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Submitted Photo Oil executives speak before a crowd at the Rocky Mountain Energy and Infrastructure Summit, which ran Aug. 19-22 in Jackson Hole, Wyo. It will take place this year Aug. 21-23.

Energy’s next big event: Conferences highlight Bakken’s impact on an international scale

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JACKSON HOLE, Wyo. — Ward Koeser recently ended a 20-year run as mayor of Williston. Looking back, Koeser could see the evolution of the Bakken’s global appeal.

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He recalls, at first, when the national media arrived on the scene, it was something to note. However, when the international reporters began showing up, Koeser knew the Bakken was even more of special place than he could have ever imagined.

“After the year of national media, the world media began showing up — China, Japan, Germany, France, the Netherlands, Switzerland, you go right on down the line, Norway,” Koeser said.

The intrigue displayed by the international media proved to be enough evidence to Koeser that this oil play was indeed special. Koeser recalled a moment in time with a German reporter that became etched in his memory as an indicator of how important Williston was.

“I would sometimes ask them, ‘Why do you come to Williston?’” Koeser said. “The one I distinctly remember was a female reporter from Germany, and she said, ‘Because in Germany we look at what’s happening in Williston as how it impacts the U.S. economy.’ That really was an eye opener for me.”

Another difference in this generation’s oil play, according to Koeser, is the investment into real estate by oil companies.

“The thing that is really different now than in the ’80s is the large oil companies are investing in the communities,” Koeser said. “In the ’80s, during that boom, they rented properties. This time they are actually buying properties and making huge investments.”

Koeser added it isn’t uncommon for an oil company build a $30 million- to $50 million-dollar project in a community, whereas 20 years ago, that wasn’t the case. Koeser continued citing comparisons with the industry’s drive for blazing a new path of community spirit in the Bakken.

One thing that has become clear in the Bakken is it is not a boom, it is an industry. A boom offsets a bust, and according to the experts and oil companies, the Bakken is the furthest from a bust. In fact the phrase “it’s an industry” has been the theme as of late at several conferences, as is Harold Hamm’s famous quote: “It’s more like mining coal.”

“This oil play is an industry,” commercial real estate broker Michael Houge said. “The oil companies know where the oil is, how to extract it and have the mechanics in place. The oil and gas industry is a well-oiled machine and North Dakota is now a major part of that industry as a whole.”

Houge has become a regular contributor at conferences specializing in Bakken housing and community developments. He said this is an important trend to take note of, depending on where you are in your Bakken business cycle.

Important because the trade show game has changed. Conferences are now in industry mode, not start-up mode. The days of investors, CEOs and other real decision-makers at Bakken events are now rare and to reach them may require new mobility.

If you are like Brian Hymel and his partners with the Five Diamond Industrial Park, they are nearly complete with their first phase of Bakken adventures. At least geographical Bakken adventures.

“We saw all the investors, CEOs and other players early,” Hymel said. “A few years ago, it was more common to run into and spend time with venture capitalists or CEOs of major companies at an energy conference. Now, it is more industry reps and smaller start-ups. That’s great for a certain segment of the business world. But if you are looking for the big players, the next big event is in Jackson Hole.”

Hymel is referring to the Rocky Mountain Energy and Infrastructure Summit in Jackson Hole, Wyo., from Aug. 21-23. The event is an offshoot of the annual Rocky Mountain Economic Summit, which draws some of the top business and economic minds on the planet to Jackson Hole.

“The Energy Summit will be very similar to the Energy Summit in terms of exclusivity and prestige, but the core of the conference, like the Economic Summit, is the ability to spend time talking with real players in the industry,” Hymel said.

Hymel, one of the founders of both the Rocky Mountain Economic Summit and the upcoming energy summit, added the speakers at the Rocky Mountain Energy and Infrastructure Summit are “off the chart.” A few of the speakers scheduled to present:

- John W. Eaves, president and CEO of Arch Coal and a member of its board of directors. Arch Coal is a top-five global coal producer and marketer;

- Dave McCurdy, president and CEO of the American Gas Association;

- Wyoming Gov. Matt Mead;

- Gregg S. Kantor, president and CEO of Northwest Natural Gas Co.

One last thing in regards to the next big event in energy, and that is the limited number of attendees. Due to the intimate venue and setting, The Rocky Mountain Energy and Infrastructure conference only allows capacity for around 500 people. After you factor in speakers, employees and other event-related personnel, you are looking at about 350-ish. So there is almost a natural separation of wheat and chaff.

“This isn’t an event where you sit in a booth and give away pens and mugs with logos on them,” Hymel said. “Our events attract the world’s top brands because we attract industry leaders. This event will feature some of the top minds on the planet along with some of the wealthiest people in the industry. We focus on knowledge and the relationships that are built over good conversation and shared interest. For us it’s not about making money from a conference, it’s about constructive dialogue between the broad spectrum of energy related companies, policy makers and the public to help foster change for the betterment of U.S. energy independence and policy.”

Hymel said there has been much change in oil and gas technology over the past seven years and “there is still an astonishing amount of innovation and efficiencies yet to be had.” He added that one of the key goals for an event like this is to help bridge gaps and speed up innovation processes.

If the Rocky Mountain Energy Summit is anything like the Economic Summit, attendees will leave Jackson Hole with a new view on the global energy economy, which the Bakken happens to be playing a significant role in. You can learn more about the event by visiting www.rmenergysummit.com.

Spiess contributes story to The Drill, a publication of The Dickinson Press.

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