Greater Minnesota counties lead economic recovery
WILLMAR -- Two west central Minnesota counties are near the top of the list in the nation for recovering from the recession. According to a recent report from the National Association of Counties, Pope County and Stevens County -- along with seve...
WILLMAR - Two west central Minnesota counties are near the top of the list in the nation for recovering from the recession.
According to a recent report from the National Association of Counties, Pope County and Stevens County - along with seven other rural counties in Greater Minnesota - have met or surpassed prerecession economic levels. The report, which measured recovery based on jobs, unemployment rate, economic output and home prices, ranked Minnesota as third in the nation for the number of counties that have recovered from the recession.
There are 3,069 counties in the nation and 65 of them - about 2 percent - met the economic recovery mark.
The study shows counties in Greater Minnesota are “on the front end of the economic recovery,” said Katie Clark Sieben, commissioner of the Minnesota Department of Employment and Economic Development.
Texas and North Dakota, where the oil boom launched the recession recovery, were the top two states on the list, followed by Minnesota, Kansas and Montana.
South Dakota had just one county that recovered to pre-recession levels, according to the report.
The Minnesota counties that met all the criteria in the study were Clay, Marshall, Pennington, Polk, Pope, Stevens, Wilkin, Jackson and Murray counties.
“While Minnesota ranks third nationally for the number of recovered counties, we must continue to focus on growing jobs and increasing economic opportunity for all of Minnesota,” Sieben said in a news release.
Steve Renquist, executive director of the Kandiyohi County and City of Willmar Economic Development Commission, said it’s great that nine Minnesota counties met the threshold of growth in the study, but he said that does not mean counties that are not on the list are doing poorly.
Renquist is quick to congratulate the counties that ranked high in the study but is also quick to defend Kandiyohi County’s overall economy, which he said is better than that of some counties that met the recovery mark. “I wouldn’t trade our economy with any of them,” he said.
He also said “showing a dramatic recovery” often “starts with having a fairly dramatic drop in the economy.”
But Renquist said the study does show areas where Kandiyohi County “could always do better.”
According to the report, Kandiyohi County met two of the four economic grades: jobs recovered and gross domestic product recovered.
But the county’s unemployment rate and home price recovery did not meet the prerecession measurement.
Renquist said the county has typically had a low unemployment rate and he was “surprised” that prerecession marker was not met in the study.
He acknowledged that housing prices in Kandiyohi County have not fully rebounded and are not “back to where they were prerecession.”
But he does not view that factor as an indication of a “struggling economy” but as a “microcosm onto itself.”
New attention to providing workforce housing in the county, especially in Willmar, could help boost several areas of the county’s economy.
According to the report, Kandiyohi County had a jobs growth rate of 0.6 percent in 2013-14 and an adjusted average county wage growth rate of 0.3 percent. The adjusted average wage in the county was listed at $36,900.
Pope County had a jobs growth rate of 0.2 percent, an adjusted average county wage growth rate of 3.1 percent and an adjusted average wage of $39,000.
Stevens County had a jobs growth rate of -0.1 percent, an adjusted average county wage growth rate of 4.7 percent and adjusted average county wage of $41,800.
While not disputing the National Association of Counties report, Renquist said there are other studies that use different standards and measurements to gauge the economic health of a community that have consistently put Kandiyohi County and Willmar high in the ranks.
Read the report, including county-by-county data, at http://explorer.naco.org/.