July 25, 2012

Oil patch fuels growth in economy

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

A very strong energy economy is continuing to fuel huge growth in taxable sales and purchases in Watford City and McKenzie County.
According to figures released by the office of the North Dakota Tax Commissioner, during the first quarter of 2012, Watford City had an 88.66 percent increase in sales from the same period in 2011, while the county’s taxable sales and purchases increased by 93.17 percent during the months of January through March from 2011 to 2012.
According to Cory Fong, Tax Commissioner, during the first three months of 2012, Watford City’s taxable sales and purchases increased from $19,154,150 to $36,136,591, making Watford the 12th largest city in the state in taxable sales and purchases of the state’s 50 largest cities.
As a whole, McKenzie County’s taxable sales increased from $21,262,385 to $41,072,227 during the first three months of 2012. McKenzie County’s sales during the quarter make it the 10th largest of the state’s 53 counties.
According to Fong, 2012 got off to a strong start statewide with robust economic activity with total taxable sales and purchases during January, February, and March of 2012 totalling about $5.3 billion, an increase of 52 percent compared to the first quarter of 2011.
“North Dakota is experiencing an unprecedented expansion of its economy right now,” said Fong. “And, while oil development is contributing in large part toward our economic expansion, this report shows strength across all of our state’s key economic drivers. Every sector, with the exception of one, reports growth in taxable sales and purchases.”
Retail trade, the sector often looked to as a measurement of consumer confidence, grew by 27 percent, representing an increase of $284 million.  The construction sector had the largest percentage of growth, increasing 113 percent when compared to the first quarter of 2011.  
“Consumer confidence remains strong in North Dakota,” stated Fong.  “We have a pro-business climate and a diversified economy that work together to support business development and growth”
“Agriculture is a significant driver for the state’s economy,” said Fong.  “Even though our producers have been dealing with high input costs, the mild weather this spring allowed them to get into the field to plant and strong prices are encouraging. We will keep an eye on the agriculture industry and the impact that any severe weather or drop in prices might have this fall.”  
This report is good news for North Dakota’s cities. Out of the 50 largest cities, 40 showed double- or triple-digit growth.
“We are growing at a level beyond what we could have expected,” said Fong. “And while the rapid growth creates challenges for the state and communities, it also creates opportunities. We are seeing new business development, expansion of existing businesses, and wages and income are on the rise.”
Of the 50 largest cities, the biggest percentage increases for the first quarter of 2012 were New Town, up 234 percent; Tioga, up 132 percent; Watford City, up 89 percent; Kenmare, up 83 percent; and Crosby, up 78 percent.
The highest percentage first quarter decreases for the 50 largest cities, were in Larimore, down 24 percent; Wishek, down 21 percent; Mayville, down six percent; and Cooperstown, down two percent.
Counties with the highest percentage increases were Billings, up 239 percent; McKenzie, up 93 percent; Williams, up 90 percent; Mountrail, up 76 percent; and Stark, up 71 percent.
The counties with the largest percentage decreases were Burke, down 15 percent; McIntosh, down 15 percent; Grant, down 11 percent; Logan, down 10 percent; and Emmons, down five percent.