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Letter: ‘Locals’ or not, there are many honest, hard-working people here

I am writing in response to the recent survey asking community members if we are better off than we were five years ago. I completed the survey and my answer was, and still is, a resounding yes. But I am disturbed by some of the comments other survey takers made as published by The Dickinson Press.

I am a lifelong resident of western North Dakota. My North Dakota-born parents moved there when Mercer County was booming in the early 1980s, thanks to the energy industry. I know first-hand the prejudices that can be experienced as an outsider looking for honest work and opportunity in a tight-knit community. I remember, growing up, hearing that my family and I weren’t “locals” as if that somehow made us less important to the community. My brother, who has lived and worked in Beulah his whole life, still encounters this prejudice today.

It frustrates me when I hear “locals” from this area of the state express disgust with the “outsiders” moving here. Ten years ago, North Dakota was a state in decline. Young people were leaving the state in droves because we couldn’t find jobs here. Five years ago, I completed my college education in Fargo and needed to find a decent-paying job. I was worried that I would have to move to Minneapolis or Denver to find one. Eastern North Dakota didn’t have much to offer me. Every job I interviewed for in this state was in western North Dakota. (Incidentally, I don’t work for the energy industry.) Thanks to the oil boom, I was able to stay in North Dakota rather than be forced to leave to find work. Thanks to the oil boom, many good, honest, hard-working people have come here wanting to work.

The cost of living here is high. But for many of us, it is the price we must pay in order to make a living. Are there a few “bad apples” moving here? Maybe, but let’s not forget that North Dakota had drug- and alcohol-related problems along with our own barrel of “bad apples” long before the oil boom. For countless families and individuals, western North Dakota has become the land of honest opportunity. Let me be the first to welcome all of these hard-working people here.

Jessica Staloch,