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Dickinson taxable sales grow 52 percent; Williston leads statewide growth that increased to more than $19B

BISMARCK -- The story of North Dakota's envious economy just keeps getting bigger with all of the state's largest cities contributing to eye-popping growth, including a year-to-year increase to $744 million in taxable sales and purchases in Dickinson.

The state's numbers increased 39 percent from 2010 to 2011 to more than $19 billion.

North Dakota had double-digit increases in recent years but "certainly nothing that rivals 40 percent," Tax Commissioner Cory Fong said Thursday.

"This is big," he said. "Almost 40 percent is record setting for the last several years for sure."

The 2011 annual report includes taxable sales and purchase statistics for the largest 200 cities in the state, of which 162 cities reported increases and 38 reported decreases compared to 2010.

The clear standout is Williston, which surpassed Fargo in total taxable sales and purchases in 2011 by $100 million, Fong said. Fargo's total was $2.4 billion compared to Williston's $2.5 billion. Williston had 88.5 percent growth from 2010 to 2011.

"That doesn't mean that Fargo is trailing," Fong said. "It's so strong for these western communities like Williston."

Dickinson saw 52 percent growth in 2011 taxable sales and purchases, while Jamestown had 16 percent. Ray, which is about 35 miles east of Williston, led the percentage growth of all cities with an increase of 635 percent over 2010.

The state's four largest cities, Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks and Minot, reported growth ranging from 8 percent in Grand Forks to 39.7 percent in Minot. Fargo saw 10 percent growth. These four cities reported taxable sales and purchases of $6.582 billion, an increase of $973 million over 2010.

Although the growth in Grand Forks and Fargo doesn't look as strong when compared to Minot, their growth is significant, Fong said.

"Those are very strong numbers for those communities," he said.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple said the reports are further proof that North Dakota's economy continues to grow and diversify.

"Confidence is strong throughout the state, including communities far from the oilfields," he said.

During October, November and December 2011, North Dakota's taxable sales and purchases were $6.16 billion, up $2.014 billion, or 48.6 percent, compared to the fourth quarter 2010.

People have money to spend since the economy is strong, Fong said. There was statewide growth in every industry sector but one in 2011, he said. The educational, health care and social services sector declined 5.4 percent.

Retail trade, the largest sector in terms of dollars, grew by 14.4 percent when comparing 2011 to 2010, or more than four times the rate of inflation.

"Consumer confidence is very strong," Fong said. "That's that sector of the economy that reflects discretionary income, and people feel good about things. They're spending money. They're shopping."

The Tax Department reports are "great news" and speak to the strength of the state, said Andy Peterson, president of the North Dakota Chamber of Commerce.

The state's tax, legal and regulatory environment creates a place where businesses can thrive, expand and diversify, Peterson said. The state is lucky to have the oil industry to contribute to the economy, but other industries are also doing well, he said.

"The state seems to have everything in a groove, and I think we should be very, very proud of that," he said.

Fourteen of 15 industries reported growth in 2011. Mining and oil extraction was up 98.4 percent; financial, insurance, real estate, rental and leasing was up 95.4 percent and transportation and warehousing was up 83.1 percent.

Wholesale trade was up 50 percent; construction was up 42.7 percent; manufacturing was up 39.7 percent; accommodation and food services were 15.5 percent and retail trade was up 14.4 percent.

Professional, scientific, technical and management services were up 5.3 percent; arts, entertainment, and recreation were up 5 percent; utilities was up 1.5 percent and information industries was up 1.4 percent.

The full reports are available on the Tax Department's website at