An entrepreneur’s playground

Bakken oil boom creating much opportunity for many business professionals

By Jillian Mitchell 12-1

The vast array of business and trade opportunities associated with the Bakken boom has many entrepreneurs all a-twitter, including executive director Tom Rolfstad of Williston Economic Development.

“It’s a story that everyone is interested in hearing more about,” says Rolfstad of the oil and gas surge. “This is an entrepreneur’s playground and if you have a business or investment interest, you need to be here.”

Recently, the Williston executive director has played an integral role in spreading the good news. This past June, the Montana World Trade Center (WTCA Montana) and the Williston Economic Group partnered to launch a one-day seminar entitled “Tapping Opportunity in the Bakken,” a how-to information session designed to help companies launch successful business efforts in the Bakken region (an area covering Montana, North Dakota, southeast Saskatchewan and southwest Manitoba).

12-2The informational seminar, which includes Rolfstad’s live-streamed presentation, “Live from the Field,” offers much on-the-ground insight to prospective Bakkeneers. The facts alone are enough to make any business owner head to the scene, as Rolfstad insists. Case in point, the Bakken and the associated Three Forks formation covers 14,700 square miles, making it the largest continuous crude oil accumulation in the U.S.; the region currently produces over 715,000 barrels of oil per day (more than Ecuador); daily Bakken oil production has doubled over the last two years from 350,000 barrels to over 715,000 barrels; and, the total oil contained in the Bakken is estimated by some at 24 billion barrels.

“The biggest thing is that there’s great opportunity [in the Bakken and Williston region], but it’s going to take some effort to get into this market. It’s going to take some time,” adds Rolfstad. “There’s the challenge—you have to be willing to roll up your sleeves.”

In concurrence is seminar host and WTCA Montana executive director Arnold Sherman, who declares that the vast area is in need of much attention. Over the next 10 years, there will be a need for 110,000-plus workers—and that’s not including workers required for the Three Forks development situated directly under the Bakken formation.

“If you’re not really close to it, you might not realize the magnitude of it. It’s essentially the largest oil reserve in the world now; it’s the size of the U.K. and France combined—I mean, it’s massive!” Sherman boasts. “A lot of people were curious about the big picture and what the opportunity is and more specifically what kinds of products and services the market requires.”

As Sherman continues, employment opportunities are many—in fact, there are 10 job openings for every one worker in the region. Accordingly, the Williston and Bakken regions have the lowest unemployment rates in the U.S., at 3.3 percent (not to mention the starting wage on the oilfield is $30 per hour). Furthermore, over the lifetime of each well, combined salaries will total $2 million.

North Dakota’s economy continues to grow and diversify, supporting new jobs and business opportunities throughout the state, says Jack Dalrymple, Governor of North Dakota.

The reporters for the Bakken Oil Report attended the Tapping Opportunity in the Bakken information session held in Winnipeg, Manitoba this June.

The reporters for the Bakken Oil Report attended the Tapping Opportunity in the Bakken information session held in Winnipeg, Manitoba this June.

Among the WTCA’s global network is WTC Winnipeg, which hosted the seminar this past June in their home city. WTC Winnipeg project manager Derek Earl worked with WTC Montana in order to bring the seminar to the 344 hopeful attendees.

“The presentation made a really strong case for companies that want to service the Bakken to have a presence down there,” Earl states. “It outlined specific challenges and bottlenecks facing the region that translate into business opportunities for Manitoban companies. Indeed, there’s a lot of interest in the area, as reflected in the number of participants at the seminar.”

To date, the seminar has been held in many American cities, including Salt Lake City, Missoula, and Butte, to name a few. Of course, America’s neighbors to the south and north have also taken interest; the seminar has already been presented in Rapid City, South Dakota and Winnipeg, Manitoba. Future prospective seminars include many more Canadian and American cities, as well as London, England, in the fall.

Geographically, Winnipeg is 18 miles further away from Williston than Billings—a fact easily overlooked because of the U.S.-Canadian border. As Earl explains, Winnipeg has the potential to be a major player in the boom and WTC Winnipeg has, as a result, entered into a partnership with WTC Montana for follow-up sessions.

Former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer also presented to the more than 300 people who attended the symposium in Winnipeg. “Over the next 10 years, the Bakken area is going to need 110,000 more workers,” Schweitzer stated.

Former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer also presented to the more than 300 people who attended the symposium in Winnipeg. "Over the next 10 years, the Bakken area is going to need 110,000 more workers," Schweitzer stated.

Former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer also presented to the more than 300 people who attended the symposium in Winnipeg. “Over the next 10 years, the Bakken area is going to need 110,000 more workers,” Schweitzer stated.

As Sherman suggests, “There’s room for everyone in the Bakken.” It is the hope of WTC Montana and the Williston Economic Group that the seminar will bring some much-needed clarity to the Bakken boom for many hopeful entrepreneurs. And so far, it has.

“What we wanted to see happen, happened,” insists Sherman. “[The seminar] was to provide a better understanding of the opportunities and challenges in the region, to see whether company offerings made sense in the Bakken, and thirdly to see if there was a reasonable amount of investment interest, which there is.”

“Our strong business climate, North Dakota’s skilled and dedicated workforce and the innovation created by the state’s small businesses continue to power our economic growth,” says North Dakota Governor Jack Dalrymple. “Moving forward, we will continue to support economic growth through low taxes, a sensible and effective regulatory environment and a state government that is responsive to the needs of business and job development.”

Former Montana governor Brian Schweitzer spoke to more than 300 people in Winnipeg, stating that, “Over the next 10 years the area is going to need 110,000 more workers—but there is nowhere to put them.”

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