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Bowman County, located in the extreme southwestern corner of North Dakota, bills itself as the "heart of North Dakota's oil and agriculture industries." The sparsely populated county - about 3,000 total residents, or 2.7 people per square mile, according to the most recent U.S. census data - leaves plenty of wide open spaces for beef cattle, crops and oil and gas development. It is the fifth largest oil-producing county in the state and supports thriving livestock and agricultural industries, according to the county's website.
It was that combination of energy and agriculture that helped make Bowman County the winning choice for Moorhead, Minn.-based Pifer's Auction & Realty expansion plans. The full-service auction and real estate firm serves markets throughout various locations in the Midwest and had spent several years analyzing potential locations in western North Dakota before settling on a site near Bowman for its recently opened auction hall. Company President Kevin Pifer says the county's rich diversity in energy and ag was a factor in the firm's decision to locate there, along with the fact that the firm's existing two-person team in Bowman, Andy Mrnak and Jim Sabe, has been successful in building up business in the area. "They have done an exceptional job in Bowman and have garnered a lot of trust from people in that part of North Dakota and in the northern part of South Dakota and eastern Montana," he says. "When you factor in what we already have in place down there, the economy and also the city of Bowman and county are very well run entities ... it just seemed like such a perfect fit for our company in western North Dakota."
The company invested more than $500,000 in the new facility, which Pifer says is "probably the nicest auction hall in the state of North Dakota" and is the firm's largest investment in a noncorporate office to date. The location now officially serves as Pifer's western North Dakota regional office.
Before building the facility, Pifer's typically held equipment auctions at the Bowman County arena and land sales at the Bowman Golf Course. The new facility allows the firm to bring everything under one roof and also expands its auction capabilities to include large machinery and construction equipment, Pifer says.
The facility's inaugural event was a farm machinery and construction equipment auction held outdoors in early October. Soon after, the firm held its first indoor event at the facility which included thousands of acres of land and the firm's first ever mineral lease auction, consisting of 800 mineral acres located in the Scranton area of Bowman County. Pifer estimates that about 200 people attended the evening event, most of them interested in land acreage up on the auction block. However, the mineral lease sale was also successful, he says, and brought in slightly higher selling prices than the firm had anticipated. Pifer says between 20 and 25 people showed interest in the mineral lease portion of the auction and four or five entities bid "rather aggressively" on the leases, which were won for about $300 per acre. Bidders were a mix of private individuals, conglomerates and private equity firms. PB