Posted 3/31/10 (Wed)
By Tina Foreman
Farmer Staff Writer
The need for work coupled with Watford City’s need for housing and commercial space has led two companies to begin construction on the outskirts of Watford City.
Greg Dougherty, owner of Greg’s Welding, Gillette, Wyo. and Greg Simonson, owner of Simonson Construction, Kalispell, Mont. were both driven to North Dakota because of the economic downturn in their home states.
“We’re just happy to be working,” says Simonson. “We were building $600,000 to $5 million homes in Montana, and when the market died we started doing remodel jobs. But it just wasn’t enough to keep going.”
Simonson and his wife have kept their home in Kalispell, but two of their sons have moved to Watford City permanently.
“My sons also work in the construction market so we were all hit,” adds Simonson. “We saw a need here for industrial space as well as housing, so we decided this would be a great place to come.”
Simonson has two homes going in near the Terrace Subdivision, plus he is developing 37 acres south of the McKenzie County Airport into shops and office space.
“We have one shop ready to go and another that will be ready around the middle of April,” adds Simonson. “We don’t have any occupants finalized, but we’ve definitely had interest.”
Having a shop and office area is something that most oilfield-related companies need. However, before they can worry about that, they need local employees, something that has been difficult to get due to a lack of housing.
“There are a lot of people looking for work and they want to come to McKenzie County,” says Gene Veeder, McKenzie County Job Development Authority executive director. “The problem right now is that we don’t have housing to offer them.”
Dougherty hopes that his plans for a trailer park in the former Schell Subdivision, west of Watford City, will help take a big bite out of the current housing crunch and help bring more oilfield-related businesses to the area.
“I did a lot of research on North Dakota so I could find a town in the middle of the Bakken play, and I think Watford City is that spot,” states Dougherty. “The community has been very open and helpful, which made my decision to build in McKenzie County a lot easier.”
Dougherty is in the process of putting in a trailer park with future plans of building some shops with offices along Highway 85 west of town.
“The trailer park will be about 18 acres with 100 large lots and possibly some RV spots,” adds Dougherty. “I want this to be a place for permanent dwellings, but I also hope to help meet some of the short-term housing needs as well. My goal is to make this a nice place where people want to live, not a place people are scared of.”
Dougherty plans to begin work on the commercial property in stages. He will start with a shop and office for his business with the potential of having 10 more commercial spots.
“This industrial growth is good for the community because even though neither project is in the city limits, they are both close enough that people can utilize the city’s services,” says Veeder. “It’s great to see commercial spaces going up because each building means employment and revenue to the county. I would just as soon see these businesses get set up here rather than somewhere else in the Bakken play.
It seems that as long as the Bakken is active, McKenzie County will continue to see growth in both housing and commercial property.