WATFORD CITY -- During another busy day in the Bakken on Thursday morning, Luke Taylor is on the phone at his desk.
Taylor is talking to someone about accounts receivable. He's busy this sunny July day at his company's complex in his hometown, but then, he's always busy.
"We just built our shop a little more than a year ago and it's already too small," Taylor said after completing his call. "We thought it would be too big when we were planning it."
Like many other companies taking advantage of the Bakken shale play, there may be no such thing as "too big" for the trucking company, LT Enterprises, that the 28-year-old built from the ground up.
Whether it's Bakken crude oil, water for hydraulic fracturing or any number of other goods or resources, things need to move in a booming energy play. Located in Watford City, known these days as "Little Williston," LT is smack in the epicenter of North Dakota's new black gold rush.
"It's exciting, but it's also frustrating," Taylor said. "In 2008, 2009, 2010, I tried to stay up on community activities and the city council and planning, but, really, nobody had a clue how big this thing was going to be. In the beginning, Watford City was a community starving for a spark, but what we got was too much too soon. I think the city is on top of things now, though."
Falling into it
Just a few short years into his company's existence, Taylor is sitting pretty, but his road to success wasn't always smooth.
After kicking around for a couple years at a small handful of colleges, Taylor decided higher education wasn't for him. He decided to come home to work for his father Kent Taylor's ag services business in Watford City and to pursue work as a contract pilot, but soon found an opening to go into business for himself.
"I came back during the summer of 2006 to fly and spray crops for my dad," Taylor said. "I really enjoyed aerial spraying and I ended up not going back to college and bought a house in town for $6,000 and spent that winter fixing it up.
Taylor soon got the idea to buy a couple of trucks, originally an idea designed to provide offseason work for Taylor Ag employees who would otherwise be enticed to go to work full time in the oil field.
"My dad thought I was crazy when I bought those two trucks," Taylor said. "But we had some drivers and we were busy. We started hauling water and then got hooked up with a company and started hauling crude oil. In 2008, we bought another truck and it's just grown and grown since."
Today, LT has more than 50 trucks in operation and hauls 20,000 barrels of crude oil per day, said Taylor. The company now employs nearly 100 people and, to accommodate the need, the LT shop is staffed around the clock.
"It's really blossomed," Taylor said. "We've increased our revenue by about 25 times from 2008 to today. You can't complain about the economy here. There is a lot of opportunity here."
Not your father's boom
Being from western North Dakota, Taylor knows the current boom isn't the first to hit his home state, something he is reminded of often by family members.
"I always kind of thought this would get really big, but I also had my dad and my uncle and my grandpa telling me to be careful; that this has happened before," Taylor said. "It is in the back of my mind that this could slow down drastically, but I'm from here and I've been in North Dakota my entire life. I think that gives me an advantage in a way."
Far from a Johnny-come-lately as a business owner, Taylor said he stresses to his drivers that they be courteous and respectful to farmers, ranchers, locals and anyone else on the roadways.
"I know all the landowners in the area being from here and working in the ag services business," Taylor said. "When they see an LT truck, people see me and most of them know my number. If somebody's doing something they're not supposed to, they call me. So far, we've had pretty good luck with the people we've hired and we encourage them to be a part of the community. We always want our people to be respectful."
With the unique rewards and challenges that being a business owner in the Bakken brings, Taylor said it's all been worth it.
"There are some great things happening in Watford City and there are some things that are frustrating," he said. "If a guy wanted to think about what's going on right now, he could get as upset and frustrated as he wanted to. But, if a guy looks forward to what we're going to eventually be as a community, he could see a lot of positives. It's a give and a take."