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A man stands on a skateboard outside a Wal-Mart store in Williston, North Dakota March 13, 2013. REUTERS/Shannon Stapleton via NewsCred

Discussing small business and economics in the Bakken

This week academics converged on Dickinson State University’s Strom Center to discuss the local perceptions of the energy boom and the economic impact it’s had on the region in recent years.

The Bakken Researchers Convening illustrated some of the most prominent economic issues the shale revolution has brought to the region, including the stress placed on existing infrastructure, government and social services as well as local income and wealth. As reported by The Dickinson Press, Rob Grunewald, event host and economist for the Federal Reserve Bank of Minneapolis, said, “Part of this is because this is a unique economic phenomenon to have so much growth so quickly.”

Throughout the region, researchers from various colleges and universities have been studying the economic and community impacts the Bakken energy boom has had on North Dakota and Montana. Many of the researchers, though, remain unaware of the other completed, ongoing and planned projects. The two-day conference aimed to close the gaps between research topics and help connect researchers in order to share information, develop future strategies, and discuss possible collaborations and funding resources.

As reported by the Dickinson Press, Mayor Dennis Johnson welcomed the attendees and spoke about how the city has changed along with the economic landscape. He said, “The Bakken is a world-class oil development” and one of the only oilfields on the planet that produces 1 million barrels of oil per day, adding that the impact the oil boom has had on North Dakota communities was “of epic proportions.”

A week prior, also at Dickinson State’s Strom Center, the Small Business Development Center of North Dakota held a workshop that offered insight on the role of small businesses and their relationship with the energy sector. Dan Brockett, an educator from Penn State University who specializes in the shale energy industry, noted how unique the boom has been to the continent. Kicking off the workshop, he said, “We have shale plays all over the world, but none of them have really taken off, except in North America.” The surge of activity, he noted, is mostly due to private mineral ownership and entrepreneurial fortitude, reports Prairie Business Magazine.

The sustained growth of both the communities and the industry, however, is dependent on cooperation between the energy sectors and the communities in which they operate, Brockett stressed. He said, “If we don’t have the permission of our communities that we’re doing business in to do that business, it’ll go away.” And it has, he continued, referring to areas such as New York and Maryland where communities have banned fracking, reports Prairie Business.

Brockett also advised anyone interested in entering the industry, even ancillary service providers, to be aware of and keep track of the rapid changes that occur within the industry. The workshop featured a panel of local business leaders and advisors that addressed what it takes to start and sustain a small business in the shale energy industry. Brockett commented on how the industry is loyal and that someone who can “do the job and keep on doing the job” will remain in business. But because of how quickly the industry can change, business leaders concurred that to be successful, a company needs the ability to adapt and the courage to try new things.

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