I have been writing about Dickinson, North Dakota on this blog website for a little over four years now. For those of you who don’t know why I started writing about Dickinson, it was because Dickinson, Williston, and Minot, North Dakota were the towns in the middle of the Oil Boom in North Dakota that occurred from 2007 through 2014, and I was living in Dickinson.
During the Oil Boom years, there was a great amount of chaos, confusion, development, excitement, optimism, hype, misinformation, and people being taken advantage of. For those of you who don’t remember, have forgotten, or never knew what happened from 2007 through 2014 in Dickinson, here is a short synopsis:
Most people did not know that 2007 through 2014 was North Dakota’s third Oil Boom. There was an oil discovery boom in the 1950s, and there was an oil market shortage boom in the late 1970s. Dickinson had experienced an influx of oil field workers and oil companies before, in the 1950s, and the 1970s. Well-informed people, well-educated people, and intelligent business people in Dickinson knew from past experience that these Oil Booms last about seven years, that’s why they are called a “Boom” in the first place.
However, even though there were very wealthy people, moderately wealthy people, influential people, politicians, elected representatives, large land owners, and community leaders in Dickinson who all knew from the previous two Oil Booms in North Dakota, that these Oil Booms last for about seven years, rather than trying to manage this Oil Boom in the most effective way for everyone, they either tried to benefit personally at the expense and suffering of others, or they did nothing to stop the taking advantage and suffering of others.
For those of you who were not here, or do not know what I am talking about when I write about the taking advantage of others and the suffering of others, I will explain:
All over the United States, television, radio, newspaper, and magazine media frequently announced that everyone working in North Dakota was making over $100,000 per year due to the Oil Boom. This was not true at all, the average wage rate in western North Dakota was about $15 per hour at the time.
Believing that they were going to make $100,000 per year in North Dakota like they heard about, people who were struggling financially, or who were broke, used the very last money that they had to travel to Dickinson or Williston. When they got here, one-bedroom apartments that had once rented for $300 per month, were now $1,500 per month. With $3,000 due at lease signing for first month’s rent and security deposit, for the cheapest apartments available, most people could not afford a place to live.
Though business was booming in Dickinson, and many wealthy people were becoming even wealthier, there was deliberately and intentionally no homeless shelter in Dickinson. The people who had been lured to North Dakota by the announcements that everyone was making $100,000 per year, ended up sleeping in their cars in the parking lot of WalMart or the Tiger Truck Stop. Or, if they arrived in Dickinson by bus or by hitch hiking, they slept under bridges, in the bushes at Patterson Lake, or in the bushes behind businesses. In the winter, it gets down to -30 degrees Fahrenheit in Dickinson.
When quick, short-term housing solutions, such as the permitting of temporary housing called “man-camps” were proposed, the building permits were denied, due to citizens of Dickinson supposedly fearing “rape” from all the men. However, the permits for many, many large apartment complexes were approved, even though the occupants would be the same men who would have lived in the man-camps, who were feared for “rape”, but apparently not if they paid $2,000 per month rent for a new apartment.
During the Oil Boom of 2007 through 2014, I witnessed many, many people arriving in Dickinson who were financially broke, who had been lured here by television, radio, newspaper, and magazine announcements about everyone making $100,000 per year in North Dakota. This was not true, even after living in Dickinson for six years, I have only ever personally met about three or four people who made $100,000 for even one year, working in the oil field.
One of the very first things that I tried to do when I started this blog website four years ago, was to try to get the information out there, that most people were not making $100,000 per year in North Dakota or the oil field, that this was a lie. I tried to explain what the employment situation was really like. I tried to explain that only young men between the ages of 18 to 30 years old, who were able-bodied, in good physical condition, with no physical defect, would even be considered to start out working on an oil drill rig, where they would work 12 hours per day, for fourteen days in a row, at about $23 per hour, and make nearly $100,000 per year.
I tried to explain in my blog posts that the vast majority of the job openings in North Dakota were not on an oil drill rig, some were in the oil field, what these other oil field jobs were, what skills and abilities these other oil field jobs required, what it would be like working in the oil field, and what other jobs there were in Dickinson.
I also wrote blog posts explaining that there was a shortage of housing in Dickinson, and that housing was very expensive. I tried to counter what the television, radio, newspapers, magazines, Chamber of Commerce, North Dakota Job Services, business owners, and politicians were saying in order to try to get people from all over the United States to move to Dickinson or Williston, not knowing what they would be getting into.
During the Oil Boom, I had jobs where I was paid $12 per hour, $15 per hour, $16 per hour, $17, $18, $19, and $20 per hour. But I had a college degree in engineering, management experience, experience operating heavy equipment, experience in construction, experience in heavy mechanical equipment assembly, and I was able-bodied. From what I saw, from the people that I worked with, and my experience living in Dickinson, the average hourly wage was about $15 during the Oil Boom.
There were times when the local WalMart paid $15 per hour. But many businesses paid less than $15 per hour for store clerks, front desk people, customer service people, retail workers, fast food workers, restaurant workers, drivers, general laborers, caregivers, and many other jobs. For instance, the TSA at the Dickinson airport paid officers $14 per hour.
At the same time that the average hourly wage in Dickinson was about $15 per hour, some of the cheapest old one-bedroom apartments rented for $1,500 per month. If a person worked for 50 hours each week at $15 per hour, with overtime pay that comes out to about $820 per week before taxes, about $700 per week after taxes, and a take home pay of about $2,800 per month.
Starting out with a take home pay of $2,800 per month, and subtracting rent $1,500; utilities $150; cell phone $50; car insurance $100; car payment $200; fuel $150; leaves $650 left over for the entire month for food, clothing, and everything else. That’s less than $20 per day that you could spend on food. What if you had a child, a medical emergency, or a major car repair?
I wondered, and I wrote about, what kind of people would double, triple, and quadruple the rent and housing prices in order to gouge and take advantage of the out-of-state workers who came to Dickinson, many of whom were struggling financially to begin with or were completely broke?
You need to know and keep in mind, that outside of Dickinson there is more vacant, barren, flat, undeveloped land than almost anywhere else in the United States. There is no scarcity of land to build on. The land outside of Dickinson is almost as vacant as the deserts of Arizona, Nevada, or Utah. Though the land outside of Dickinson is not as dry as the desert, it is very, very cold in North Dakota from October through April, that’s seven months out of the year, and this is one of the reasons why there are less than one million people living in the entire state of North Dakota.
With such an abundance of vacant, barren, undeveloped land, why were the rent prices in Dickinson and Williston higher than any place else in the United States, higher than even New York City and San Francisco? The local people liked to say that it was a matter of supply and demand, low supply of housing, and a high demand for housing. But like I just got done explaining, there is more vacant, barren, undeveloped land outside of Dickinson, than almost any place else in the United States.
Keep in mind, that the well-informed people, well-educated people, the intelligent business people, the wealthy people, and the large land owners in Dickinson knew about the oil discovery boom in the 1950s, and the oil market shortage boom in the 1970s that occurred in North Dakota. They knew from these previous two Oil Booms, about all the workers and oil companies that come to North Dakota during the Oil Booms.
The doubling, tripling, and quadrupling of the rent and housing prices that occurred in Dickinson, was not merely a matter of supply and demand. There was more to it than that. If you have foreknowledge that something is going to occur, where people will experience a scarcity or lack of some necessity, and you seek to take advantage of this scarcity, and even take steps to keep this scarcity from being alleviated so that you can personally benefit financially, you are unethically taking advantage and gouging other people. I will give a couple of examples for you to think about:
When a hurricane was approaching the east coast of the United States, and everyone needed to prepare for an emergency, some businesses used to sharply increase the price of fuel, drinking water, plywood, generators, and other emergency supplies. Do you know that this practice is now illegal, and that business owners are now criminally prosecuted for this?
What if you and your business associates created or helped form a retirement community in Nevada, an isolated community consisting of modest, inexpensive, single-wide manufactured homes on 50 ft. x 100 ft. lots, for sale for about $50,000. Once each of these modest manufactured homes had been sold, what if you doubled, tripled, and quadrupled the price that you charged for water, knowing that there was no other water service available, and that the cost to drill a well would be about $20,000, which these low-income residents would be unable to afford?
Just because someone can see a way to take advantage of and gouge other people on the price of a necessity that they will need, this in no way means that this is ethical, moral, or even legal.
What was actually going on in Dickinson and Williston, was that the wealthy people, the business owners, the property owners, elected representatives, politicians, community leaders, spokespeople for the oil industry, and spokespeople for the North Dakota Job Services continued to perpetuate the lie that everyone who moved to North Dakota for work was making $100,000 per year, even though they knew that this was not true, that they would make much less money than this, and that more than half of their pay would be spent on housing because they had quadrupled the price of housing in North Dakota.
The reasons for spreading this lie all over the United States and luring people to North Dakota were:
- To bring as many people as possible to the state to be able to rent, lease, and sell all property available.
- To bring as many people as possible to the state to occupy or buy all property available, to cause a shortage, and be able to greatly increase rents, leases, and property prices.
- To cause the need, the requirement, or the perception, that there needed to be new apartments constructed, new housing constructed, new retail stores constructed, new grocery stores, new schools, new hospitals, and new infrastructure like water towers and roads.
- To lure property developers and business entrepreneurs to the state build developments and start new businesses.
- To bring customers to the state to increase business and sales.
- To greatly increase tax revenue to the state in sales tax, personal income tax, and property tax revenue.
- To bring a surplus of workers to the state to try to keep wages low.
After writing about all of this for four years, I realized or discovered several surprising, sinister schemes. What is even more surprising, and kind of funny, is that most of the people who sought to take advantage of others and be predatory, have been set up for financial ruin, and they don’t even know it yet. I will explain.
The ordinary people in Dickinson, whether local people or from out-of-state, each of them are aware of only a fraction of what is going on. They are often very susceptible to lies and misinformation, their circumstances in life change greatly when their rent is increased, their hourly wage rate is increased, or they lose their job. They are practically slaves or livestock, and they don’t even know it. They were likely to parrot the phrases that they were taught, such as “This Oil Boom is going to last for the next 20 years”, and then later “The Oil Boom is coming back” or the ever perpetual phrase “Things are starting to pick up again.”
The business people, business owners, property owners, property developers, elected representatives, Chambers of Commerce, oil industry spokespeople, and North Dakota government agency spokespeople, were or are, kind of like the herders, shepherds, shearers, fleecers, milkers, and egg gatherers of the ordinary people, who are like slaves or livestock.
The business people, business owners, property owners, property developers, elected representatives, Chambers of Commerce, oil industry spokespeople, and North Dakota government agency spokespeople thought that they were all in agreement, all with the same program, of continuing to encourage people to move to North Dakota because it accomplishes their goals of having customers, making sales, having properties rented or leased, having properties sell, keeping property values high, and keeping tax revenue coming in. So they all keep making announcements that there are thousands of high paying job vacancies in the oil field of North Dakota, even though there aren’t.
But when I, and several of my friends were unable to get home loans from banks in Dickinson recently, I discovered something odd. Eventually I realized that there is an entirely different plan in place, that is unknown to 99.95% of the people in Dickinson. The wealthiest 0.05% of the people in Dickinson, which includes the local Bank owners, have a completely different plan.
Despite what the business owners, property owners, property developers, Chambers of Commerce, oil industry spokespeople, and North Dakota government spokespeople are saying about the thousands of high paying job vacancies in the oil field in North Dakota currently, in order to try to keep the economy going, the Bank owners and the wealthiest 0.05% are preparing for an economic collapse.
When I and several of my friends were denied home loans recently by Banks, even though our income was sufficient to make the mortgage payments, and we had each been at our present jobs for more than four years, it was like the Banks were saying, “Even though you currently earn enough money to make the mortgage payments, and you have been at your present job for more than four years, we don’t believe that you will keep your job, or be able to get another job in Dickinson, and we don’t want to foreclose on a property that will be worth much, much less than your mortgage with the bank.” In other words, the Banks are preparing for an economic collapse in Dickinson, where many people will lose their job, be unable to get another job, and property values will fall.
I began to realize that what the Bank owners know, what the wealthiest 0.05% of North Dakotans knew all along, was that these Oil Booms in North Dakota last about seven years. You can make money on the way up, you can rent properties, lease properties, sell properties, build some properties and sell them, but you need to sell or hold during the way up, don’t buy anything, unless it is very early on. The real money to be made, is when the economic collapse comes, then you can buy businesses, equipment, buildings, houses, and properties for 10% of what they cost.
The funny thing is, that the business people, business owners, property owners, property developers, Chambers of Commerce, oil industry spokespeople, and North Dakota government spokespeople, all believed that they had the same goal, were on the same page about growth, and keeping the economy going, when all along the wealthiest 0.05% of North Dakotans were just eagerly awaiting the economic collapse that was inevitable.
The business people, business owners, property owners, and property developers that were kind of the herders, shearers, fleecers, milkers, and egg gatherers of the ordinary working people, taking advantage of them and gouging them on rent, leases, and real estate, once the economy in Dickinson collapses, they will be broke or in a very bad financial position. The wealthiest 0.05%, who knew this was coming years ago, have been waiting for this.
Business people, business owners, property owners, and property developers that once took advantage of other people, will then be taken advantage of. Whatever they built, created, bought, or owned, they will end up losing it, and perhaps be paid 10% of what it cost them.