Rapid Growth in N.D.
24/7 Wall St. recently ranked North Dakota as the #2 best managed state; this was, in part, due to their fast growing economy and low unemployment rate. Bruce Kennedy wrote an interesting article which highlights some of the growing pains experienced by Minot, a North Dakota city which has a 2.3% unemployment rate. Apparently, one business is so desperate for workers that they are willing to fly employees from Wisconsin and put them up in a motel (a 500 mile commute), just to staff their store. The town is so frantic to house out of state oil workers that some investors have converted a retirement home into a hotel, taking little time for renovation. The town's schools are stretched and construction on hotels, housing, restaurants, etc. have ramped up. However, this boom sounds reminiscent of historical coal towns, many of which have become ghost towns. The challenge then, for Minot, is how to appropriately grow the city without the oil companies there taking on the form of a watered down version of a monopsony. Put another way, how will the town remain viable if the oil wells dry up or a technological innovation causes the demand for oil to fall drastically? The article quotes a Mr. Jerry Chavez (CEO of Minot Area Development Corporation) who is making efforts to carefully plan zoning and establish "proper infrastructure." Mr. Chavez is counting on the arrival of young families and their subsequent demand for professional occupations such as doctors, nurses, teachers, lawyers, etc. to establish a strong foundation which could support their long term growth goals. It will be interesting to see if Minot can succeed where so many towns in West Virginia have failed.