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North Dakota seeks workers, other western states start to compete

By Emily Adamson, KECI Reporter, eadamson@keci.com
Published On: Mar 31 2014 05:28:04 PM MDT
Updated On: Mar 31 2014 08:43:54 PM MDT
MISSOULA, Mont. -

A new recruiting campaign aims to fill more than 20,000 jobs in North Dakota. Growth in that state continues thanks to the Bakken oil fields, an area that spans from part of eastern Montana, near Glasgow and Sidney, to Minot, North Dakota, and up in to Canada.

The new campaign set to roll out in May from the North Dakota Economic Development Foundation will target a wide variety of jobs including the obvious -- truck drivers and oil field workers -- as well as receptionists and food servers.

The growth in North Dakota is nothing new, but as the economy starts to bounce back elsewhere, Patrick Barkey, director of the University of Montana’s Bureau of Business and Economic Research, says it’s changing.

It used to be “the only game in town,” said Barkey.

But now, “The western part of the U.S. overall is coming back a little more strongly.”

Barkey said that means more competition as other states, like California, Colorado, Utah, and even Montana make a comeback from the recession, though they may not be able to meet the high wages North Dakota can offer. Take fast food restaurants for example.

“The market wage, not the minimum wage, but the market wage is pushed up to $15 an hour,” Barkey said. “And it makes it very tough on those kinds of business models.”

But he added eastern and western Montana have both seen boosts from the boom as well.

“It's been huge when you get to Billings and you move east from there,” Barkey said. “These communities are seeing a big increase in activity of all kinds, most of it related to oil fields.”

“And it's shown up in Great Falls, it's shown up in Missoula, it's shown up certainly in transportation which is state wide.”

Regardless, the new campaign for more jobs -- 20,000 of them -- might have Montanans on the move.

“To put the word out to people who would normally not cast their net that widely that there is job opportunity,” Barkey said. “There's job opportunity in other states too, so it's a little different environment now in 2014 than it was a few years ago.”

As far as a slowdown, Barkey said things may start to grow less quickly in the Bakken, but there's still plenty of room for continued oil drilling.

Oil giant Hess Corp. has teamed up the North Dakota Economic Development Foundation; together they've put together an $800,000 campaign to attract workers. The push will include a website, marketing and recruiting events.