Posted 9/19/12 (Wed)
By Kate Ruggles
Farmer Staff Writer
Thursday, Sept. 13 will go down as a good day in Watford City history. It was a day described by North Dakota Gov. Jack Dalrymple as the culmination of hard work, cooperation and vision.
At 11 a.m., Lutheran Social Services (LSS) broke ground on its Prairie Heights development in Watford City, taking the first step toward an affordable housing neighborhood in Watford City, and an affordable child care facility, which will be developed later.
“What a great project, in a great community, at such a great time,” stated Gov. Dalrymple.
The groundbreaking event took place on the future site of the Prairie Heights Development, just west of The Watford Hotel. It was co-sponsored by the North Dakota Housing Finance Agency and MBI Energy Services, who later that day celebrated the Grand Opening of their Watford City facility, just south of Watford City on U.S. Highway 85.
“We are so happy to have LSS coming back to Watford City and providing 124 more apartments,” states Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford. “Their first 24-unit complex on the bypass is still the only moderate income, affordable rental housing project in town. This project will provide 40 more units with rents under $1,000 per month for people making low to moderate incomes. We are grateful to LSS and MBI.”
“We have had many meetings with many players to try to come up with a project like this, and MBI has put a sizable investment into making this happen with LSS as a partner,” states Gene Veeder, executive director of the McKenzie County Job Development Authority.
MBI contributed $2 million to the North Dakota Housing Incentive Fund, but targeted it specifically toward the Prairie Heights Project. MBI also donated the land on which the Prairie Heights Development will be built.
“MBI Services is like a lot of companies in this part of the state,” stated Gov. Dalrymple. “They’re not in the business of real estate, but they are willing to do whatever needs to be done, even if it’s outside of their business, to make things work.”
Jim Arthaud, MBI CEO, credited many people during the groundbreaking ceremony.
“My mother was raised in Watford City and her roots are here,” states Arthaud. “Jeff Kummer helped pick the land, LSS helped us to accomplish this and Gov. Dalrymple ‘gets it,’ which was a very critical part of the project. We want to help make western North Dakota a better place to live and a better place to work.”
Gov. Dalrymple ‘gets it’ because, as he states, these are incredible times in which Watford City finds itself.
“It is estimated that Watford City is the fastest growing community in the nation right now,” states Gov. Dalrymple. “It’s overwhelming and its challenges often seem overwhelming, but Watford City has great leadership and businesses that are invested in its future.”
A lot of the players mentioned by Gov. Dalrymple in making the Prairie Heights Development a reality are Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford, the McKenzie County Job Development Authority, First International Bank & Trust, McKenzie County Bank, the Bank of North Dakota, Lutheran Social Services, MBI Energy Services, the North Dakota Housing Incentive Fund and the North Dakota Housing Finance Authority.
“There are a lot of players in a project like this and many people don’t realize how many pieces have to cooperate. Which is why, when that happens, it’s an even greater day to rejoice,” stated Gov. Dalrymple.
The Prairie Heights Project will reserve housing for low-moderate income levels and emergency service personnel serving in the area. The vision of the Prairie Heights Development was not just housing, but a neighborhood with walking and biking paths. In addition, LSS and MBI set out to tackle affordable daycare as well, taking on, as Gov. Dalrymple stated, all of this day’s challenges in one solution.
“This will make it possible for people who want to live in Watford City to live in Watford City, and it’s important that we do that, even in the midst of this tremendous boom,” stated Gov. Dalrymple.
Gov. Dalrymple hopes the Prairie Heights Development will be the first of many. With the state making money available for low-interest loans for housing builders, doubling the size of the housing fund expansion program from $15 million to $30 million and proposing another round of energy impact grants to oil-impacted communities, like Watford City, Dalrymple hopes more housing will become available.
“The demand for low-moderate income housing will not diminish,” stated Gov. Dalrymple. “We have to invest in infrastructure in western North Dakota and we must have money available where it is needed most.”
The construction crew began moving ground for the new housing development that same day, and LSS hopes the project will be completed by August 2013, with the first units available for rent in April 2013.
Also cause for celebration was the Grand Opening of MBI Energy Services, Watford City Branch.
Since 1979, MBI Energy Services has been dedicated to providing dependable, safe oilfield solutions in North Dakota. They are a company that is committed to responsibly growing with North Dakota’s oil and gas industry.
Jeff Kummer, vice president of MBI Energy Services, stated that the Watford City facility began breaking ground in the fall of 2011. The facility was complete and began operations in February of 2012. They employ 120 people, most of whom are from the greater Watford City area.
“We have the intention of staying in Watford City and investing in its future,” stated Arthaud.