North Dakota Oil Boom Creates Thousands Of Jobs - Spokane, North Idaho News & Weather KHQ.com

North Dakota Oil Boom Creates Thousands Of Jobs

MSNBC.COM - Those hurt hard by the ailing economy are flocking to Williston, N.D., where an oil boom has turned a sleepy prairie town into a place producing thousands of jobs.

"There's opportunity here and that's what we all need is opportunity," said Williston Mayor Ward Koeser. "It's kind of been an oasis for the country.  You know, there's a lot of jobs here, good paying jobs in the oil industry."

Williston is situated on the Bakken formation, an oil field that some say will produce the biggest boom in North America since the 1960s. Koeser said that his town currently has 2,000 to 3000 jobs and they haven't been able to fill the openings fast enough.

"A lot of jobs get filled every day, but it's like for every job you fill, another job and a half opens up," Koeser said.

A job on an oil rig can pay as much as six figures.  The starting salary for truck drivers is around $80,000. While the nation's unemployment rate is 9.1 percent, Williston's unemployment rate is less than 1 percent. 

Locals say job seekers from all 50 states are heading to the North Dakota town, becoming modern-day pioneers. The town's population has nearly doubled from 12,600 people to 23,000 people.

Patrick Parker hitchhiked from Yuba City, Calif., to Williston. When NBC News spoke to him, he had just $12 in his pocket. Parker, a paving stone layer by trade, has been out of work for two years.

 "One of my goals is to make my daughters proud of me," said an emotional Parker.  "I want to make them proud because I worked a good job for 10 years and then for it to go away it's just, it just gets to me a little bit."

Parker is one of hundreds of people living in their cars in the parking lot of the local Wal-Mart. Williston's housing construction hasn't caught up with its rapid growth.

Parker said the town feels "like the old gold rush town."

Oil was discovered in the this part of North Dakota 60 years ago, but it was only recently that oil producers have found a way to get at it more effectively.  After drilling about two miles down, they drill horizontally for another two miles through the bed of rock where the oil is trapped.  Using a technique called fracking - water, sand and chemicals are shot into the rock formation from that horizontal pipe to create cracks and fractures. From those openings, comes the oil.  Those in the oil industry say the tight rock that traps the oil, also prevents it from escaping into the water table during the fracking process.

North Dakota is currently the fourth largest producer of oil in the United States, but that is projected to change soon.  A spokesperson for North Dakota's Mineral Resources Department said that oil production in the state is expected to surpass Alaska and California by 2015 which means North Dakota will be the second largest oil producer in the country soon.

Along with the bounty from the oil boom, come some stresses and strains. A sewage system that's running at full tilt, truck traffic congestion, an influx in 911 calls-those are just a few of the headaches that keep Mayor Koeser up at night.

There is such a large influx of people that thousands are staying in 'man camps'- shipping containers converted into housing units for the workers new to town.  When more teachers were hired to deal with the rising number of students, an apartment building had to be built to house the new teachers, Koeser said. Click here to read more

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