Posted by: Jack Arbess | Posted on: October 22nd, 2011 | 0 Comments
While it is difficult to believe a huge economic boom exists while living anyplace else in this country, the oil and gas boom currently taking place in the Bakken in ND is real – very real.
I just returned from meetings in the State, visiting places like Williston, Tioga, Dickinson, Kenmare and others. Most services are running in overdrive. Stop by any gas station and expect to find yourself 5 or 6 deep waiting at the pumps. Walk in the store while you wait for your turn at the pump and expect the shelves to be half empty. Time to get to your next destination, say Tioga from Kenmare (which my GPS tells me is an hour away-about 60 miles), better leave yourself at least 2+ hours to get there. With the State’s re-discovered wealth, many of the State roads and infrastructure are being rebuilt causing a nightmare on the roads.
Ever see the original Mad Max movie? Drive around the Williston Basin and feel the dust in your teeth, the traffic, the huge trucks passing off your shoulder at warp speed and, but for a reality check, you are there!
This is all the smell of success for those that have chosen to relocate to ND to participate in this latest “gold” rush.
While these experiences amount to inconveniences in your day-to-day life in ND, greater problems exist. Perhaps the most serious is the housing shortage. Like any other issue that manifests itself when a boom of this magnitude exists, there is no simple solution.
Clearly the pressure on the existing housing stock is indeed intense. Hotels and motels, RV parks and camp grounds in the area are all overflowing, with no vacancies for months (if not years).
Permanent housing for the residents of the State that provide essential services to the oil and gas industries (lodging, food services, police, fire and education) must be dealt with in as expedient a manner as possible.
Temporary workforce housing for the oilfields is also under tremendous stress. Most of these essential workers do not live in ND. Many work for 2 or 3 weeks at the drill site and return home for 1-2 weeks, this cycle repeating itself over and over. The challenges these people face with respect to housing is profound. Faced with few options, most live in sub-standard “trailer” like camps where quality of life can be very difficult. Stories abound of workers living in leaky trailers with frozen pipes and clogged sewage lines. This has a very real impact on everyone in the State, not just those living under these conditions.
Exploration, drilling and other service companies are having difficulty attracting and then retaining a workforce that isn’t transient, due mostly to the poor quality of the housing available. Having a workforce (one that is already highly mobile) turn over several times in a year is not good for anyone in the State, from the exploration and service companies, the workforce itself, or the full-time residents of the State.
It is imperative that the housing problem be solved. Whether the issue is permanent housing for full-time residents of the State, or temporary housing for the essential mobile workforce that operates and manages the infrastructure for the oil and gas industry. Although the permanent housing shortage will take longer to solve due to approvals and regulatory lead time, superior temporary workforce housing solutions which employ state-of-the-art modular construction exist now. Innovative solutions are available which provide the workforce with quality accommodations, superior construction, upgraded amenities and an overall higher standard of living using state-of-the-art modular construction.
Hopefully, innovative workforce housing solutions that address these problems in the near and long term will allow the great State of North Dakota to lead the way in the economic recovery for the entire country.