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Fargo, ND
MSA: Fargo, ND-MN
Best places ranking: #3 among small metro areas
Population: 195,685
Fargo is noted more for its rich farmland and the occasional flooding of the Red River than for being a high-tech hotbed. But that perception is slowly changing. The presence of a big Microsoft customer support center doesn't hurt, and Senator Byron Dorgan has actively promoted eastern North Dakota as a tech corridor -- an effort entrepreneurs say is paying off.

Local businesses cite North Dakota State University and easy air and road access to Minneapolis and other big cities as key local advantages. The University of North Dakota, 70 miles away, also contributes to the town's abundance of educated, motivated labor. An ongoing "Renaissance Zone" plan offers tax breaks and other incentives to business that invest in Fargo's historic downtown district.

Like North Dakota in general, Fargo profited from the state's energy riches -- western North Dakota's oil and wind energy projects are taking off. The agriculture sector has also fed the area's relative prosperity. All of that leads to a pretty rosy employment picture: North Dakota, unlike most states, is actually hiring. -Barbara Darrow

Launch Toolbox:
Resources for getting started in Fargo, ND


Local smallbiz lenders

  • Starion Bancorporation
  • Bremer Financial Corporation
  • Union Bancshares
  • Capital Credit Union
  • Blackridge Financial
See all local lenders

Fargo Business Statistics
Employer establishments with 1-49 employees
5,803 3,516
Small business growth rate
8.9% 4.1%
State business tax climate ranking
(out of 50 states)
30 N/A
Percentage of population with bachelor's degree
(ages 25-34)
41.1% 23.5%
Violent crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
n/a 385.1
Property crime
(rate per 100,000 inhabitants, 2007)
2,393.2 3,395.2
Population growth
9.1% 4.93%
Per-capita income
$36,459 $31,933
Per-capita income growth
24.5% 23.6%
GDP (in millions)
$8,764 $4,952
GDP growth
36% 33%
Average hourly wage
$17.55 $17.50
Housing foreclosure rate
(first half of 2009, 1 per every X housing units)
653 850
Median rent
(2009, for a 2-bedroom housing unit)
$641 $737
Housing price-to-income (HPI) ratio
(first quarter of 2009)
1.5% 1.8%
Long-term HPI ratio
(20-year average, 1984-2004)
1.6% 1.7%
HPI deviation from long-term average
-9% 0.1%

All statistics are for the full Metropolitan Statistical Area. For a complete list of data sources, see "How we picked the Best Places."

From the November 2009 issue
"There are jobs -- agriculture stayed strong throughout the recession, and North Dakota is one of only two states not running a significant budget deficit." -Jeff Young
Best Places Winners
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The factors that matter most to me are:
 Affordable wages  Few foreclosures
 Educated workers  Low housing costs
 Low crime  High local incomes
 A growing economy  Population growth
 Growing small business population

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This year we partnered with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation to find the 50 most business-friendly communities in America.

With help from Robert Fairlie, an economist and leading scholar of entrepreneurship at the University of California, Santa Cruz, we developed a methodology and sifted through such data on factors such as per capita income, hourly wages, workforce quality, crime rates, taxes and foreclosures. More

Comments? E-mail the editors
Data partners

This package was produced in partnership with the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation.

Foreclosure data provided by RealtyTrac.

Housing price-to-income data provided by Moody's