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Berginski: 20,000 hard sell jobs

By Staff | Mar 21, 2014

There are 20,000 vacant jobs in North Dakota right now. Yes, you read that correctly. The state wants so badly to fill these jobs (in the oil, truck driving and food service industries) that they’re partnering with Hess Corp, a Fortune 500 oil company, in an $800,000 campaign just to do it, according to a CNNMoney article.

No matter how much greenbacks the team is willing to blow, there are several reasons why getting a job in North Dakota may be a hard sell to 20,000 people in other states.

First and foremost, the weather is wonky and unpredictable as all get out. Extremely frigid winters, hotter-than-blazes summers, random temperature spikes and drops, random snowfall – if I sound hyperbolic here, it’s not without precedent. The prospect of spending winter in a place where wind chills dip down to way below zero temperatures may not sound appealing to someone from a state with a warmer climate.

Second, since the oil boom, emergency service calls and certain kinds of crime have increased. What kinds of crime? Commercial and residential burglaries, DUIs, alcohol-related assaults, shoplifting, violent crimes, prostitution – all crimes one would expect in bigger cities than towns in North Dakota.

Third, the housing issue. Unless he or she is God’s gift to the customer/food service industry, I doubt a new waiter or waitress could afford to pay the rent in Williston. Minot’s not as bad rent-wise, but it’s getting there. Towns like Rugby become attractive to those demanding places to live, but the supply may not always be there.

This ad campaign raises more questions, like what to do about infrastructure. If the campaign is successful, that potentially means 20,000 more drivers on our state’s roads, which also eventually means more wear and tear that will have to be fixed. That’s 20,000 potential homes, apartments, etc. that will need electrical, plumbing and sewer access. I could go on, but there’s only so many ways to think of 20,000 people.

Once these 20,000 get here, it raises another question: How do we get them to stay? N.D. oil is creating jobs, but what happens when the oil dries up? Even if the oil reserves stay in place for another century, how do we stop people from leaving in the short term as well? Given some of the right circumstances, some of these folks can make beaucoup amounts of money if they stay long enough in their professions. But then again there are some who work at jobs long enough to get a first paycheck and get the heck out of dodge. Something like that would make $800,000 a waste of money without contingencies in place.

If the promise of money was the only reason for 20,000 people to come to North Dakota, then the facts presented nationally would make coming here a hard sell, even if it took $1 or $800,000 to try to make it happen.

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