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Nodland: Don’t forget the last oil ‘slow down’

I have been reading and observing the North Dakota news the last month concerning the issue of the oil industry slowing down due to train accidents and pipeline breaks. It is interesting to read some state leaders thoughts on the issue. How short some people’s memories are!

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Did they forget what western North Dakota’s economy was after the last oil boom in the 1980s before this Bakken boom?

We were losing population every year, birth rates were declining, our young people were leaving the state as soon as they received their degrees, and we were having up-and-down years depending on the crop production and cattle prices.

Banks were left with empty buildings, apartments and homes due to businesses leaving the area. Our airports were being kept open due to federal government assistance and we only had one airline in Dickinson.

Hospitals were living on a thread with federal assistance to keep the doors open. Cities and counties were struggling to provide the services needed for the people without increasing taxes. Dickinson and Williston were left with each around $20 million debt to service. (They both had to increase sales taxes to pay off the debt.)

Belfield was close to filing bankruptcy. The state Legislature had to create special tax and interest rate buy-down programs to encourage businesses to create new jobs. The state government was concerned about having enough money to fund the essential programs required by the state constitution. School districts were consolidating to survive.

Today, we are lowering taxes and having a robust discussion on eliminating some taxes. We are also having the “good” problems of economic growth.

City and county officials are discussing how to grow infrastructure fast enough for the influx of businesses and people. Businesses are having problems keeping employees and finding new employees to keep up with their new business growth.

Our airports are growing and new airline services are being added almost monthly. Many of the young people who are left the state are now coming back for the excellent jobs provided today. School districts are adding portable classrooms and constructing new schools to keep up with the influx of new students.

The state government has more funds than anyone would have ever envisioned in North Dakota history.

Before we “cry wolf” and try to slow down the oil industry, we need to remind ourselves of the past and look into the future. Agriculture and oil can work together. We need both industries for our state. We have a wonderful opportunity here in western North Dakota at this time.

Let us work together to make a better future for all of us, our children and our grandchildren.

I personally believe our state, county and city officials will work with the oil industry to ensure the future safety of the citizens of North Dakota to their best ability.

Nodland is a former North Dakota Republican state senator from Dickinson and a member of the North Dakota State Water Commission.