Archived Story

ND oil boom calls

Published 11:15am Monday, February 27, 2012 Updated 12:32pm Monday, February 27, 2012

The U.S. town with the lowest unemployment is not located in either coasts, nor anywhere close to Chicago.

It’s Williston, N.D.

Kevin Kjos, who lived several years with his wife, Sarah, in the Fergus Falls area, decided to give working in the North Dakota oil fields a try because of the recent boom.

He is far from alone. The city, which is 60 miles from the Canadian border, where the Kjos’ live close to, is one of the fastest-growing small towns in the country, according to Forbes magazine.

It had nearly 19,000 residents in 2007. Now the population is near 40,000 or more, according to Kjos.

“It’s pretty ridiclous, but it guarantees me a job,” he said. “It’s tough to drive around here. A left might take you 30 minutes. Even if you wait that long, you still might be taking a chance — lots of rigs up here.”

Unlike the majority of the country, where unemployment is hovering around eight percent, that percentage is less than one percent. With good reason.

“There’s plenty of opportunity here, that’s for sure,” said Njos.

Since making the move west in 2008, the Njos have seen their income grown, surpassing $100,000.

The income has allowed the couple to enjoy luxuries that they may not have enjoyed if they hadn’t decided to venture out. But it’s not all rainbows and smiles for families making the move to “boom town.”

Kevin works six days a week, sometimes 14 hours a day, or more. He finds himself worn out, but realizes the work is rewarding.

The town of Williston is not a quiet town, like most North Dakota towns. Besides the heavy traffic, a large number of immigrants has made citizens, including women, watch their backs.

“It’s a different place, that’s for sure,” said Kjos.

He will not even try to venture into Wal-Mart — from which women have said men have followed them home — because it’s too busy.

There have been reports of familes sleeping in Wal-Mart, even though an ordinance has been passed that such sleeping habits were unlawful.

Most of the workers have good-paying jobs, but securing housing is nearly impossible.

“Rent is out of control,”said Kjos.

A two-bedroom apartment could go for up to $2,500 a month.

You can call it growing pains.

  • grandpa8

    I recall the same thing happening in the late 70′s here.There was no contrucion work in the Higher states in this country.So alot of people left and went eleswere.We went to CO.were there was the new oilshell blast.Overcome with new thousands of people they built a new town from sratch.Then one day the Feds came and shut it down,and all was out of work.They recked the new town and went back home.

    • J Mullins

      Yeah, good ol’ Jimmy Carter. He sure knew how to wreck an economy. But, one of acolytes is now in the White House to carry on Jimmy’s work. Ain’t gonna be no more taking oil out of the ground if Jimmy’s apprentice has his way.

      • Walt Henry

        And isn’t the truth someting like more oil pumped from American wells last year than in any year since 2002? 11 times more drilling permits granted in 2011 than in the year before?
        Be honest Jerome

  • Richard Olson

    Yes it’s a real shame those people couldn’t learn to live with contaminated drinking water so a few oil jobs could continue for a few more months.

  • Richard Olson

    I just watched Rick Santorum stand before a republican crowd in Michigan and tell the people that “President Obama will not let the oil companies in North Dakota sell the oil they are pumping”. Not one of those fools assembled had the thought to ask Santorum “well what are they doing with the oil then?”

    It’s just one bald face lie after another after another and the republicans suck it up like a sponge.

  • tediam

    I heard on CSPAN that the reason the oil companies want the pipeline is because they can move their oil to the gulf where the refineries are AND where they can load it on to tankers and sell it abroad.

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