Minimum populations for U.S. metro areas won’t change

The last estimated population of Wahpeton is 7,802 individuals. The last estimated population of Richland County, N.D., is 16,177 individuals. A Metropolitan Statistical Area is defined as at least 50,000 individuals.

The U.S. Office of Management and Budget (OMB) has abandoned its proposal to change the minimum qualifying population for a Metropolitan Statistical Area (MSA) from 50,000 individuals to 100,000 individuals.

Final numbers from last year’s U.S. Census are forthcoming, but it is accurate to say that no communities in Richland County, North Dakota, would not likely be part of an MSA, either individually or collectively. The last estimated population of Wahpeton is 7,802 individuals. The last estimated population of Richland County is 16,177 individuals.

“Being in an MSA brings value, but it also has a ripple effect,” said Wahpeton Finance Director and Auditor Darcie Huwe.

U.S. Sen. John Hoeven, R-N.D., announced OMB’s upholding of MSA criteria. He worked to stop the proposal.

“(It) would have negatively impacted communities in North Dakota as the MSA designation is used in funding formulas for multiple federal programs, as well as in determining geographical regions for federal labor market statistics,” Hoeven’s office stated.

More than 140 communities nationwide would have been negatively impacted by the change, Hoeven said. They include the cities of Bismarck, Minot and Grand Forks, North Dakota.

“Federal funding that these communities receive for infrastructure, health care, housing and other federal programs (would have been directly affected),” Hoeven stated. “Changing the MSA metric would have been short-sighted, with far-reaching impacts for these communities.”

When a community is part of a MSA and receives federal funding as such, Huwe said, it comes with an expectation for use and management of the funds. These locations are known as “direct entitlement” cities.

“Not every jurisdiction is capable of being a direct entitlement city. It would be wonderful to be one, but it would require more (locally, to meet the national terms),” Huwe said.

Wahpeton’s funding arrangement has not changed, Huwe said. Cities in smaller statistical areas receive funds that may be aggregated in regional pools or allocated at the state level. The Lake Agassiz Regional Council, Fargo, has assisted in funding for Wahpeton and surrounding communities.

“We are capable of assisting in a variety of topics including – but not limited to – economic development/diversification strategies, multi-hazard mitigation planning, main street revitalization, housing, tourism and recreation, and community branding and marketing,” Lake Agassiz stated. “Our assistance is provided on a fee for service basis. We can also help, albeit in a limited manner, townships and cities with land use ordinance questions.”

As Wahpeton’s arrangement continued, the U.S. Senate delegation from North Dakota and Minnesota took part in bipartisan efforts to protect the current MSA criteria. Hoeven and Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., Sen. Amy Klobuchar and Sen. Tina Smith, both DFL-Minn., and others stressed to OMB leaders about why they were against raising the minimum necessary population for an MSA.

“This change could result in the loss of federal programming for many small- and mid-sized counties, cities and towns across the country,” the senators wrote.

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