Both with business backgrounds, Laura and her husband, Kendall McRae, also spotted another Bakken trait: A lack of communication between many of the different interests involved with the play.
In the fast paced world of a large-scale energy boom, Laura said, opportunities for connections between businesses — essentially connections between people — were being missed.
“Just as one example, there was a major oil field player in the Bakken that had a hydraulic part go down and ended up throwing an employee in a truck and sending them to Denver,” Laura said. “There were five companies in Billings, Mont., that not only had that part, but would’ve put it on a jet and had it to the work site in an hour. That one part being down ended up costing that company almost $2 million.”
Taking an idea and running with it, the McRaes started a blog to list businesses with interests in the Williston Basin. What started as an idea for a relationship-building tool soon grew into a full-time gig for Laura and Kendall after they incorporated “Synergy Station” in 2011.
Today, the “web portal” — which is what Laura calls her site — has listings for several hundred businesses and is, Laura said, a good resource for finding Bakken jobs. With four full-time employees and another who works part-time, the McRaes’ project is moving full steam ahead.
“We have a lot that’s going to happen with Synergy Station,” Laura said. “The next step is we’re having about half-a-million dollars of IT coding to take it to the next level. We want to get deeper into the trenches. We’re not just a business directory or a hiring hall. We want to be a niche social media ecosystem — that’s our goal.”
In online marketing lingo, a “social media ecosystem” is defined as a “community for the brand and customer,” according to WebChanakya, a digital marketing and corporate training company. Naturally then, the Bakken is essentially Synergy Station’s brand and its customers are the many companies doing business in the vast energy play.
“We’re not going to be a Twitter or a Facebook,” Laura said. “That’s not our niche. We’re very specific within a very selective audience to provide connection opportunities. Our partners can participate on our site for low cost or no cost. Our ultimate goal is not to create a product, but to create a solution to a problem. We’ve always said that this was going to go wherever the community takes it, as long as that fits in with our strategic intent.”
A mammoth website, Synergy pulls information from many different Bakken-related content producers, essentially contracting everything from regional news stories and FoxNews videos to community resources, statistics and, of course, business-to-business networking opportunities and job postings from sites like LinkedIn and Simply Hired.
Generally pro-oil industry, the site is built to thrive on long-term bustling economic activity in the Bakken, something Laura said is likely to continue well into the future, pointing to the success of Bakken mainstay Continental Resources and wealthy oilman Harold Hamm, its CEO.
“The Bakken might be booming, but it’s not a boom,” she said. “This is 100 years if we don’t screw it up. There’s so many people out there who have pioneered — much like people pioneered Montana and North Dakota — like Harold Hamm. How many holes did he drill before he hit (oil)? Hats off to him. If you make this country energy sufficient, that’s pretty good. It’s going to ebb and flow, but we’re going to be on fossil fuels for a very long time in this country.”