Income, cost of living disparity a perpetual issue

Is it lack of economic development, or bad luck with it, or bad efforts?

Is it taxes that are too high?

Greed?

Bad government, here or in Bismarck?

One or more of these things is referenced on most occasions when a local resident discusses the economic challenges facing our region.

Minot Daily News hears them all from readers on a regular basis. There are valid arguments for each and every position.

However, one can’t help but wonder if the issue isn’t larger, an amalgamation of all of the above and national challenges.

Many reference the issue but it is hard to pin down.

Perhaps the greatest economic challenge we have is the disparity between the cost of living and wages in the regional market.

As many complain, the local cost of living is out of tune with incomes and with the community at large. Absurd real estate costs, higher than national average cost for food and gasoline.

Meanwhile, we have incredibly low unemployment while at the same time, many work for $10-$12 per hour wages.

Exactly how does that add up to a thriving, growing community? Sure, some benefit from inflated real estate and depressed wages. But… we also aren’t a growing community anymore, are we. Set aside the incomplete development projects and consider our population – last check, it was shrinking. And… why is that going to change? Surely we aren’t foolish enough to gamble on another energy boom with a flow-over of population to flood this market, are we? Surely we all know that technology and procedure have created more efficiency and automation in the Bakken, meaning the need for fewer workers. Surely we know western North Dakota cities have invested far more in attracting those workers who are needed and will be needed if there is another “boom.”

This is not to criticize anyone — not state, regional or city government. Not the private sector. It is an issue that impacts many communities and has no simple solution.

How we recognize and respond will affect the future of our community far moreso than the smaller, more targeted, more debatable issues by which we find ourselves bogged down.

Do we have answers?

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