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Stark County economy showing steady growth

The economy of Stark County and it’s county seat, Dickinson, has grown measurably over the past year. The number of employed individuals is up, its already low unemployment number is even lower and taxable sales have increased.

The Stark Development Corp. released the October 2013 Dickinson and Stark County economy at a glance earlier this week, and in each metric — whether it’s jobs, real estate or airport boarding, Dickinson and Stark County grew over last year.

“Dickinson is a community that has been recognized as impacted but not so heavily impacted that it’s had to change a lot of people’s lifestyles or anything like that,” said Gaylon Baker, executive director of the Stark Development Corp. “I think we’re still a very desirable place to live and that is what’s driving these numbers.”

In September 2012, there were 19,978 people employed in Stark County. That number grew by 1,581 people in September of this year, according to the report. Taxable sales grew 5 percent, airport boardings more than doubled — helped by the addition of jet service by two new airlines — and the average price of a single-family home jumped $25,000 in that year.

“The fact of the matter is we’re seeing a lot more young people … and we know that a lot of them are in western North Dakota,” Baker said. “We are seeing young families moving back. We’re seeing people that left North Dakota 10, 12, 15 years ago coming back with their families.”

Over the past year, job growth has been steady, said Mary Urlacher, customer service office manager for the Dickinson office of the Job Service North Dakota.

“We’re still seeing the same need as far as the job seekers that are coming in that are looking for work,” Urlacher said. “They’re still needing resume assistance and application assistance and interviewing tips and hints.”

Though Dickinson’s economy has grown over the past few years because of oil development, it’s not the only pillar holding up the economy, Baker said.

“We are seeing our manufacturing sector continue to enhance their automation so that they have very secure and better-paying jobs,” Baker said. “We are seeing the growth in some of our manufacturers, and that is good; we are also seeing the retail and services businesses come on line.”

And the types of jobs employers are posting with Job Service reflect that diversity, Urlacher said.

“It’s the retail, it’s the cashiering positions, it’s fast food, it is oil field, it is transportation, it’s the manufacturing, it’s nursing, it’s education,” Urlacher said. “There really hasn’t been one industry that has really decreased since we’ve worked with them in the last year.”

The Stark County job market is also more than blue-collar and service jobs, Urlacher said.

“There’s the professional jobs, as well, that are here,” Urlacher said.

The growth trend doesn’t seem to be slowing, Baker said.

“We are in a good position, not only geographically, but also as far as the employment base that we have, and that employment base is going to assure that people are going to find opportunity here.”

Not only are the economic statistics an indicator of what’s to come, so are the rig and well counts, Dickinson Mayor Dennis Johnson said.

“I think — when you consider not only what they have on this sheet in terms of the economy at a glance — but other information that’s available to use, I think we can expect that we’re going to continue to grow at a fairly rapid rate, especially for the next three to four years,” Johnson said.

With a strong local economy people keep coming to southwestern North Dakota from out of state, Urlacher said.

“On any given day, depending on weather and holidays, there’s five or six different cars in here from different places,” Urlacher said. “Sometimes it’s more depending on if we have a job fair.”

However, Urlacher said it is unwise for job seekers to head to North Dakota without some type of a plan.

“Make sure that you have something — either an interview lined up or you’ve got housing lined up — coming prepared is key,” Urlacher said. “Not just jumping in your car and coming out. Every once in a while somebody will say ‘You know, I just packed it up and came.’”

Katherine Grandstrand
I graduated from Bemidji State University in 2007 with a bachelor's degree in mass communcations, from Columbia College Chicago in 2009 with a master's degree in journalism.  
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