Robust employment and economic growth led to extremely tight labor market conditions in the Greater Fargo Moorhead region at the start of the 21st century. Even during the 2007-2009 recession, the region’s employment base contracted by less than 1 percent and had fully recovered by 2010. With unemployment less than three percent in late 2014 and labor force participation well above 70 percent, workforce emerged as a key challenge to regional competitiveness and businesses struggled to find the talent they needed to grow.
A partnership comprised of the Greater Fargo Moorhead Economic Development Corporation, the Fargo Moorhead West Fargo Chamber of Commerce, United Way of Cass-Clay, the Fargo-Moorhead Convention and Visitor’s Bureau, and the FM Area Foundation hired TIP Strategies to conduct a detailed labor study and develop a regional workforce strategy. In addition to a comprehensive analysis of the 11-county labor shed, TIP examined the alignment between educational output and industry requirements and took a deep dive into three of the region’s key economic drivers: healthcare, manufacturing, and information technology. For each of the three sectors, TIP developed detailed profiles that include staffing patterns, regional labor supply, job posting analytics, relevant educational output, and regional resources. Findings from the analysis were supplemented through one-on-one interviews, employer and educator roundtables, an employer survey, an employee survey, and a series of community conversations with high school and college students. The resulting workforce strategy provided a playbook for strengthening the region’s talent development, retention, and recruitment efforts, as well as recommendations for building a stronger framework for upward economic mobility and solving workforce-related challenges through innovative technology-based solutions.