Western North Dakota has been put through the wringer over the last few years, but it might surprise you to find out that the citizens of that region are feeling pretty upbeat.
The oil boom brought new prosperity and development to the region, but also challenges. Citizens there accustomed to a slower pace of life have had to reconcile themselves to fast-lane problems like crime, traffic, and ceaseless construction.
Now the oil boom seems to have peaked, which has brought uncertainties of its own. Falling oil prices have inspired the oil and gas industry to cut back on expenditure and stack rigs. While there’s nothing approaching a bust in sight yet – most experts seem to feel that oil prices will rebound and find an equilibrium in the coming year – the operative word in that sentence is “yet.”
North Dakotans remember all too well how previous oil booms have ended. This one probably won’t end that way, but the bust of the 1980’s is a tough lesson to forget.
There are environmental concerns as well of late. Multiple high-profile pipeline leaks made national headlines last month, turning up the volume on the steady drumbeat of environmental activists who are eager for any leverage they can grasp to slow down or stop oil production.
So amid all this negativity – ugly headlines about crime and spills and traffic beneath the ominous, looming specter of falling oil prices – how are the citizens of western North Dakota feeling about the direction of their state?
Well, pretty good as it turns out.
DFM Research, a widely-respecting polling firm, asked North Dakotans in January if they felt their state was headed in the right direction.
Statewide 74 percent of the respondents said they felt the state was on the right track. That’s remarkable, but more remarkable still is that the most upbeat portions of the state were the western cities and rural areas where 71 percent and 82 percent, respectively, see the state on the right track.
|Region||Right Direction||Wrong Track||Unsure|
|East City||74 %||12 %||9 %|
The area of North Dakota where the hammer blow of rapid industrial, commercial, and population growth has fallen the hardest, where frustration over the slow build-out of housing and infrastructure has garnered national headlines, is also the area that’s feeling the most upbeat about where the state is heading.
That may change if low oil prices persist, and the bloom comes off the economic rose, but for now the people of western North Dakota are feeling pretty good.