Posted 12/30/09 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
When it comes to economic development, most areas are working toward creating jobs and attracting people to their community, but for McKenzie County, the term economic development is centered on investing in the community so that people who want to work and move here can.
“During 2009, we moved our economic development focus away from recruitment and turned it toward services,” says Gene Veeder, McKenzie County Job Development Authority. “The jobs are here and people want to move to this area. What we need are services, laborers and places to live.”
Fortunately, during a time where people all over America are struggling with the economy and lost jobs, McKenzie County continues to have help wanted ads in the paper each week. The thing that is missing from the paper are the house for sale and apartment for rent ads, something the community leaders focused on during 2009.
“This past year has been very exciting for our community,” adds Veeder. “We began the year with our main focus on housing, and even though the problem isn’t solved, I think it was still a good year for housing.”
With two housing projects, one through Lutheran Social Services and the other through Cascade Homes, some of the housing problems have been solved. But, Veeder says housing will continue to be a big issue for the community in 2010 as well.
“I think our success in 2009 came from being prepared for what was coming,” states Veeder. “We have spent the past 10 to 15 years preparing for the next oil boom and that put us ahead of a lot of other communities, making Watford City a very appealing place for businesses and employees.”
Another success for 2009, according to Veeder, comes through Watford City’s infrastructure.
“We are fortunate to have the things people are looking for in a community-good hospitals, good schools and growing retail businesses,” adds Veeder. “The retail community has been really aggressive, especially when it comes to fixing up their stores and investing in Main Street. That’s not something you see in many communities.”
Although 2009 has been a success from the economic development standpoint, Veeder is eager to get things rolling for 2010 because he knows we can’t stop now.
“A lot of good came from last year, but we still need to work on housing and highways,” says Veeder. “It is very important that we continue to work on our infrastructure so we don’t lose everything that was worked for in 2009.”
A new focus in 2010, according to Veeder, is going to be water.
“Having the water level in the lake back up has been great,” says Veeder. “That water is something we have to fight for and we need something more than recreation to fight with.”
With jobs being less of a focus for the area, the Job Development Authority has been able to shift some of its focus from jobs to water.
“Water is part of our economic development and this is a community that realizes what we have. Now we need to find a way to use it,” urges Veeder. “We hope to spend some time in 2010 finding a way to get water to the oil industry. Our water is a use it or lose it commodity, and we hope to use it during the coming year.”
According to Veeder, it is important to McKenzie County that the oil industry and the agriculture industry both feel at home here, so the community can continue to grow.
“It looks like the oil is going to pick up even more in 2010 and we plan to continue working with the healthcare, housing, highways and services to make this an appealing community,” adds Veeder. “It’s a great time to be in Watford City. Everything is roses!”
The Watford City Area Chamber of Commerce and the Economic Development Corporation will begin their 2010 year during their annual meetings on Jan. 13. For more information or tickets to the meetings, contact the Watford City Area Chamber of Commerce at 580-1493 or firstname.lastname@example.org.