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  • Scott Meske: Economic growth tied to more than just price of oilAugust 25, 2015

    The Bakken may be out of the boom phase, but we’re not done yet

    Last year at this time my office received dozens of phone calls and emails asking about ‘boomtown’ and what’s really going on in Williston, North Dakota.

    Now we get calls asking about ‘the bust’ and what’s it like in Williston. After I slowly put down the phone and back away from the keyboard, I take a breath and just smile. Where else in the country has there been so much economic growth and activity?

    Nowhere.

    One can’t deny that the oil market downturn has slowed the pace of growth in the Bakken region, but looking at the rest of the story (tip my cap to Paul Harvey), this pause in the industry has given the local communities a chance to catch up, and prepare for continued economic expansion.

    The city recently completed a five year assessment to prepare for a population increase of about 15,000 over the next five to seven years totaling more than $1 billion. That’s a lot of investment for any city, including Williston.

    More than 2,000 new apartment units and hundreds of single family homes are expected to be available by the end of 2015. Retail development continues to provide options and quality of life improvements for residents. According to Job Service ND, more than 1,500 open jobs are listed by Williston area employers.

    Whether we will ever see oil selling for $110 per barrel again is anyone’s guess. From my point of view, way too many prognosticators give differing views on when (and if) things will return to the 2013-14 insane pace of growth.

    In the meantime, many local businesses and city officials are doing their level best to be ready when drilling activity does increase.

    The crush of people moving to Williston and Williams County has eased a bit, and employers are now able to hire and seek out quality employees with experience and credentials; people who want to live in Williston and not just work. That’s a key point as the region’s economy matures and we continue our transition from a boomtown into a hometown.

    As we move forward it is vital that government resources be properly allocated on quality of life, transportation, infrastructure investments to better support a larger community for generations to come. Economic opportunities like this don’t happen very often.

    We’re ready.

    Scott Meske is the President of the Williston Chamber of Commerce.

    As printed in the Williston Herald, August 24, 2015