Williston was once a sleepy town tucked away in the western part of North Dakota. Thanks to an abundance of natural resources, it became the epicenter of the Midwestern oil boom. Williston and the surrounding areas offered Americans workers a real shot at the American dream, where people with a high school diploma could make six figure salaries with the proper training and a commitment to work hard. In a recent blog post published by Bakken Backers, Shawn Wenko, executive director of Williston Economic Development expressed confidence that those days would be back.
The decision of foreign governments to artificially undercut the price of oil has did not go unnoticed in the city. While Williston’s growth has slowed, Wenko points out that much has improved over the last few years:
We cannot base our success or failure of this community on what we have seen over the past 15 months. In fact, if you analyze statistics from Williston in 2007 compared to Williston in 2015, you would find the growth numbers to be quite impressive. Building permit valuations have increased from $42 million in 2007 to $182 million in 2015; third-quarter sales tax collections have gone from $118 million in 2007 compared to $528 million in 2015; 1,334 businesses and 25,000 jobs have been created since 2007; school enrollment has climbed 64 percent; our unemployment rate hovers around 2.3 percent and there are still quality jobs available.
The Dakota Access Pipeline would be a well-received investment into the area. With the pipeline representing a $1.4 billion investment into the state, Dakota Access would yield between 2,000 and 4,000 jobs in North Dakota, many of which would be created in the Williston area. Construction projects would not only focus on the pipeline itself, but on six state-of-the-art tank farms throughout the region. In the long term, the Dakota Access Pipeline would make Bakken oil more competitive against foreign oil, by lowering transportation costs.
Mr. Wenko’s positive outlook on Williston’s future is not without merit. If the Iowa Utilities Board follows the lead of those in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Illinois, Williston can soon be home to thousands of pipeline workers.