Posted 4/04/17 (Tue)
By Neal A. Shipman
Watford City and McKenzie County seem to have had more than their share of ground breakings and ribbon cuttings in the past five years. We’ve seen city, county and state dignitaries show up when the ground was broken for new retail complexes, apartment buildings, highway bypasses, a new high school, the Rough Rider Center, expansion of our city and government offices, a new healthcare system medical complex, and a new law enforcement center. And the list seems to go on and on.
You can call all of that new development progress. And across North Dakota, there are very few communities or counties that have seen the tremendous growth that has been seen in Watford City and McKenzie County in these past five to six years.
Watford City and McKenzie County have become the state’s poster child for how a community and county can successfully react to the rapid changes that the development of the Bakken Formation has brought to this region of the state.
Like most other rural North Dakota communities, Watford City was struggling to keep its head afloat during the past three decades as retail businesses struggled to remain profitable, school enrollments continued to spiral downward and the residents of the community continued to grow older.
As we know, the development of the Bakken changed all of that. Watford City’s population grew by five-fold and shows no sign of slowing, our schools continue to set record enrollments each year, economic activity has exploded, new homes and apartments are being built, and oil companies are moving their regional offices to Watford City.
Managing the changes that hit Watford City and McKenzie County five to six years ago when the Bakken exploded was not easy.
Our city and county governments weren’t prepared for the onslaught of the changes - from land use planning to law enforcement - that would be presented. Our schools weren’t prepared for the hundreds of new students that would suddenly appear. Nor was our healthcare system designed for a community of 7,000-plus residents.
But somehow, Watford City and McKenzie County got through those challenging times. It took leaders who had a vision that somewhere amid all of the chaos that was being experienced, our city and county could retain those great qualities that everyone loved and cherished. And we could become a bigger and better place because of the opportunities that the Bakken brought to us.
The key to becoming something better was the ability of all of our elected officials and area residents to share in that vision and to cooperate in getting things done.
If there is one common theme that has reverberated from every state and federal official at all of the ground breakings and ribbon cuttings that we have had is “our cooperation and the ability to come together for the common good.”
Cooperation has always been the trademark for Watford City and McKenzie County. It has been our ability to raise above personal disagreements and see what needs to be done for the benefit of everyone that has allowed our city and county to survive and flourish in the worst and best of times.