The North Dakota Business Conditions and Climate Survey aims to gain insight into the current business conditions, expectations, and plans of North Dakota businesses; factors that positively and negatively affect business performance in the state of North Dakota; and changes in regulation and other policies that could enable improved economic performance in North Dakota.
The report is divided into three sections. The first provides a description of businesses responding to the survey, including their industry, size, age, target market, and reason for starting operations in North Dakota. The second provides a comparison of current business activity to last year at the same time and examines business expectations and plans for investment/divestment. The third section summarizes perceptions about the business climate in North Dakota, factors positively and negatively affecting performance, and the most important thing preventing North Dakota from reaching its economic potential.
The 2022 survey was conducted by the Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth at North Dakota State University, in partnership with the Greater North Dakota Chamber. The survey was distributed electronically by the Greater North Dakota Chamber to its members, members of local and regional chambers of commerce, and various industry groups. The survey was completed by 217 businesses between May 17, 2022, and August 5, 2022. The margin of error for this survey is +/- 7%.
We heard from businesses representing a wide variety of industries in North Dakota. Top industries include: professional and business services; manufacturing; finance, insurance, and real estate; construction; energy; health care and social assistance; and retail trade.
North Dakota businesses are experiencing significant increases in business activity, new orders, employment, employee workweeks, prices, employee compensation, backlogs of orders, and delays in receiving orders from suppliers. These mirror national trends.
Many businesses are optimistic about their organization’s performance in the upcoming year. More than half plan to invest in plant and equipment, with a majority of those planning to expand overall operations (53%).
Businesses highlighted a number of positive factors from North Dakota’s business climate that contribute to their success. The most common factors included being a right-to work-state (53%), low taxes (43%), high-quality education (38%), low costs of unemployment and workers’ compensation insurance (33-36%), and high-quality infrastructure (29%).
The number one factor holding back performance, according to businesses, is difficulty attracting and retaining qualified workers (62%). Other negative factors include high healthcare costs (37%) and a lack of access to affordable and high-quality childcare (30%).
Most businesses said North Dakota has a good business climate (95%); policymakers have created and passed legislation that allows businesses to succeed (87%); and North Dakota has adequate infrastructure for business success (83%).
We asked respondents to list the number one barrier preventing North Dakota from reaching its economic potential. Based on open-ended responses, 60 percent identified an inability to attract workers. Nearly 20 percent suggested government barriers at all levels, identifying regulatory overreach and spending, energy policy, and a lack of working together. Other responses included a “thinking small” mindset, lack of economic diversity, infrastructure needs, inflation, and limited access to capital.
Overall, the results of this survey suggest North Dakota’s business conditions and climate are doing well, with some notable areas for improvement. Businesses across industries share an optimistic outlook for the upcoming year, and firms overwhelmingly believe North Dakota has a good business climate. However, many businesses listed an inability to attract and retain qualified workers, high healthcare costs, and a lack of access to affordable childcare as holding back their organization’s performance. These results can serve as a first step in identifying the barriers that are preventing the state from reaching its economic potential.
John Bitzan, Ph.D.
Menard Family Director of the Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth, North Dakota State University
The Sheila and Robert Challey Institute for Global Innovation and Growth aims to advance understanding in the areas of innovation, trade, institutions, and human potential to identify policies and solutions for the betterment of society.
The views expressed in this report are those of the authors and do not reflect the views of North Dakota State University.