Looking for a great paying job? Pack your bags and head to North Dakota.

Looking for a great paying job? Pack your bags and head to North Dakota.

Looking for a great paying job? Pack your bags and head to North Dakota. Even if your home is 12,000 miles away!
by John Pendleton  |   Saturday, September 22, 2012
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Looking for a great paying job? Pack your bags and head to North Dakota. Even if your home is 12,000 miles away!

Just a few years back, most Americans had never heard of Williston, North Dakota (population of 14,349 in 2010). In terms of population, Williston is the State's 10th largest city (if you include Minot AFB) but it is now the #1 city in terms of sales and use tax revenue, with figures that dwarf the two largest cities, Fargo and Bismarck. The sales tax revenues for the first three months of 2012 amount to a whopping $47,482 per person! Obviously the vast majority of the sales in Williston are being made to non-resident oil workers.

The town, the whole county in fact, is awash in tax money. The oil patch is employing nearly anyone who can walk and has a pulse and that is having some very unexpected consequences. For example, the county built a brand new jail facility in 2006 and figured on paying off the construction bond over the following 25 years. However, with all the new tax revenue, the bond was completely paid off in just five years.

There has also been a huge effect on the local employment picture. With everyone flocking to the oil patch, there's no one left in town to do the lower-paying, but still necessary work that keeps the town and the whole county running as a community.

The Sheriff has job openings but no takers. The local Sheriff told the Associated Press that he could hire 17 deputies instantly, but no one seems to be interested.

The local Dairy Queen in town could stay open until late at night, but closes at 5 p.m., not for a lack of customers but rather a shortage of workers to cook the food and work the cash registers. At Walmart, there are too few employees to stock the shelves, so boxes of merchandise are simply opened and left in the aisles.

As of September 21st, the State jobs resource online (www.ndworkforceconnection.com) has more than 1,300 job openings within 10 miles of Williston!

In an innovative response to the labor crises, local employers are bringing in foreign workers on H1 and J1 visas. The H1 visa is normally good for three years while the J1 visa is valid for only four months. To do that, the employers are contracting with private companies like United Work and Travel that recruit and screen foreign students and place them in jobs in the U.S.

As recently as 2010, United Work and Travel put less than 15 students in North Dakota. This year the company will have more than 1,000 in the state!

The imported workers come from a wide variety of countries including Thailand, Ukraine, Kenya and the Philippines. Unable to financially compete with oilfield workers for motel space or apartments, housing the students has required imaginative solutions such as several employers that have purchased single-family homes that they rent to the students at affordable, subsidized rates. In another example of creative problem-solving, United Work and Travel arranged for 200 of the foreign students/workers to stay the dorms at Williston State College, paying $100 a month per person. That program however has been brought to a screeching halt.

On September 19th, Hamid Shirvani, President of the State's University system ordered that when the housing agreement at Williston State College expires later this month, it will not be renewed. His official reasoning was that "Housing foreign workers was not intended when the Legislature authorized bonds or appropriated public funds to build, maintain and operate the (dormitory) facilities."

There is plenty of work in the Williston area, and it's drawing workers from all over the world, but job seekers heading there need to be prepared to scramble to find living quarters. For many, that's going to be a real challenge, so plan accordingly!

Click here to search for jobs.

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Generated by readers, the comments included herein do not reflect the views and opinions of RigHands. All comments are subject to editorial review. Off-topic, inappropriate or insulting comments will be removed.
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Bert | Saturday, September 22, 2012
Why are they recruiting so many foreign citizens? Are they unable to find enough US citizens to work oil rigs etc.? Official nationwide unemployment rate of 8+%. Very interesting arrangement. Sounds like the university there has suffered a foreign takeover, also. Also, will any of the oil being produced actually end up in the American market, or in a pipeline to the coast to be shipped?
Mark | Thursday, September 27, 2012
There are local workers but it seems for some the rigs are to low brow work or to hard for them or to many like the drugs more than work, sorry to say but when the locals (as in all of the US workers) it seems keeping workers is the hardest part
Glen Melancon | Tuesday, October 09, 2012
I would love to go back! Spent last winter in Williston and Watford on a seismic crew,unfortunately the company downsized and I lost my job along with many others. Getting your foot in the door with any oilfield company seems to be the hardest challenge! Nevermind the hard work or -40 below weather! I can handle that. Just give me a job!
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