Fairmont has grown, evolved in past 20 years

In the past 20 years, there have been times when it has felt as if Fairmont was falling behind, due to the closing of manufacturing sites and some retailers. The trouble might be with human nature, seeing the negative and overlooking the positive. Of course, not everything’s rosy. There have been economic disruptions, in terms of the kind of work available and in the overall economy, due to the housing crisis of 2008. But as a report issued this week by the city’s economic development director makes clear, Fairmont is holding its own, and even improving.

While the population is down about 5 percent over the past two decades, the jobless rate has consistently outperformed the state and national averages, ranging from 3.5 percent to 5 percent. That’s essentially full employment.

Average weekly wages here compare well to neighboring counties, although they are lower than the state average. Then again, no one expects metro-like wages in rural Minnesota.

The economic transition has been clear in building and expansion projects at the local hospital and several clinics. Health care is booming. But major retailers also have opened here, while industrial expansion includes Kahler Automation, CHS, Hawkeye Foods, Rosen’s and Kenway Engineering. All of these projects add up to more than $300 million invested locally. That’s a pretty amazing figure when presented as a whole.

Not everyone will agree with him 100 percent, but we believe city administrator and economic development director Mike Humpal is on the right track when he says, “Fairmont should feel good about how we have done. Fairmont is a great place to raise a family and grow a business.”