Doug Burgum’s commitment to community is moving statewide. The Fargo-based entrepreneur and philanthropist is running for North Dakota governor and promises to create an environment that’s welcoming to business.
One area he will focus on is the energy industry.
“Growing up, I was told we were going to run out of oil,” Burgum said. “There was an oil crisis shortly after I graduated high school. People were lined up at gas stations.”
Times have changed.
Today, the world is awash with oil, partly because of the technology advances here in the Bakken.
Innovative drilling technology helped energy companies unlock North Dakota oil reserves that were previously inaccessible. Energy companies flocked to North Dakota, and workers from all over the world sought lucrative jobs in the Bakken oilfield.
Business was good.
Oil prices rose until late 2014. Since then, the price of a barrel of oil has dropped significantly, and energy companies have started to cut back. The North Dakota economy relies heavily on the oil industry, and the state now faces a budget crisis.
Burgum, a proven business leader, is confident he can bring North Dakota back to prosperity.
After careful consideration, Burgum chose Watford mayor Brent Sanford to be his running mate. Sanford was elected mayor in 2010 and oversaw the astonishing growth of the city during the Bakken oil boom. During his time in office, the city’s population rose from 1,500 to 12,000.
Sanford helped the community develop new schools, infrastructure, service worker housing, law enforcement and healthcare facilities. The father of three previously worked at Eide Bailly before serving as CFO as Transwest Trucks in Denver. Sanford returned to Watford City in 2004 to take over his family’s car dealership.
“When I started this journey, I specifically wanted to make sure I got somebody that really understood the industry and understood the impacts,” Burgum said. “I wanted someone who understood the whole aspect of local government. In the end, we can create all the great jobs we want, but if we don’t have great cities to live in, then when we have a downturn like this, everybody packs up and leaves.”
So far, North Dakota hasn’t had any representation from the oil-producing western part of the state in the governor or lieutenant governor’s office. Sanford would change that.
One goal Burgum has is to create a balance between landowners and businesses. He believes it’s important to take care of the people in North Dakota while also creating an environment that attracts capital and jobs.
In recent years, energy companies have developed best practices. If allowed to cultivate new technology and innovate, both the business and the people of North Dakota benefit. Companies exploring for oil and natural gas have been able to minimize their footprint while maximizing their output.
“Look at where we are today versus where we were in the ’70s,” Burgum said. “We’re producing more energy, and our air is cleaner. We’ve made great progress on both fronts.”
Reducing regulation would be another step in the right direction, according to Burgum.
Burgum said he’s talked to many North Dakota farmers, and they’re not anti-energy. They simply want to keep farming.
“The soil is their asset,” Burgum said. “They want to make sure their asset is not impaired when the process is done.”
If an oil spill does occur, energy companies have to report to multiple state agencies, depending on the nature of the spill. None of the databases are integrated, and it becomes a burden on companies to comply.
Burgum understands that capital moves to the place that gives it the highest return. If North Dakota puts up too many barriers, business may move elsewhere, something he hopes to prevent.
“We have to be very cognizant of the cost structure of not just the Bakken, but also alternative places that companies could be investing,” Burgum said.