Creating Work And Industries In Dickinson And Watford City, North Dakota, Part I

In several of my recent blog posts, I wrote that Dickinson and Watford City are about to enter into a Recession because oil drilling operations are not going to increase in the next six months, possibly not in twelve months, possibly not in twenty-four months.  In the past year, I saw at least one newspaper article that was about business people, city government, and state government trying to figure out what industries in western North Dakota could possibly take the place of oil drilling.  I have not heard much news about progress being made in developing new industries in western North Dakota.

For more than a year, from time to time, I have thought about what local North Dakotans are good at, what they know how to do, what they can do, and what is already here.  Local North Dakotans are good mechanics, fabricators, and welders.  Local North Dakotans like to stay inside and work on things in garages during the Winter, that is what comes natural to them.

I am not at all joking about this, when I say that local North Dakotans would be good boat builders.  I know a lot about all different kinds of boats, and if I was personally well-off financially, even if I did not need a boat, which I don’t, I would not hesitate to commission some local North Dakotans to build a boat for me, because I could easily sell it.  I will give several examples, and I may not get through all of them in Part I of this blog post.

In every state in the United States, both recreationally and commercially, people use aluminum boats on rivers, lakes, bayous, swamps, and reservoirs.  The simplest aluminum boats, are open, flat bottom, slightly narrowed bow, with squared off stern.  They usually have aluminum bench seats going cross wise, with styrofoam flotation blocks under the seats.  In many states, people want the most open and simplest aluminum boat that they can get, with some sturdiness to it, oar locks, a few cleats, and a strong enough stern for an outboard motor.

All around Dickinson and Watford City, I have seen 40′ free-span aluminum security gates, which are very well done, so I know that there are fabricators around here that are good at fabricating and welding aluminum.  Steffes Corporation, Worthington Industries, and Fisher Industries in Dickinson make different kinds of steel structures, steel equipment, and steel machinery that is much larger, more complicated, and more demanding than aluminum boats.

Another type of aluminum boats that are very popular are pontoon boats.  I know that these fabricators around here that have been making large tanks, can just as easily make pontoons.  Pontoon boats are liked by Red-necks because they are simple, have a lot of room, are inexpensive, and fun.  Pontoon boats are supposed to have comfortable seating and cabinets, so a company like TMI in Dickinson might make the on-deck components.

People in North Dakota and all of the surrounding states could and would actually use the aluminum boats that would be made in North Dakota, but the whole United States is the potential market.  I am not joking about this in any way.  The local people in North Dakota like fabricating, like welding, like working inside in the Winter, and they like pontoon boats.

I am not saying or suggesting that an investor is going to get rich starting recreational boat manufacturing in North Dakota.  However the companies that are already here like Steffes, Worthington, Fisher Industries, and TMI already have the personnel and equipment to begin building simple recreational boats.  They also have the personnel and equipment to begin building floating docks and floating structures.  Once some experience is gained in building recreational boats and floating structures, specialized boats and floating structures can be built for other industries and the government.

How manufacturers do become rich, is by building and supplying equipment to the government and the military.  When a manufacturer demonstrates that they have the ability to fabricate a variety of things well, they have the opportunity to bid on and provide proposals for military and government equipment.  More on this in Part II.

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