January 29, 2020


By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

While the economy in much of North Dakota was relatively stagnate in 2019, that was not the case for McKenzie County and Watford City. And as the year of 2020 begins there is no reason not to believe that the coming year is not going to be another great year where we see more and more people moving into our communities, where we see record enrollments of students attending our schools, and where we see our area’s taxable sales and purchases continue to grow at record levels.
The reason for this high degree of optimism for the coming year is the same reason that McKenzie County and Watford City has experienced the unprecedented growth in the past six-plus years.
And that growth is directly tied to the development of the oil and natural gas industry that is not only reshaping our county and our cities, but the state of North Dakota as well.
In the earlier days of oil development in McKenzie County and North Dakota, the price of oil dictated everything. When oil prices were high, drilling and development followed. But when oil prices dropped, so did all oilfield-related activity. It created a boom and bust cycle for western North Dakota.
Today, thanks to the advancement of fracing techniques and being located in the very epicenter of the Bakken oilfield, producers in McKenzie County are bringing online some of the highest producing oil and natural gas wells in the state’s history. And they are doing so at break-even prices in the $13 per barrel range.
As a result, in the past several years, McKenzie County has become the Saudi Arabia of North Dakota oil and gas production. Today, the county is the No. 1 oil producing county in the United States and alone produces 40 percent of North Dakota’s oil production and 51 percent of the state’s natural gas. And thanks to the Bakken, North Dakota is the second largest oil-producing state in the United States.
And the oil and gas industry has invested billions of dollars building pipelines and natural gas processing plants building a brand-new industry with the sole purpose of getting the county’s oil and natural gas to markets across the country and the world.
The days of the boom and bust cycles are over. As the oil and gas industry continues to drill more wells, invest in new plants and infrastructure in McKenzie County, it is going to need more and more permanent workers.
And that only means that the county’s economy is going to continue to grow into 2020 and well beyond.