is more expensive than the national average).

City 100% Composite Index 13.24% Grocery Items 28.04% Housing 10.31% Utilities 11.16% Transportation 4.36% Healthcare 32.89% Misc Goods and Services
Bismarck 99.6 102.9 94.0 87.7 113.2 114.0 100.3
Fargo 98.4 105.1 93.7 95.4 98.3 111.0 99.1
Grand Forks 96 101.2 93.4 85.2 104.6 105.2 95.4
Minot 103.6 104.9 100.5 81.4 116.6 114.9 106.7

Cost of Living Index published by the Council for Community and Economic Research (October, 2016)

So per this, Grand Forks’ cost of living is overall, more affordable than our comparative North Dakota communities. This is significant for a variety of groups, including our young entrepreneurs. Although it would be problematic to try to find where on Nerdwallet’s list of Best Cities for Young Entrepreneurs Grand Forks may fall, it is reasonable to think that Grand Forks would have made this list. As an advocate for Grand Forks’ entrepreneurial community, Evolve will continue to report these numbers and be vigilant in recognizing opportunities for our entrepreneurial community to be recognized among the best.

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