Census data will be critical to Bemidji Alliance's visioning initiative

The Bemidji Alliance group is expected to resume its community planning project in the near future and the 2020 Census will likely play a big role.

Bemidji Alliance web art

BEMIDJI -- While an effort to map out Bemidji's future remains stalled by the coronavirus pandemic, locals will be assisted with the charting by the 2020 U.S. Census.

The effort, titled Envision Bemidji 2030, was first launched by the Bemidji Alliance in late 2019. The organization is made up of the Bemidji Area Chamber of Commerce, the Bemidji Downtown Alliance, Greater Bemidji Economic Development and Visit Bemidji.

The visioning process, which will include setting goals for the community to reach by 2030, is a key mission for the organization. However, plans were halted in 2020.

Greater Bemidji Executive Director Dave Hengel said when the envisioning project was just about to get fully underway, COVID-19 hit.

"The inability for us to gather face-to-face as a community and have conversations just made it really impossible for us to proceed," Hengel said. "We've set a pause on it until we can get past the group restrictions."


When the process resumes, though, Hengel said it will be heavily benefitted by the 2020 Census.

"The timing is perfect for that and our consultant who was chosen is very data-driven," Hengel said. "One of the issues of a more rural area is the lack of access to good data, so the Census coming in is critical to this project."

The U.S. Census Bureau recently released its first numbers to determine how many congressional districts each state should have, with Minnesota remaining at eight. According to the bureau's website, more metrics will come out in May and redistricting data will be released later this year.

In the 2000 Census, Bemidji's population was 12,168 and in 2010 it had grown to 13,431. In the years since the 2010 Census, the city has added property and residents from Northern Township through annexation three times.

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The first phase of annexation was bordered by Lake Bemidji to the east and Irvine Avenue to the west and extended from Robertson Drive to Norwood Drive. The second piece of annexation included neighborhoods along Birchmont Drive and Bemidji Avenue, also bordered by Lake Bemidji and Irvine Avenue.

The third section of annexation, added in 2020, had land extending north from Anne Street to Lakewood Drive and westward to U.S. Highway 71 and the Bemidji Regional Airport. An estimated 500 residents were added to the city by the third annexation.

RELATED: A growing trend: As Bemidji expands, annexing more areas into city limits expected BEMIDJI--In 2020, a final section of property north of Anne Street will be brought within the Bemidji city limits, more than a decade after an annexation agreement was signed.
The estimated Bemidji population as of July 2019 was 15,434.

"It's a time in our community where we're growing and growing pretty rapidly," Hengel said. "I think it's important for the community to decide where we're headed and where we want to be in 2030."

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