Meeting oil growth’s challenges, step by stepThe stress and tension of the oil boom on the people living in western North Dakota can’t be under estimated. Life there has become certainly more complicated. A recent poll said 60 percent of longtime northwest North Dakota residents say they have benefited economically from the boom, but most also say their quality of life has not improved.
By: The Bismarck Tribune, The Jamestown Sun
The stress and tension of the oil boom on the people living in western North Dakota can’t be under estimated. Life there has become certainly more complicated. A recent poll said 60 percent of longtime northwest North Dakota residents say they have benefited economically from the boom, but most also say their quality of life has not improved.
That is starting to change. Especially, if expanded access to grocery stores and other retailers makes a difference. And, too, progress has been made on road work, including the bypass at Williston. These things can improve the quality of life for people living and working in the Oil Patch.
“I’m excited about the future. There are a number of things happening and things will be so much better in two to three years,” says Ward Koeser, mayor of Williston, a community that has nearly doubled in size since the beginning of the boom. Construction on an additional 2,500 apartment units and homes will be completed this year.
Koeser still bemoans a lack of retail and high monthly rents for living space.
On the edge of Watford City, developers are building a 58,000-square-foot grocery store, a McDonald’s, Alco, gas convenience store and carwash. They want a liquor license, which would compete with the Watford City Community Benefit Association, which has operated the off-sale in town for 60 years, pumping its revenues into community projects. On the other side of town, another retail plaza is going in, also with a Coborn’s Cash Wise Foods and Liquor.
Coborn’s plans new grocery stores at Oppidan plazas in Stanley and Tioga, with liquor stores. The company is going into Dickinson, Williston and Minot as well. In the various retail developments, there also are clinics, hotels and other sales outlets.
Killdeer is ready to add nearly 100 homes. The developer, Idaho-based Inland Northwest Consultants, doing business here as Innovative NorDak Consultants, is one of five new development surrounding the western North Dakota town.
There are more apartments, houses and hotel units being built across the Oil Patch.
State government will be able to continue to help cities and counties in western North Dakota meet citizens’ needs. Estimates are the state will have a general fund surplus on July 1 of $1.6 billion.
And, too, the pace of drilling has started to slow. In August there were 187 rigs at work in the state, down from 218 rigs this spring. The oil bubble hasn’t burst, but the oil industry appears to be making a reasonable market correction given the price of oil and the cost of drilling.
There’s a hope that slowed rig activities also will give the state an opportunity to better address the impact of intense development on state and federal public lands.
Step by step residents, oil companies and local and state government are meeting the challenge of intense development of western North Dakota’s oil field. The results of the next poll on quality of life in the Oil Patch should show an improvement in the quality of life. That’s not to say things will be like they were, but that the new normal will be more manageable.