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Watford City barrels through downturn in oil economy

A dramatic drop in the price of oil has adversely impacted the economies of North Dakota and its oil patch cities and counties. But one area has weathered the storm better than most. Whether you take your measure from sales taxable revenue (up 11% year-over-year), construction permits or industry pundits, Watford City and McKenzie County have exceeded expectations.

Experts mostly point to three contributing factors: 1) The greatest number of rigs in the state are in McKenzie County. 2) They are the most efficient wells (as measured by break-even price per barrel). 3) Those well owners have been more committed to the reprocessing of natural gas as a byproduct of those wells. As a result, big-name oil and gas businesses have decided to relocate many maintenance and production positions from Williston and Dickinson to Watford City in order to be close to the action.


The determination and commitment of local business and civic leaders to the continued growth of this small northwest North Dakota city has been impressive. According to Gene Veeder, McKenzie County Economic Development Director: “We could’ve put all of our plans on hold once the price of oil tanked, but we’ve got ourselves some breathing room and we’re confident in the next ten years and that’s what we’re building for is, ten years out.”

Watford City is seeing continued progress,” stated Watford City Mayor Brent Sanford in the McKenzie County Farmer. “Our building permit level is actually higher than it’s ever been. A new high school, event center and medical facility are all under construction. A Watford City bypass and other infrastructure projects have been updated or added over the last few years to support new development and investment. Even University of Mary is considering placing a satellite campus here.”

But to remake Watford City in a mold that will attract singles and families in a more robust way requires the addition of a broad mix of essential businesses and services that contribute to the quality of life, says Drew Likness, Real Estate Broker: “The city needs quick- and full-service restaurants, coffee shops, movie theaters, dry cleaners, grocery stores, and day cares, to name a few. We’re looking to fill the gaps in the conveniences of modern life.”


Watford City Real Estate Group is well-positioned to take advantage of the city’s continued growth. With nearly 100 years of commercial and residential real estate experience throughout the staff, they know all the ins and outs and opportunities available to investors entering the Watford City market.

“When an investor expresses interest in an opportunity, Watford City Real Estate Group can guide him or her through the whole process,” says Shelly Buntin, Commercial Real Estate Consultant. “They have good relationships with city engineers, etc, under one roof. They want investors and developers to know that they can come here and have easy access to the people they need, from design and permits to hiring and taxation. Over the years, they’ve built up relationships with with these people who have become trusted friends and neighbors.”


Some of the high-profile land tracts available for investment and development through Watford City Real Estate include:

Stenehjem Commons, a high-profile commercial investment property at the epicenter of the Bakken Oil Play.

Fox Hills Village, located in the heart of Watford City.

Fox Hills Estates, premier master planned community

Johnson’s Landing, commercial, multi-family and residential development on Hwy 85 Bypass.

To discuss any of these opportunities and more, call Watford City Real Estate Group at 701-842-4500 or visit their website here.


  1. Exactly. The oil will be brought up again in massive amounts. May be another year or so… But the boom will be back!

    • In 1984 said same thing. Took till what 2005 to restart. U will be old and gray by next boom. Grew up there and was a billboard on side of the road in williston reading. Last one out turn off the lights. Been there done that

    • Probably true. I’m moving back to Minot come spring. But luckily I’m not looking for an oil dedicated type of job. Should be alright. Not as easy but not too worried. Once the market bounces back and oil prices go up they’ll start getting back at it.

  2. Buy stock now while it’s low haha

  3. I Liked New Town, ND much more than Watford City.

  4. Should have invested in solar and wind , continued the local boom instead of following the market which is primarily dictated by speculators and using costly wars to destabilize regions . Oil companies have never had more money , and could easily make the change from the dirty archaic to a new clean energy future that doesn’t compromise the planet . If you are a hammer , you just keep pounding nails . I’m sorry for everyone who depends on this dying industry, I would hope at some point this weeks’s bottom line would stop being the end all be all of human existence, and we would actually consider the future

    • Lol…take a look around you right now…and start listing off all the things you see that are NOT made, at least partly, from petrochemicals…

      It will be a very short list.

    • Have been ridding myself of many of these waste products over the years . Happy to see we can 3-D print out of several other non toxic materials . And if its plastic you want , there’s a Texas sized island of petroleum waste products floating at the pacific to be mined.
      I know that good people rely upon the industry , and I do feel for their needs, but it’s time ….. Not my opinion, but scientific fact 99% peer reviewed scientific fact . I grappled with it and felt guilty when I realized I was wrong and made several large changes over the years to cut my carbon footprint by 90+ percent . The fossil fuel industry just happens to be the low lying fruit , it compromises, our health, the planet’s health and ultimately forces us to play and fund the war game that is going on globally . Life is hard , and this is a hard reality to change , but it can be done , and has started . We can’t afford to drag our heels because a few gallons of petrol that can be sold and burned only to exacerbate the problem .

    • great idea, I’ve heard they are carbon neutral . But that’s not the point . I would be sad too if I knew what I was building would only be yet another cog in the machine that is dismantling the ecosystem . It’s ok to be wrong , and it’s ok to admit it . The industry is living in the aforementioned cave and you might have moved right in . It will collapse , I hope you are not in it . Peace to you .

    • Like a religion with these people.

    • It’s so much easier to dismiss the truth than to have to deal with it . Well played Jason , well played .

    • Finally someone with sense. It’s time to focus on wind and solar power that are available in abundance. Oil is of the past.

    • Lol….the device you are talking your trash on can’t be built without oil!

    • Your a str8 dumb a**..I hope your not driving a car and living in a fu**ing house

    • Think of what a gallon of gas can do for you. A massive amount of stored solar energy. Thank god we had it in NJ after Sandy. Cleared trees, moved sand, made electricity to get our heat and lights on etc etc.

    • The TRUTH is we USED to rely on the wind & solar & water…THOSE are the things of the PAST.

    • i think the technology has improved since then and we would be a lot further along if large oil companies would stop buying new competitive technologies only to scuttle them .gasolline is amazing and I do appreciate its potential , however it’s cost far outweighs the benefits . 6 trillion dollar wars , catastrophic climate change , degradation of trillions of gallons of water in our aquifers , earth quakes from fraquing ….. Bring me a gallon of gas that doesn’t do that , I’m sold . The hard working people in the fossil fuel industry could use their money and skill to create a viable sustainable power source for the future , if they would only shift their gaze from today’s profit to tomorrow’s potential windfall ( no pun intended ). We can do much better and must .

    • War over oil is BS. We don’t need imported oil, we have plenty here. The liberal agenda is the reason for these wars. Climate change is a hoax, we are the only country that is suffering because once again….liberal agenda to control the people. I bet Hitler would have loved “climate change”. One more way he could have brain washed people!

    • 70’s it was global cooling then warming now climate change. Rather have a warm planet than a cold one. Ask the dinosaurs.

    • Wind power destroys economies. Except for the manufacturers and politicians that are in bed together. Take a look around. This could never, ever happen from wind or solar.

    • Carbon dioxide is air and plant food. Man made global warming is a myth and a religion to control people and funnel money to tyrants.

    • Welcome to the anthropocene. The media outlet you take as gospel and the consensus of the misinformed that surround you have distorted your reality . There’s no agenda here to speak of , only an imperative to save the planet , you can ignore the science , but it won’t ignore you . Try reading from 70-80 different news sources and see how many jibe with your own beliefs . You might find that fact and opinion have different constructs .

    • Tree hugging hippy liberal go and move out of this country and take the rest of your hippy buddies with you

    • Thank you for recognizing someone who cherishes nature , is compassionate and can welcome new and rational thought . I don’t want to leave , it’s still nice here , and after 3 or 4 generations of progressive legislation and education we might be rid of such intolerance ignorance and miopic thinking . For now I’ll be all Christ like and forgive and accept you . Peace !

    • The reason why energy companies do not invest in solar and wind. Is bc they all lose money

    • It’s a fact the earth warms itself up but do we add to it. Probably so. But if we’re the only country that does anything then it doesn’t matter. China will do nothing and if other countries do much it’s bc we give them subsidies to help them. I’m all for the environment but not at which point it kills business. Look at the coal industry

    • We led the way into this , I think we can lead the way out .

    • A huge new energy infrastructure could be built world wide and it could be an international partnership . One half of the earth is cold and dark , while the other half is drenched in sun . It’s hard to make changes instantly , it’s taken me ten years to green up, and I still have far to go to be carbon neutral . The cost of doing this is a drop in the bucket compared to what it will cost to deal with allowing climate change to expand exponentially beyond our control .

  5. The greed continues. The boom is over. Sad that the people are going to have to clean up and pay for the mess these idiot “leaders”approve. Should pass a law that makes the people who keep approving all these cheap built places have to pay out of own pocket.

  6. I’m sure it’s not the Watford city I remember.

  7. Watford is a sh** hole, for real

  8. So many shi**y builders there.

  9. Yep, the boom will be back! Just like when it busted in ’80! Everyone should invest heavily! Oh, wait, it took 20 years for that one to come back. Don’t worry, be happy!

  10. Wishing the best for everyone, but the town already has a movie theater, a coffee shop that I’ve never seen anyone in, 2 grocery stores (which is enough) and it could never support a dry cleaner, contrary to the realtor’s comments. What it needs is a shopko, duckwalls, target. something along those lines. That’s not small business though.

  11. I was one of the first people to break ground on this job hope to be out by Thanksgiving nice schoo5

  12. And the rent is still barreling through also…….. Jack nuts

  13. Can u folks say BANK RUPCIY lol that town has no way to pay for its projects only bonded to make a few payments then they will run out of money and blame every one else but the greedy town council lol what a joke

  14. Ghost town!!!! Old story. Back to empty streets. No crackheads too.

  15. The North Dakota people need to see some real benefits from this oil boom before they come back. So far since the boom I can’t afford groceries I can’t afford a house and North Dakota residents have to lock there doors and buy guns to protect us from the oil boom. So I say screw Watford, show me the money and safety for my fellow North Dakota people. We just got raped by the oil companies.

  16. Seriously economists have predicted 10 to 20 dollars a barrel in the next couple years. A trillion dollars in debt comes due early next year. If prices stay low how many small companies will default. Only the corporation will survive. Oil Will come back but not for decades.

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