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AS I SEE IT

Posted 5/12/10 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

No one is going to argue that the development of the oil and gas resources in McKenzie County is having a tremendous impact on our local economy, and the future development of these resources have the potential of providing long-term population growth for our area.
All you have to do is pick up a copy of the McKenzie County Farmer and check all of the ads looking for help or read about all of the new oil development being planned in the area or of new natural gas lines being built in the county. Or as was reported last week, of the new gas plant that will be constructed in the vicinity of Watford City.
Everywhere you go now in the county you see how big an impact the oil industry is having on our economy.
And, by and large, the impacts of the increased energy activity are good.
But as we have seen from this growth of the oil industry and the arrival of new workers into our communities, the one major problem that has perplexed McKenzie County, and Watford City, in particular, over the years has kept resurfacing. And that problem is, “How are we going to grow our community’s population when we don’t have anyplace for new people to live?”
Yes, Power Fuels partially solved their own housing dilemma by purchasing an old trailer court, renovating it and then moving new mobile homes in to house their workers this spring. And yes, last year, Lutheran Social Services Housing built the Creekside Cottages to provide affordable apartments.
But these two projects have barely touched the area’s need for new housing as can be witnessed by the overflowing RV Parks in Watford City, Arnegard and Alexander, or by the number of campers that are being placed on company lots simply because there is nowhere else for the workers to live.
While workers in the oil field may be willing to live in a camper or in a tent or a small apartment, this type of housing is not going to be attractive to the worker, whether they be employed in the oil field or in our healthcare system or any of our other professional businesses who wants to bring their family to the community,
Up until now, Watford City has been able to struggle by with short-term housing solutions to a much larger long-term problem.
But with this week’s front page story on the plans by Watford City Hospitality Associates, LLC to begin construction of between 20 and 25 new single family homes as well as a new 72 short-term stay complex within Watford City’s city limits, all of that could begin to change.
For the first time in nearly 30 years, a housing development will be built in Watford City. It will be the type of project that will bring new families to town, help refill our schools, and be the type of development that will bring permanent population growth to our community. And that growth will only help drive our local economy.