Low Oil Prices Have Yet To Rattle North Dakota Small Businesses

"We saw a need for this type of store here," said co-owner Lacey Dixon, a Williston native who opened Fresh Palate in December. "So I'm not nervous at all about the oil price."

To be sure, the new businesses open during a difficult time for a region so linked to oil, with crude prices down about 50 percent since June. Layoffs are happening at companies both large and small, though more than 2,000 jobs are still waiting to be filled.

The number of job openings shows the labor market remains tight. Skaare plans to close Lantern Coffee at 5:30 p.m. each day because she cannot find enough staff.

Culvers, a privately held restaurant chain that competes with McDonald's, held a job fair last month to find 100 employees. It still has jobs to fill before opening later this month.

"This oil price dip is going to have an impact, but it'll just be short term," said Rob Woodling, who is franchising the restaurant with his wife, Casandra. "Williston has developed enough of an infrastructure to support itself."

Qdoba, a Mexican chain owned by Jack in the Box Inc, is looking for workers ahead of an early March opening. Red Wing Shoe Co, the privately held work boot manufacturer, is looking for a manager for a new Williston store.

"I'm not worried about oil prices at all," said Chris Duell, a Little Caesars franchisee who plans to open by April if his contractor can get enough staff to finish renovations. "Pizza sells, no matter what."

(Reporting by Ernest Scheyder; Editing by Terry Wade and David Gregorio)


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