AS I SEE IT
By Neal A. Shipman
As we slowly count down the last few remaining days of the year 2009, it is hard not to smile and think just how well things are going for us and to be thankful that our economy is not suffering the way it is in many other parts of the United States.
And we have a lot to be happy about.
First, and foremost, thanks to the resurgence of the oil industry associated with the development of the Bakken and Three Forks Sanish formations, the future of our county’s economy hasn’t looked this good in years. As we all know from the past, the oil industry can be very fickle. When oil prices are good, there is an increase in drilling activity. But it is after these new wells actually start pumping the oil out of the ground when the real economic growth starts to happen. Keeping the oil flowing and getting the oil into the nation’s pipelines requires people and lots of them. It requires trucking companies and truck drivers, mechanics and office personnel; it requires service companies and people to gauge and check the wells; it requires people to stake the wells, landmen to work on leasing minerals; and the list of people needed to service the growing oil industry goes on and on.
For communities like Watford City, Alexander and Arnegard, for the first time in years, we are starting to see our cities’ populations starting to grow as we welcome new residents to town and their children into our school systems.
Second, we can be thankful that the leaders of McKenzie County and Watford City over the past 10 years decided that if we were going to have a chance at staking a claim to a better and brighter future for this area, they were going to have to be willing to invest county and city funds that would create an infrastructure that would allow for the growth to occur. Those were not easy decisions to make back when the oil industry was lagging and the agriculture economy was struggling. But because of that vision, today McKenzie County is poised to reap the benefits of the resurgence in both the oil and the agriculture economies.
And as good as 2009 was for McKenzie County, according to oil experts 2010 promises to be an even better year with more new wells being drilled and more and more people moving into the area to help service the industry.
That is not to say that the influx of people isn’t going to cause us some more growing pains.
Housing has been and will continue to be an issue. While some of the housing needs have been met in the past year, there is still a serious housing shortage when it comes to the availability of apartments and homes. But with the influx of new workers and families into the area, hopefully, there will be more developers willing to invest in our communities.
While there will be challenges facing all of us as we welcome the new year 2010, there are also going to be plenty of opportunities for growth.