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Population Growth and Watford City

North Dakota’s population continues to grow.

According to new figures from the

U-S Census Bureau, about 18-thousand people migrated into the state last year, the largest gain in the past three years.

A state Commerce Department official says the influx of 18-thousand people is even more dramatic when compared with what was happening a decade ago when the state was losing thousands of people each year.

The most recent Census estimate puts the state’s population at a record 723,393 as of last year.

The population of Watford City is projected to nearly triple in the next 15 years.

And the town at the front door to North Dakota’s badlands is exploding with housing and business growth to deal with the influx.

Jim Olson reports on the local Chamber of Commerce effort to engage the business community in the political aspect of the oil boom.

It’s not hard to see the growth in Watford City. Right on the town’s south edge – a huge new shopping complex has arisen in a formerly empty field.

(Darik Franzen, Watford City Area Chamber of Commerce) “We here in Watford City and the McKenzie County area believe that we are now the new epicenter of the Bakken”

The president of the Watford City Area Chamber of Commerce doesn’t have to look far to back up that contention. The membership of his group has more than doubled in the past year.

(Darik Franzen, Watford City Area Chamber of Commerce) “In 2012 our membership was 95, and I think now at the end of 2013 we’re up to 195 members and we don’t see that ending any time soon.”

Darick Franzen says the business and population growth has transformed the chamber itself.

(Darik Franzen, Watford City Area Chamber of Commerce) “Historically our chamber, because of it being a farm community, was the social organizing group but clearly now with the demands of the Bakken oil field and the needs of our members we need to become more of a professional development type chamber.”

That means educational opportunities for businesses in the region will be more numerous. And at this year’s annual meeting, the Watford City Chamber brought in an economic consultant to encourage and educate business owners old and new.

(Mark Haggerty, Headwaters Economics) “They need to recognize what is happening in the legislature and start to get involved and get active and support what the local governments are trying to accomplish.”

Mark Haggerty says the Bakken boom creates growth and opportunity – while cultivating problems too.

(Mark Haggerty, Headwaters Economics) “The way you manage the fiscal revenues around oil – how much comes back to communities, what they can spend it for, how much predictability they have actually has a lot to do with long term outcomes – are you going to be a better place to live after the boom is over or are you going to be left wishing you had done it a bit differently.”

He says the state must make sure it’s getting revenue generated in the oil industry back to the communities and counties where the exploration is happening.

(Mark Haggerty, Headwaters Economics) “North Dakota at the state level has done a good job saving some of the revenue but as of right now we don’t know how that revenue is going to be spent. The counties and cities don’t have any guarantee that they’re going to get anything other than annual revenues so there’s a lot of unpredictability and uncertainty too.”

Both men say businesses and citizens alike need to talk with their lawmakers to make sure their concerns are addressed when the next session of the state legislature convenes in one year. In Watford City, Jim Olson, KX News.

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