FARGO — Population growth in Fargo and West Fargo last year surpassed the combined growth of five central and western North Dakota cities — Bismarck, Mandan, Dickinson, Williston and Watford City — according to new census estimates.

Fargo gained 2,485 residents in the year ending July 1, 2018, and West Fargo grew by 858, for a combined 3,343 residents, according to Census Bureau estimates.

That compares to a combined gain of 3,176 for the five other cities: Williston, with a gain of 1,528; Watford City, which added 557; Dickinson, which grew by 553; Mandan, which added 291; and Bismarck, which gained 247.

Watford City and Williston are hubs in the core of the Bakken Oil Patch, while Dickinson and Bismarck-Mandan also have benefited economically from petroleum activity in recent years.

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“Fargo I think is somewhat impacted by the oil in the western part of the state,” but also has a robust and diverse economy to drive population growth, said Kevin Iverson, manager of the North Dakota Census Office.

“As Fargo gets bigger, I describe it as economic magnetism,” a metro area whose size propels further growth, he said.

Also, Iverson said, Cass County gains more than other areas of the state through in-migration, including those who come from other countries.

“Cass by far has the highest percentage of foreign-born population,” he said. “Cass County is able to attract more international residents than elsewhere in the state. You have this in-migration from all over to Cass.”


West Fargo’s population growth rate since the 2010 census is 41.6 percent, the highest in the metro area, followed by Fargo, 18.3 percent, and Moorhead, 9.6 percent.

From 2017 to 2018, Fargo grew almost 2 percent, the highest rate since 2014 to 2015, when the population also grew by 2 percent. Fargo’s highest growth rate since 2010 came from 2012 to 2013, 3.2 percent.

Jim Gilmour, director of strategic planning and research for the city of Fargo, said there are signs the population growth over the next year might cool a bit.

“I think we’ll continue to see growth,” he said, though it might not be another 2,500 people. Apartment vacancy rates have been up in recent years, and apartment construction is slowing, Gilmour added.

Most of the planned apartment construction in Fargo is slated for downtown, where Gilmour said between 400 and 500 apartment units could be built over the next few years, given projects in the pipeline.

So far this year, plans for only one other new apartment building elsewhere in Fargo have been filed with the city, he said.

Throughout Fargo, Moorhead and West Fargo, growth in recent years has been concentrated on the cities’ fringes as well as in the downtowns, through revitalization, said Anna Pierce, an assistant planner with the Fargo-Moorhead Metropolitan Council of Governments.

One factor both the newer and older neighborhoods have in drawing residents: an attractive mix of amenities, services and schools, she said.

“If we’re offering amenities in these areas,” Pierce said, “we’re seeing growth in these areas.”