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Thursday, August 2, 2012

Help Wanted

We are in Minot, North Dakota and looking at the activity there is no doubt it has an unemployment rate of 2.2%.  High employment and commercial activity was evident as soon as we entered the outskirts of Williston, North Dakota which is about twenty miles from the Montana border.

Oil and gas have fueled tremendous job growth in this state and workers are flocking here from all over the country.  Workers that is who want to work, and are willing to separate themselves for a steady paycheck.  I met a man in the elevator of our hotel who is from Mississippi.  He appeared to be in his late 50's and told me he had been here for a few weeks and is working on seismic drilling north of town.  Most importantly to him, "I have a guaranteed job for the next six months and then will most likely be able to hook up with something else."

Like workers in other eras during economic downturns, those coming to North Dakota are leaving families behind so they can earn a good income to send back to those families.  Rather than waiting for their 99 weeks to run out, these men, and women, aren't worried about the North Dakota winter cold or summer heat.  What they are worried about is feeding and housing their families.

The hotels here are filled with pick up trucks from out of state--we have seen license plates from Oklahoma, Minnesota, Colorado, Wyoming, Montana, Nebraska, Idaho and many other states.  The car dealer lots are filled with pick up trucks--the local Lincoln dealer's lot is filled with Ford pick ups overflowing from the Ford dealer down the street.  There are no "Sale--50% Off!" signs in the furniture store windows, instead the marquee out front is advertising for help, as it just about every other business in town.

Driving across the state on highway 2 we saw impromptu towns of mobile homes and trailers that have been put on huge lots for housing workers---one such "town" had about a hundred such trailers that looked like barracks lined up and a huge central hall that looked like a World War II airplane hanger with a large "Lodge" sign on it signifying it is the central gathering place.

I imagine this is what the boom towns in Oklahoma in the early 20th century, or California or Alaska in the 19th century looked like when oil and gold were discovered.  North Dakota is filled with boom towns, with plenty of jobs attracting men and women wanting to work.  Be it in the oil or gas fields or in industries supporting those jobs, or in building the infrastructure we have seen going up in towns across the state--hotels, restaurants, manufactured homes, roads.  Jobs, jobs, jobs are in this state unlike any other.

The boom in jobs in the gas and oil fields has more than trickled across the economy: restaurants, gas stations, grocery stores, furniture stores, car dealers, apartment landlords, department stores, shoe stores, hotels all are benefiting from the flow of paychecks. Next time you hear a politician say that public spending is needed to spur on economic development know they know little of how our economy works.  Minot, Williston and hundreds of other towns are seeing great economic activity not because of government programs, welfare checks, unemployment checks or social security disability checks.  They are growing because of private enterprise providing jobs that are paying into the government not taking out of it.

Why?  Because the state has aggressively pursued the extraction of oil and gas from it lands for the past several years, fighting the federal government on many occasions and finally being able to open up rich fields for extraction.  Seeing the robust activity and economic activity throughout the site I can only wonder, what if the elected officials and bureaucrats of California had been as active in pursuing the extraction of hydrocarbons from its land instead of actively blocking the drilling and extraction of oil and natural gas?

Final leg of the first half of our trip tomorrow, we should arrive at Camp Birchwood sometime just before or after the dinner bell rings.  Can't wait to see the girls!

Sign on the door of our hotel in Minot that is filled with out of state workers

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