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Posted 12/30/14 (Tue)

By Neal A. Shipman
Farmer Editor

Without a doubt, 2014 will be remembered as being one of the biggest years in the city’s 100-year history when it comes to new building construction and new development.
In the past year, the amount of new construction has been staggering as new residential developments with apartments, townhomes and single family homes springing out of what used to be wheat fields and pastures.
But it just wasn’t new housing that was rising from the ground. During the past year, four new motels, as well as new dining and retail businesses opened. And plans were unveiled for a new $60 million healthcare replacement facility, a new $50 million high school, a multi-million dollar four-story Main Street office building, a new veterinary clinic, a $100 million community Event Center, the regional headquarters for Conoco-Phillips, plus other commercial and residential development at The Crossings, Hunter’s Run, Emerald Ridge, Watford City Square, and Blue Bison, to name just a few.
In 2014, we also saw the opening of the Wolf Pup Daycare, which with a 190-child capacity is the third largest daycare facility in the state, the expansion of the Watford City City Hall, the McKenzie County Courthouse, the building of a new city emergency services building, the building of two new one million gallon water towers and the construction of a new waste water treatment facility.
Quite literally, it was impossible to drive in any direction of Watford City without seeing some form of new construction underway, including new gas plants and electric peaking stations.
Then there was the $130 million that the State of North Dakota spent to build two bypasses around Watford City, along with the hundreds of millions of dollars in funding that the North Dakota Department of Transportation committed to the four-laning of U.S. Highway 85 from Watford City to Williston.
What is driving all of this new development in and around Watford City is directly related to the thousands of new residents that were drawn to this region of the state by the creation of jobs in the rapidly growing oil and natural gas industries. Watford City has seen its population skyrocket from 1,450 people some six or so years ago to more than 10,000 today. The exact number of people who now reside here is a good guess. There is no way to count them. But we do know that there are over 1,325 students enrolled in our school system. And that number of students has put Watford’s population on par with that of Devils Lake, Jamestown, Wahpeton and Valley City.
Growing a community of 1,450 to a city of 15,000 to 20,000 doesn’t happen overnight. But 2014 was the year that really marked the beginning of that growth.