Although this blog post is a continuation from Part I, here is where I begin explaining the basis for understanding how Dickinson, North Dakota works.
If anyone wants or expects to be successful in Dickinson, they must first understand how Dickinson works. I am going to start off with the simplest, most important facts first.
Foremost, Dickinson is the regional center for shopping, supplies, and services for the geographical areas consisting of Medora, Belfield, South Heart, New Hradec, Manning, Killdeer, Halliday, Dodge, Gladstone, Taylor, Richardton, Lefor, Regent, and New England. No matter what else happens, Dickinson being the supply center for these aforementioned towns is not likely to change for a long time. The next largest city, Bismarck, the state capital, is 100 miles to the east. Here is a map of the Dickinson area
Geographically, there is nothing special or unique about Dickinson. It sits on a rolling, nearly tree-less prairie, just like all of the other towns in this area. Dickinson got its start the same way as all of the other towns in western North Dakota, it was settled by land-grant homesteaders after the passage of the 1862 Homestead Act. The homesteaders in the Dickinson area were primarily immigrants from Ukraine, Germany, and Scandinavia.
The fourteen towns that I mentioned earlier, Medora, Belfield, South Heart, New Hradec, Manning, Killdeer, Halliday, Dodge, Gladstone, Taylor, Richardton, Lefor, Regent, and New England, by the early 1900s each of these towns had their own general store, school house, and churches. Before the invention and widespread use of the automobile, it took much more time to travel, it was done by horse, buggy, wagon, or on foot. Even small communities had to have some local businesses, a school house, and churches.
Some of the factors or circumstances that caused Dickinson to grow more than the surrounding towns were: the Northern Pacific railroad was built through Dickinson in the 1880s; the 40-room St. Josephs Hospital was built in Dickinson in 1911; Dickinson State University was founded in 1918; the Dickinson Municipal Airport began airline service in 1959; Interstate 94 was completed through Dickinson in the 1960s.
As Dickinson grew, gained more businesses, provided more services, and its infrastructure grew, the surrounding towns began to rely more and more on Dickinson for supplies and services. Unfortunately, as time went on, the surrounding towns began to lose many of their own local businesses and services, because of Dickinson.
For instance, the towns of Medora, Belfield, South Heart, New Hradec, Manning, Halliday, Dodge, Gladstone, Lefor, Regent, and New England no longer have a grocery store, family clothing store, appliance store, drug store, pharmacy, clinic, or doctor. Most of the surrounding towns do not have an automobile dealer, an automobile repair shop, a tire dealer, or barber shop.
The following are the essential businesses in Dickinson, the type of businesses that this area can not go without:
Four grocery stores, five hardware stores, two farm/ranch supply stores, three building supply stores, five tire stores, nine automobile dealers, nine auto repair shops, four automobile tow companies, four pharmacies, two funeral homes, five liquor stores, and Walmart.
The following businesses in Dickinson are almost essential to this area:
Three truck stops, two tractor truck repair/parts centers, several heavy equipment/farm equipment dealer/repair/parts centers, three heavy equipment rental yards, several industrial/electrical/welding supply warehouses, three utility/livestock trailer dealer/repair centers, ten fast food restaurants, half a dozen furniture stores, and eleven banks.
These aforementioned businesses in Dickinson are either essential or very nearly essential to this area. Because of these businesses, this is what brings people to Dickinson, brings money to Dickinson, and provides employment for people in Dickinson. Without these businesses, there would be no people coming to Dickinson, no money coming into Dickinson, no employment in Dickinson, and very few people able to live in Dickinson.
When I start to list the essential services in Dickinson below, such as the schools and hospitals, the reader must remember, if it were not for the large number of essential businesses in Dickinson that bring people to Dickinson, there would not be enough people living in Dickinson to have schools and hospitals. The services are here, because of the number of people here, and the number of people here, are the result of the large number of essential businesses in Dickinson.
The following are the essential services in Dickinson, the services that this area can not go without:
Two public utility companies, two public phone service companies, one ambulance service, two medium size hospitals, half a dozen medical clinics, half a dozen dentists, several optometrists, police department, sheriff department, regional jail, several fire stations, highway patrol office, city maintenance department, department of transportation office, driver’s license office, regional court house, one post office, two high schools, middle school, several elementary schools, and several veterinarians.
The following services in Dickinson are very nearly essential to this area:
One regional airport with private airplane and commercial airline service, one bus service, several car rental services, half a dozen taxi services, a dozen motels/hotels, many beauticians and barbers, two dozen attorneys, a dozen CPAs, many residential and commercial contractors in plumbing, electrical, HVAC, roofing, home construction, concrete, and excavation.
I spent some time trying to specifically identify the essential businesses and essential services in Dickinson, to make everyone completely aware, that many of the other types of businesses and services in Dickinson are just supplemental, they are not critical.
Some of the supplemental, non-critical types of businesses and services in Dickinson are:
Traditional restaurants, pizza delivery, ice cream parlors, coffee shops, bars, sports bars, bicycle shops, guns stores, sporting goods stores, movie theaters, motorcycle dealers, snow mobile dealers, UTV dealers, travel trailer dealers, tattoo parlors, vehicle accessory dealers, jewelry stores, dance studios, fitness centers, tanning salons, pawn shops, daycare centers, insurance agencies, real estate agencies.
Lastly, I need to name some of the large companies that operate in Dickinson, that have not been covered yet because they are not an essential business or service in Dickinson, but they do employ many people in Dickinson. These are companies that perform work or sell products outside of the Dickinson area:
Halliburton, Schlumberger, BJ Services, Marathon Oil, Continental Resources, Philips Conoco, Whiting Petroleum, Key Energy, MBI, Nuverra, Lufkin, Fisher Industries, General Steel, Medora Corporation, Steffes, TMI cabinets, Killdeer Mountain Manufacturing, Martin Construction, Northern Improvement, Baranko Brothers, Tooz Construction, and Winn Construction.
There are several reasons why I separated the businesses and services in Dickinson into separate categories. One reason was to provide clarity on what types of businesses and services there are in Dickinson; Second, I wanted to differentiate between essential/non-essential businesses and services; and Third, I wanted to be able to show how the end of the oil boom in Dickinson is going to affect businesses, services, and employment in Dickinson based on the role of the business or service in the economy.
The most recent oil boom in North Dakota lasted from 2007 through 2015. Due to the price of oil dropping from over $100 per barrel to less than $50 per barrel in 2015, the oil companies decreased drilling operations.
The number of operating oil drill rigs in North Dakota went from over 200 to less than 50 currently. Less drilling meant less well sites being developed, less drill rigs operating, less drill rigs being transported, less hydraulic fracturing, less sand and water hauling, less work-over rig completions, less pump jacks being installed, less cranes being rented, less tractor truck and hot shot transportation of material and equipment to the oil field.
The number of workers employed in the oil field decreased. Many of the oil field workers who lost their job left the Dickinson area. Consequently, there were fewer purchases and less money spent at local businesses such as auto dealers, auto repair shops, tire stores, furniture stores, grocery stores, hardware stores, restaurants, bars, sporting goods stores, movie theaters, etcetera.
Many workers leaving Dickinson caused there to be a decreased demand for housing. The number of new and existing homes and apartments available for occupancy, exceeded the demand. This was a signal that new homes, new apartments, new businesses, new shopping centers, new roads, and new infrastructure might not need to be constructed.
The residential and commercial construction industries slowed down in the Dickinson area. This meant even more unemployed workers leaving the Dickinson area. Less heavy equipment was being purchased, less heavy equipment was being rented, less building supplies were being purchased, local businesses had fewer customers and fewer purchases, less services were being used, more homes and apartments became vacated.
Near the beginning of March 2020, the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries, OPEC, and Russia did not agree to reduce the amount of oil that they were producing. This caused an oversupply of oil on the World market, and the price of oil in the U.S. dropped to $31 per barrel after the first week of March. This oil price drop is predicted to start a whole new oil industry slow down, with even less oil well sites being developed and drilled.
The oil field work in Dickinson is expected to decrease even further now, with more oil field workers losing their jobs and leaving Dickinson. There will be even fewer customers and less money spent at local businesses and services in Dickinson.
The essential businesses in Dickinson, such as grocery stores, hardware stores, automobile dealers, and tire stores, they will have fewer customers, they will be less busy, and some of these businesses will reduce their number of employees.
The nearly essential business such as heavy equipment dealers, heavy equipment repair, trailer dealers, furniture stores, and banks will reduce their number of employees.
The essential service providers such as medical clinics and schools will eventually reduce some of their staff as there are fewer people in Dickinson.
The nearly essential service providers such as beauticians, attorneys, plumbers, electricians, and HVAC will have less work.
Supplemental non-critical businesses and services in Dickinson that will have less work, and require fewer workers are restaurants, coffee shops, tattoo parlors, recreational vehicle dealers, daycare centers, insurance agencies, and real estate agencies.
Some of the large employers in Dickinson who will have less work, and could reduce their workforce are: Halliburton, Schlumberger, BJ Services, Marathon Oil, Continental Resources, Conoco Philips, Whiting Petroleum, MBI, Nuverra, Lufkin, Steffes, Martin Construction, Northern Improvement, Baranko Brothers, Tooz Construction, and Winn Construction.
Once essential businesses, essential service providers, supplemental business and services, and some of the largest employers in Dickinson have let some of their workers go, these unemployed workers and their families may have to leave the Dickinson area. This in turn will make Dickinson even smaller, with even less consumers.
Dickinson will continue to be the regional supplier of goods and services for this area, because there are fourteen smaller towns surrounding Dickinson that rely on it. I estimate that the population of Dickinson right now is approximately 24,000 people. By the year 2022, I believe that the population of Dickinson will have decreased to about 21,000 people.
The reason for the expected decline in population, is because of the reduced work in the oil field. Unemployed oil field workers will leave Dickinson, local businesses and services will become less busy, these local businesses and services will lay off some of their workers. These unemployed workers and their families will leave Dickinson.