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Posted 12/28/11 (Wed)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

If there was any doubt that the oil industry is driving North Dakota’s economy to all new levels, then two recent reports clearly illustrate what is happening in western North Dakota and the impact the industry is having on the entire state and its economy.
The first report from the North Dakota Tax Dept. shows that the state’s taxable sales and purchases increased nearly 40 percent in the third quarter of 2011 compared to the same three month period a year ago.
While that is good news, what becomes even more important when the data is examined is that the top five cities leading the state in percentage increases during the third quarter of 2011 all have something in common. They are all located in the oil patch of northwestern North Dakota. Tioga posted the largest gain with a 137.8 percent increase, followed by Stanley, up 127.5; New Town, up 107.9 percent; Williston, up 90.5 percent; and Watford City, up 62.6 percent. And for the first time in the state’s history, Williston has surpassed Fargo as the top city in the state for taxable sales and purchases.
At the local level, there is no doubt that the oil industry is fueling the economy in McKenzie County. Watford City, after seeing its taxable sales grow by 74 percent and 67 percent in the first two quarters of 2011, continued to see sales increase at just over 62 percent in the third quarter of the year, which just shows how steady the oil industry has become. And with this quarter’s sales of over $33 million, Watford City now ranks 13th in sales of the state’s largest 50 cities, while McKenzie County ranks 11th of the state’s 53 counties with sales of just under $39 million in the third quarter.
Pretty impressive numbers to say the least.
Even more good news of the impact that all of this increased economic growth is having on the state came via a report from the U.S. Census Bureau. The new report, released last week, shows the state’s 2011 population at a record-setting 683,932 residents. The old record of 680,845 people calling North Dakota home was set over 80 years ago in 1930.
While the new figures from the Census Bureau do not provide exact numbers for the state’s counties and cities, once again, it can be assumed that it is the oil-patch region of the state which is driving this increase in the new population numbers.
Both the strong sales tax information and the Census Bureau’s figures on the state’s population are the very best indicators that North Dakota’s economy continues to head in the right direction.
And much of the credit for that growth is attributable to continued development of the state’s oil patch.