Insight into Dickinson, North Dakota, July 2015

A Brief Partial History of Dickinson, 2009 to 2015:

For those of you who don’t know, Dickinson, Williston, and Minot have just gone through six years of rapid growth, beginning in 2009 when oil drilling began to take off in North Dakota, probably due to new fracturing techniques allowing much more oil to be removed from each well than had been possible before.  The drilling companies like Nabors, Patterson, Cyclone, and HP moved drill rig platforms to North Dakota.  Fracturing companies came to North Dakota, I think Schlumberger was one of them, I think that Haliburton and Baker Hughes are involved in fracturing.  There were wire-line companies, mud-logging companies, work-over rig companies, casing companies, specialty companies that have a role in drilling.  Tanker trucks delivering water for fracturing, tanker trucks removing water after fracturing.  Hot-shot companies delivering equipment and material, roust-about companies handling and installing equipment and material.

So many people were brought to North Dakota, so many people came to North Dakota.  In 2008, the population of Dickinson was about 12,000 people, now it is about 30,000 people.  In 2008, an old one-bedroom apartment cost about $300 per month, by 2010, an old one-bedroom apartment cost about $1,500 per month.  By 2011, the ratio of men to women in Dickinson became about 4 to 1.

I arrived in Dickinson in 2011.  At first, it seemed like an adventure, it was exciting.  I remember going to the Paragon Bowling Alley & Champs Sports Bar in Dickinson in 2011, and there were about 200 people there on Thursday, Friday, and Saturday night.  It was very easy to get a job.  The first place I went to, I got hired right then on the spot.  With overtime, I was making about $1,400 per week.  I met people from all over the United States, and there was a kind of camaraderie with everyone that was a new worker in town, it was like we were all immigrants, kind of in the same boat.  I remember going to Patterson Lake in the summer of 2011, with all the out-of-state workers, DSU college students, and a few local people, there were about 200 people there at the beach on Saturday and Sunday.

In 2013 when I came back to Dickinson, things were much different than in 2011.  There was no more talk in Dickinson about “man camps”, they were not going to be built in Dickinson or Stark County, it was no longer even being discussed.  In 2013, there were approximately at least 500 new apartment units being constructed, and probably one hundred new homes being constructed.  Out-of-state workers were no longer being allowed to stay at the campground at Patterson Lake, Wal-Mart, or the Tiger Truck Stop.  The Dickinson police were now very strict on stopping people for DUI, especially out-of-state workers.  On Saturday and Sunday night in 2013, now there were only about 30 people in the Paragon Bowling & Champs Sports Bar, not 200.  On Saturday and Sunday afternoon in 2013, now there were only about 20 people at Patterson Lake, not 200.  It was a little harder to get a job, though I got hired at the first company I went to, right there on the spot.

In about November of 2014, the price per barrel of oil world-wide, went down, and the price continued to decline in December 2014.  The price per barrel stayed low and went down further in January and February of 2015.  The oil companies in North Dakota such as Continental Resources, Whiting, Occidental, and Marathon decided at the board-of-director level, to hold back on new oil well drilling and on oil well production, there was no use selling all that oil for a low price, it would be better to wait for the price to go back up, then start producing again.  In about March of 2015, in North Dakota we started to see a lot of oil field jobs go away.  The operating drill rig count went from 280, down to 80.  For each drill rig that shut down, it was estimated that 100 jobs went away, that equals 20,000 jobs that went away.

Even though the high paying oil field jobs went away in the beginning of 2015, the most uneducated and uniformed people in the United States continued to come to North Dakota, people that don’t even read the newspaper or watch television news.  Now in Dickinson, there is not a shortage of workers, there are more than enough workers.  The hourly wages have gone down, and the amount of overtime available has gone down.  Not only have many oil field jobs gone away, there is now an over-supply of workers here in Dickinson, there is now a lot of competition for jobs, and few job openings.

At this time, the property managers and the real estate agents in Dickinson are trying their best to keep housing prices high, but they are losing this battle day by day.  I believe that by the summer of 2016, the housing and real estate prices will have dropped by about 20%.  This price drop will be partly due to more new housing being completed, existing housing becoming vacant, demand decreasing, and local wages decreasing.

It is possible, that by the summer of 2016, there will be no benefit to living in Dickinson, in comparison to anywhere else in the United States.  It will likely be just as difficult to get a job in Dickinson, as Idaho Falls, Billings, Colorado Springs, Prescott, Spokane, so there will not be any good reason to move here to Dickinson, because it is cold about eight months out of the year.  I am trying to tell you, It Is Over.

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