Bakken Communities Try to Overcome Myths
By Gillette Vaira
Story Published: Feb 17, 2012 at 10:56 PM MST
Story Updated: Feb 18, 2012 at 2:50 PM MST
BILLINGS – A group of Billings business leaders spent Wednesday and Thursday in oil country. They were looking for opportunities to connect the Magic City with the Bakken Oil Formation.
- Small town America in eastern Montana and western North Dakota has changed in recent years due to the development of the Bakken. Thousands of people are flooding towns to work in the oil fields. Williston had about 12,000 residents in 2002. Now, officials estimate the town is servicing 25,000 people.
Assistant Director of Williston Economic Development Shawn Wenko said the boom helps business, but the headlines it generates hurt the community.
“That we’re overrun with crime, that there’s zero quality of life in Williston, that there’s absolutely no place to shop or get goods or services,” said Wenko. “And that couldn’t be further from the truth right now.”
Wenko said he hopes meeting with Billings business leaders debunks exaggerations about his town.
“Williston is a safe, it’s a good place to live,” Wenko said. “There’s a lot of economic opportunity out here right now.”
Footage of the Williston Wal-Mart has aired across the U.S., cramped with campers calling it home due to a lack of housing. Wenko said they’ve addressed the issue. The tents have cleared and the store is thriving.
“As far as empty shelves or crates in the isles, that’s a false statement that unfortunately got out there. You can still find the things you need at Wal-Mart,” Wenko said. “The Wal-Mart parking lot is still a safe place to walk to your car.”
Wenko said safety concerns their community, as the rising population has lead to more disturbances. But he said authorities are staying on top of it to ensure quality business growth and the health of the people who have called Williston home for decades.
“It’s basically forced people to be a little more diligent and aware of their surroundings,” Wenko said.
Similar scenes exist across the border in Sidney. The executive director of the Sidney Area Chamber of Commerce and Agriculture, Wade VanEvery, said the biggest obstacle is becoming accustomed to a new way of life and a more diverse population.
“We knew everybody before, we watched them be born, and we watched them graduate, and we just knew who they were and who their family was and we made decisions on people accordingly,” said VanEvery.
- He said local employers realize they must conduct background checks and drug tests before hiring applicants. Both VanEvery and Wenko said they’re striving to make the best of the boom for the future of Montana and North Dakota.
The Bakken Oil Formation was discovered in the 1950s, but new technology and the advancement of hydraulic fracturing have led oil companies back to the area during the past few years.
Stay tuned to KULR-8 for more details of the Billings business leaders’ trip to the Bakken.
- Where The Jobs Are (ritholtz.com)
- SD should ready for oil boom’s pros, cons: experts (sfgate.com)
- Gas Houses (forbes.com)
- North Dakota Oil Jobs Emerges as the Top Destination to Find the Dream Job at Newly Discovered Bakken Oil Field, North Dakota (prweb.com)
- Filing Says Montana Victim Choked, Buried (denver.cbslocal.com)
- Oil jobs the new gold as thousands join N.D. rush (theglobeandmail.com)
- 3 Ways to Build Bakken Riches (fool.com)