How much new housing will Williston need in the next few years? None? Some? A lot? Photo by James Ulvog.
A recurring human foible I see is making an assumption that the immediate past trends will continue in a straight line forever.
In the context of crude oil in general and western North Dakota in particular, the question is whether the slump of the last year will continue for an indefinite period of time (measured in years or even decades) or will there be surges in production at various points?
City officials in Williston give every indication of thinking that the boom is over and will never return. Seems like they are preparing for life in the city and surrounding area to have current level of employment plus only slow growth for decades.
I think that reasoning is why there is opposition from public officials to expanding the airport. Why spend any money on a new airport when you don’t need the extra capacity this afternoon and for the rest of the week? There is no reason to go through all the effort of tearing up farmland when the current airport is sufficient for traffic this month. There are open seats on flight to Minneapolis. Why, I’ll bet the airlines could even add a flight or two if they actually get more customers.
Why not chase all the crew camp facilities out of town? They are not needed. There is enough capacity in apartments and hotels to absorb the number of people who are in crew camps this month, so what purpose is there for ever again having any crew camp capacity in the city? Just force the temporary workers who don’t know how long they will be in the area to sign a one-year lease and everything will be fine. In the alternative, they can just stay in hotel that will only cost $3,000 or $3,500 or more per month. Problem solved.
If you assume that oil prices will stay where they are today for the next several decades and if you assume the number of rigs in North Dakota will stay in the range of 20 or 30 or 40 for a decade or two then you should plan for a city with population at about the current level.
If you assume the trends of the last 12 months will continue for decades, then there is no need for new facilities.
What size is Williston going to be?
On the other hand….