Real Stories From The Bakken

The North Dakota Petroleum Council Oil Can! Program launched a series of testimonials that feature real people telling their real stories. The stories are based on real people impacted by the Bakken and can be seen on television.
By Tessa Sandstrom | August 12, 2014

I have a confession to make.

I’m a pessimist. The glass is half empty, and that is simply the way it is for me. But, when it comes to oil development, I am optimistic. I am optimistic because at one time, I watched my state beg people to come here and its leaders consider legislation that would more or less pay people to stay through various incentives.

Today, however, it is very much the opposite, thanks to a growing energy sector. North Dakota is an economic powerhouse that has a tremendous business environment for entrepreneurs looking to start their own businesses and great-paying careers for people in just about any field. North Dakota has gone from a state in decline to a state of growth and revival.

Yes, there are growing pains, and we are all aware of the impacts. Humans, by nature, seek improvement and when we see construction zones or traffic lines, we think we can do better. But sometimes that improvement requires getting a little bit dirty first. For example, many of us have probably been in a position where we have remodeled a house, apartment, yard or maybe a business. Those improvement projects usually create a lot of dust and require a lot of equipment, but in the end, that home, apartment, yard or business is better for it. Rebuilding our state is no different.

Yet, it is sometimes easy to get lost in that construction phase and lose sight of our end goals. We may become fatigued and begin to look at the glass half empty, and it’s for this reason the Oil Can! Program launched a series of testimonials that feature real people telling their real stories.

Those testimonials came from people like Tim Adair, who had to leave the state to find a job in his field, but was able to return as more and more job opportunities opened up at home. Today, Tim is living in Bismarck and working for an engineering design firm. He is able to do the things he loves in his free time – hunting and fishing – with the people he loves like his nephews who were able to be with him when he was telling his story.

Also featured are stories from three business owners who have seen their businesses grow along with the oil activity. Their stories come as no surprise. North Dakota has continually ranked as one of the best states for businesses and was recently ranked second in the nation for business survival rates.

This positive business climate has allowed people like Aaron and Angie Pelton to pursue their dream of operating their own restaurant. They moved back to Aaron’s hometown of Watford City and opened Outlaws Bar & Grill, which serves up hand-cut steaks and is always busy. The restaurant has been so successful, they’ve been able to open up another location in Williston, ND.

Another entrepreneur from Watford City is Luke Taylor. The 29-year old started his trucking business in 2008. Luke started with just two trucks, but the company quickly grew. Luke has seen his hometown benefit from development as new families move to the area and also recognizes the role his little town plays in providing a resource that is helping our nation improve its energy security.

Like Luke, former Mayor Ward Koeser of Williston has seen the tremendous opportunity that oil development has brought to his community. Ward served as mayor for 20 years, spending much of that time working to attract businesses to the community. Growth was slow. At the end of his term, however, his challenges were much different. Rather than trying to attract businesses to come to Williston, he was working to accommodate the growth as businesses and workers streamed into the community. The town instead had to deal with challenges of growth as housing and infrastructure struggled to keep up. Like many community leaders who struggled with decline, Ward saw these as good challenges to have and kept his eyes on the future, knowing this growth would help make Williston an even greater community and a “Land of Opportunity” for many years to come.

These are just a few of the perspectives that have been highlighted by Oil Can! and we have plans to share even more in the future. Likely, we have all heard these stories and different variations of them, but they all serve as a reminder that, yes, in North Dakota the glass is full and overflowing with opportunity for those willing to embrace it.

This isn’t meant to diminish or neglect the challenges communities in western North Dakota face, but as North Dakotans, we have always faced challenges. The difference is we now also have opportunities to complement our agriculture industry and create a stronger, more diversified economy for all of North Dakota.


Author: Tessa Sandstrom
Communications Manager,
North Dakota Petroleum Council

Published in The Bakken magazine - August 2014