Investors see ND oozing with opportunity
MINOT -- Investment planner Sanjoy Dasgupta is betting on the Bakken.
For nearly a year, the Denver-area man and his wife have been investing their clients' money -- and their own money -- in oil companies that operate in the Bakken region.
They're in Minot this week to see North Dakota for the first time and learn about other investment opportunities through the Bakken Investors Conference.
"North Dakota could change our country," said Dasgupta, who owns the investment planning firm Dasgupta & Perron with his wife, Susan Perron.
More than 250 investors from about 30 states were at the conference, many echoing Dasgupta's enthusiasm about the business potential in North Dakota.
Builder and real estate broker Alan Stephens couldn't believe how different North Dakota is compared to the stagnant economy in his home state of Michigan. The first thing that struck him when arriving in Minot was the help wanted signs on local businesses.
"This is like going to Mars," Stephens said. "This is just a totally different planet."
Stephens began exploring opportunities in North Dakota in January, and is interested in pursuing residential and commercial development.
"I'm coming out here to get back in the game," Stephens said.
Kathy Neset, geologist and owner of Neset Consulting in Tioga, began Tuesday's session by addressing the question on every investor's mind: How long is this oil boom going to last?
"My answer is for the long haul," said Neset, who has been working in North Dakota since 1979 and is expanding her business.
Neset estimates it will take 25 to 30 years to complete the drilling for the oil that is recoverable from the Bakken shale using current technology. The oil activity could continue longer with technology advancements, she said.
"As we get better at this, we're going to get more of that oil," Neset said.
Brad Owen, lieutenant governor for the state of Washington, spoke about the effects of the Bakken beyond North Dakota. Owen said there are business opportunities in North Dakota for all states if investors do some research.
"Perhaps my next trade mission should be to North Dakota rather than to China," Owen said.
Jeff Romney and his company American Landmark Group of Salt Lake City are opening an office in North Dakota to work on housing development and other projects.
Romney, who said he is a cousin of presidential candidate Mitt Romney, said his company expects to have a 20- to 30-year relationship with North Dakota.
"North Dakota is the one bright spot in the whole United States," Romney said.
Investors, who paid an $850 registration fee to attend the three-day conference, are trading business cards and making connections. The conference concludes today.
Business partners Mike Watland and Andy Black of Reno, Nev., recently formed the BaKKen Investment Group. Watland is a North Dakota native who has family in the Stanley area.
The entrepreneurs, who plan to move to North Dakota and bring their families, are researching possible motel projects and becoming involved with petro hauling. But they're at the conference to do their homework first.
"We're here to make sure we're doing the right thing and we're doing it with the right people in the right places," Black said.
Dalrymple is a reporter stationed in the Oil Patch for Forum Communications Co.