Rod Backman, the chairman of a state census committee and a former North Dakota budget director, said he wasn't surprised by the numbers."At least traditionally, North Dakota has aged faster than states like Arizona or Colorado, which get a lot of migration into them," Backman said. "But the more recent migration from the oil industry should help with that."An oil boom in western North Dakota has attracted an influx of young workers, and Backman said the census did not count all of them as North Dakota residents.Between the census cutoff date of April 1, 2010, and March 1, 2011, at least 665 new oil wells were drilled in North Dakota, according to the state Department of Mineral Resources.But oil booms can end and transient field workers may not stay in the state afterward. Govig said he's focused on building more stable industries, such as manufacturing, by offering tax breaks and other financial incentives."We're very thankful for what's going on in the northwest, and those jobs are tremendous, but we have to look at a wider picture than that," Govig said.Two years ago, at the Legislature's request, the Commerce Department set up the North Dakota Youth Office to encourage young workers to stay in the state. This weekend, it will host a job fair in Minneapolis where North Dakota businesses can recruit entry-level employees.
The workforce is aging and massive attrition looms. Clearly the initiative designed to keep young workers was insufficient (I doubt it was effective). States have to go out and recruit, attract people to move there.
I'll put the issue in different terms, metrics of success. Assessing the cost-benefit of the North Dakota Youth Office is almost impossible. However, programs designed to attract talent are easy to measure. How many wins were generated from that job fair in Minneapolis? Businesses can tell you. But no one knows if someone would have stayed even if no one encouraged them to do so.