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Help Wanted: Fargo Strains to Fill Jobs


"It's not easy finding a candidate from the coasts who wants to move here," says David Dietz, vice president of Fargo staffing firm Preference Personnel Inc., which is trying to fill more than 80 positions. Three years ago a technology-sales vacancy—a typical Preference assignment to fill—would have had a maximum base salary of about $50,000; now that position will top out at $65,000, Mr. Dietz says.

Recruiting workers is a perennial struggle for the remote state. The low unemployment rate attracts lots of attention, but it's hard to convince many out-of-state residents to move there.

Most acutely needed: doctors, nurses and other health-care workers, as well as salespeople, from retail clerks to insurance agents. The western part of North Dakota, in the midst of an oil boom, is desperate for welders and engineers. Even truck drivers, who posted nearly 11% unemployment in 2010 nationally, are hard to find.

This year the state commerce department is hitting the road to find workers, scheduling job fairs in cities that tend to attract former Dakotans, starting with Minneapolis in May. The state expects between 40 and 50 employers and community organizations to attend and hopes to hold another fair in the fall.

Tech specialists are tough to hire, too. "We don't have people camped outside our office begging to work here," said Vern Dosch, chief executive of Mandan, N.D.-based National Information Solutions Cooperative. The 840-employee technology company plans to send representatives to the Minneapolis job fair.

Comment: For all the joking Minnesotans do about North Dakota (and we mock Wisconsin too (but I think it is really Packer envy!) and Iowa (the plain flatness), I don't think North Dakota would be a bad place to live. One of my co-workers has property and intends to retire there. I doubt it is really much colder than Minnesota!

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