Bakken Summit message: It’s an industry, not a boom

July 26, 2013  |  Dan Rafter  |  Print Article  |  Email this Article


willistonIt’s an industry, not a boom.

That was the message from Tom Rolfstad during the Opportunities in North Dakota and the Bakken Chicago Summit held yesterday.

Rolfstad, executive director of the Williston Economic Development Corporation, was talking about the oil industry, an industry that has been growing at an amazing clip in North Dakota’s Bakken region. Thanks to new technology — and frakking — the oil wells in this region of the state are producing more oil than ever.

And Williston — a municipality located in the center of the region — is dealing with its own growth because of it. Williston’s population is booming. And the municipality needs everything from apartment units and grocery stores to gas stations and permanent housing.

This means there are plenty of opportunity for investors in this region, investors from the Midwest and beyond.

And Rolfstad disagreed that that oil industry in his part of North Dakota is experiencing a boom. A boom, he said, ends quickly. The oil surge in the Bakken, he said, is showing few signs of a quick slowdown.

“The oil industry here is going to be around for another 60 years, at least,” he said. “That’s a long time. We’ll be around in 60 years. Will you?”

Rolfstad was just one of a series of speakers participating in the Chicago Summit held by Law Bulletin Publishing Company, Illinois Real Estate Journal and Midwest Real Estate News.

All of the speakers, though, echoed a common refrain: The Bakken region is not in the middle of a boom. It is in the early stages of a long-term growth period, one that can — in its ripple effects — generate thousands of jobs and millions of dollars for the national economy.

Williston provides a good example. Rolfstad said that construction crews have built 12 new hotels in the city in the last two years. Last year, Rolfstad said, Williston issued permits for 1,400 new apartment units. And this year? The city has issued permits so far for 850 apartment units.

Through March of this year, Williston had issued nearly $72 million worth of building permits, according to the economic development corporation. That is more than double the $33.5 million it racked up during the same period in 2012.
“We are ready to grow, but we need help,” Rolfstad said. “We need manpower, technology and investment. Maybe some of you in this room will provide that. This is not a boom. This is something that will continue for a very long time.”


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