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Brock: A visit with four of the many men moving to Dickinson

While waiting outside for the oil to get changed in the company car on what was a beautiful summer day last week, I struck up a conversation with four other guys who were also waiting for their vehicles.

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They told me their names, but those are less important than who they were, where they came from and why.

The first man was about 30 years old and had moved here from New Jersey “way back in 2008.” He had heard there were high-paying jobs here from a relative attending Dickinson State University. He enjoyed Dickinson and planned to make it home for his family. He made a lot more money in Dickinson, didn’t like the rising cost of living and did miss the rural part of New Jersey that he left.

The second guy I talked to was around 50 years old and moved here from Michigan. He left a five-bedroom house with a mortgage that was less than half what he and his wife paid for a two-bedroom manufactured home in Dickinson. His grown son has joined him and they both work long hours at high-paying energy industry jobs. He plans to someday return to Michigan, but there was no hurry — especially when the job outlook in his home state was so poor. He told his son to put some money away while he could because the oil boom wouldn’t last forever.

The third guy was a 30-something and working in the energy industry. He was a pipe fitter from West Virginia who moved here for a high-paying job. His company paid for his housing, leaving him very little expenses. He planned to work here three years and save enough to pay off all of his debt, create a nest egg and return “home” to West Virginia. He hoped the economy would improve in three years where he could once again afford to live there, hopefully debt free.

The final man was an electrician from Texas who had just driven 30-plus hours for a two-week job in Dickinson. He shared a manufactured home with his small crew for as long as the job lasted. He would return to Texas or wherever else his company sent him next. This was the second time he had worked in Dickinson in the past year. He was single and was on the road so much he didn’t have a permanent residence. He has family in Texas he stays with on the rare occasions when he wasn’t working.

I wondered, as we chatted, if these four were a microcosm of our area and the men who live and work here. Would only one in four settle here? How long, if ever, would North Dakota be home to those who stay?

Normally, folks think home is where they were raised and where a family lives or are buried.

There are as many stories as there are people in western North Dakota, all of which make up the big story that is the Bakken’s unprecedented oil development.

Brock is the publisher of The Dickinson Press. Email him at