Let’s begin 2012 by recognizing that those who work in the oil field are making a tremendous contribution to the wealth and prosperity of North Dakota. We shouldn’t be building wedges. We should be thanking them and building infrastructure, social and cultural services to accommodate them rather than figuring out ways to shun them and run them out of town.
Over a century ago North Dakota witnessed an influx of pioneers dedicated to taming the soil of the Great Plains to feed a hungry nation and the world. Today young,energetic, adventurous seeking oil field workers are coming to North Dakota as a new generation of pioneers committed to taming the shale far below the top soil of this bountiful land of ours. They are coming by the hundreds and thousands and we can be proud of their commitment and dedication to help unleash the riches of the earth to be shared by North Dakotans and our Nation. They have already unleashed 500,000 barrels a day. North Dakota is now the fourth largest oil producing state in the nation and on its way to being number 3. With 200 rigs operating the growth is breath taking. They are 21st century pioneers.
Oil field workers, the companies they work for, and the investors behind them see opportunity to build a future and as North Dakotans we need to step up and be partners fully committed to making sure the oil field workers have access to all the necessary infrastructure, health, social, recreational and cultural services necessary to enjoy our “quality of place” while they are here in North Dakota. Who knows they may stay and find other opportunities after the boom and North Dakota can once again see a stable and growing population. Of course, that would require North Dakota leaders looking beyond oil development and creating new diversified economic opportunities while we enjoy the riches of the current oil development play. Oh yes, it will require taking some risks, but remember the state coffers are bulging at the seams. We can afford to make critical and timely investments. That is of course if they are smart and strategic investments. We will have to wait and see if those strategies develop in the coming years.
Frankly, the oil workers are the lynchpin creating opportunity beyond oil development. Each barrel of oil that comes up and puts money in the state coffers creates an opportunity to diversify our economy. It will be interesting to see if our state leaders are up to the challenge. As in the early days of pioneering this too will be an experience of good, difficult and yes some bad choices. We need to make those choices as we seek the advantages this new development brings to our State.
With the beginning of a new year we need to be more creative and responsive to our 21st century pioneers. It begins one person at a time. Here are some things we can do:
1. When you meet an oil field worker (or his or her family members) on the street or in the store thank them for the job they are doing.
2. Talk to your community leaders about having an appreciation event for them in the summer or during our long winter months. Many communities are starting to do this.
3. Talk with your local and state leaders about adopting “proactive” public policies that address community impact issues rather than only looking at “reactive” or “restrictive” policies.
4. Ask our religious community to get involved.
What other ideas do you have to share? Let’s hear them and then let’s share them. It’s all about community engagement and individual responsibility. We each need to do our part. I’m looking forward to hearing your thoughts and ideas. Feel free to use the comments section below or go to facebook.com/bobvaleu