In a scene that is being played out in a number of areas across the country, residents of Williston, North Dakota are learning first-hand what a robust energy industry can do for a municipality. In fact, as economic development success stories go, few can top that of Williston, which has been going through a growth spurt in recent years “of historic proportions” amid prodigious oil and gas production in the nearby Bakken Shale formation, Caitlyn Beley, the Communications Director at the Williston Economic Development office, told Rigzone.
“There’s no turning back now,” Beley said. “This is the new American dream.”
Oil and gas production in the Bakken Shale is not just a part of the reason for Williston’s growth – it is the reason, Beley noted. In addition to the new development, Williston’s airport just added a direct flight from Houston, which is expected to further add to Williston’s growth.
Recently, local developers, investors and energy industry representatives met for a three-day summit to discuss the future of the town. A bit of that future is already here; groundbreaking on a new center, the North Star Development Center, to be constructed just north of Williston, was held in early September. North Star is being built on 550 acres, where retail, housing, a car dealership and green space are being built to accommodate the influx of people – and money – to the area. When completed, the development will add “another piece of the pie,” according to Beley.
While Williston is a particularly noteworthy example of how a municipality can prosper from nearby oil and gas activity, the state of North Dakota as a whole has also benefited from the Bakken. About 12.3 percent of the state’s total economic activity comes from the oil and gas industry, according to data by the American Petroleum Institute (API). Only Texas produces more oil than North Dakota.
Employment is another area where the energy industry has benefitted the state. There were 71,842 jobs from the oil and gas industry’s activity in the Bakken in 2012, API data showed, helping to send North Dakota’s unemployment rate down to 2.6 percent, the lowest in the nation. API projections are that by 2020, 114,240 people will work in the Bakken.
The town of Williston could be nearly unrecognizable by then, Beley said. A new home improvement store – Menards – is being talked about, and Williston is working on numerous quality of life issues “to make the community a permanent residence for oil and gas workers, and not just a temporary place to make a quick buck.”
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