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Southwest ND Small Towns see Boost from Oil Development



Southwest ND small towns see boost from oil development

http://www.prairiebizmag.com/event/article/id/17690/publisher_ID/46/

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Dickinson isn't the only southwest North Dakota city to see the benefits of the oil boom.

By: Katherine Grandstrand, Forum News Services

DICKINSON, N.D. -- Dickinson isn't the only southwest North Dakota city to see the benefits of the oil boom.

The eight counties comprising the southwest corner - Adams, Billings, Bowman, Dunn, Golden Valley, Hettinger, Stark and Slope - all saw increases in taxable sales between 2008 and 2012.

"A lot of that growth is due to growth in business activity as opposed to growth in retail consumption," North Dakota Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger said.

The North Dakota Tax Department publishes the taxable sales and purchases for the 200 largest cities in the state. All of the southwest North Dakota cities that fall into that category experienced an increase in taxable sales and purchases between 2008 and 2012, and most had official population decreases.

"By state law, virtually everything follows the decennial census," Rauschenberger said. "Your 2013 (population) is based on our 2010 decennial census."

Even if a small town doesn't post a population increase, it doesn't mean the community can't grow economically, Rauschenberger said.

"I look at the things that are being built in these smaller communities, it's great," Rauschenberger said. "When you talk about a new hotel in a community, a gas station in a community with more access to convenient goods, that's what this report helps show."

As the energy sector has grown in Dunn County, so have the restaurant and lodging industries, said Carie Boster, economic development director for the Dunn County Jobs Development Authority. As more jobs are created, more people are coming to Killdeer, Dunn Center and Halliday.

Unemployment - already low - dropped from 2.6 percent in 2010 to 1 percent this past fall, and the workforce in that same time period jumped from 2,200 to 4,000.

"As we look around, by and large, it has to be attributed to our energy sector," Boster said.

The biggest struggle for small businesses wishing to develop in Dunn County is the lack of available retail space, Boster said.

In Bowman, the numbers reflect growth in the community, said Teran Doerr, program specialist and small business development center business counselor for the Bowman County Development Corp.

"We've seen a lot of new development in the last year and a half," Doerr said. "Commerce has been good here."

Between 2008 and 2012, Bowman's taxable sales and purchases increased 72 percent while its population increased 3 percent.

In 2014, Bowman will be hosting two large projects, a new airport and a new addition to the hospital, Doerr said. And that's in addition to a new Ace Hardware, Subway, a Verizon store and the construction of new hotels.

"There's a lot going on," Doerr said. "It's a direct indicator of the growth and opportunity here, and it's awesome to see and I'm very proud of the community we have."

In an effort to prepare for more growth - experts say oil development is heading south of Interstate 94 - Bowman has been updating its zoning code, Doerr said.

Adams County has also been experiencing growth, despite being outside of the oil patch's direct impact zone, said Jim Goplin, executive director of the Adams County Development Corp.

"Our housing and everything has been pretty well taken, especially rentals. We're virtually out of rentals," Goplin said. "Our lot supply is all sold, so we don't have much for vacant lots available."

The growth and school enrollment is manageable at this point, Goplin said.

"We can respond to it more than react," Goplin said.

Communities throughout southwest North Dakota are experiencing different levels of impact and growth.

South Heart saw the biggest increase in taxable sales and purchases at 279 percent - nearly triple.

Regent suffered a 24 percent population loss, but increased taxable sales by 71 percent.

"The Taxable Sales and Purchases Report is really an economic report," Rauschenberger said. "I think, although it doesn't capture all of the expenditures in the economy because it does not capture services, I believe it is an important report to track because it is representative of the larger economy."