How do three small towns in MN maintain population? Ask Litchfield, Mora and Pine City

The Daily Yonder features three small towns in Minnesota that have maintained population…

Litchfield, Mora and Pine City are the only three cities located outside a metropolitan area in the Gopher State to have never lost population throughout their respective and storied histories.  Reasons why, while debatable, might come as a surprise.   

Many rural cities across the state—from Ortonville to Olivia—have shown three straight decades of population loss due to aging populations and, primarily, urbanization; today, more than 7 in 10 Minnesotans lives in an urban area.  Dwindling rural populations are part of a national trend.   

 Over the course of time, Litchfield, Mora and Pine City chose rather than to wilt away, to be resilient and adapt.  For each, the result has been a continued renaissance of sorts.  Since incorporating, their respective population counts have risen every 10 years. 

So what has helped them? Location…

“Proximity to the Twin Cities is certainly one explanation,” suggested Hibbs.  After all, it always comes down to location.  All are within 70 miles of Minneapolis in separate directions.  Luke Greiner, Regional Analyst Minnesota’s Department of Employment and Economic Development, also pointed out, “All have solid highway access,” whereby Litchfield is west of the Twin Cities on US Highway 12; Mora, north on State Highway 65; and Pine City, northeast on Interstate 35.   

Government centers…

Another explanation could be each is a center of government.  “All three cities are county seats, which may be a good source of economic stability or growth,” noted Hibbs.  Litchfield is the seat of Meeker County; Mora, Kanabec County; and Pine City, Pine County.  The county populations have grown throughout most of the period, although the 2016 population estimates (which have a margin of error) seem to indicate that growth is leveling off.  

Schools and lo costs of living…

 It doesn’t hurt there exists strong education systems with relatively lower costs of living.


While two-thirds of rural counties in the U.S. lost jobs from 2007 to 2017, the three counties these cities are capitols of saw job growth, including during the recession from December 2007 to June 2009.  Pine County gained 1,823 jobs; Kanabec, 1,357; and Meeker, 1,209.  Job growth continued through last year. From January 2017 to January 2018, Pine County added 469 jobs; Meeker, 335; and Kanabec, 307. 

Thanks to communities that are welcoming and adapting to change, these jobs are in a variety of sectors.  According to Pederson, “If we chose not to embrace change for the future, our community will fade into the darkness of the night.”  True for Pine City, Litchfield, Mora and any rural community, really.

Inherent in some of these characteristics – access to broadband. Broadband access opens to the door to better education opportunities and more jobs. SO while it’s hard to change your location – or to canvas to become the county seat after the fact – but with broadband you can create fertile ground for growth in your community.

This entry was posted in MN by Ann Treacy. Bookmark the permalink.

About Ann Treacy

Librarian who follows rural broadband in MN and good uses of new technology (, hosts a radio show on MN music (, supports people experiencing homelessness in Minnesota ( and helps with social justice issues through Women’s March MN.

2 thoughts on “How do three small towns in MN maintain population? Ask Litchfield, Mora and Pine City

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s