Growing Pains in North Dakota

By Beacon Staff

It’s no secret that people (mostly young men) from Montana and elsewhere have been moving to North Dakota in droves to work in the vast, and expanding, oil fields there. As nearly every other state sheds jobs, North Dakota has expanded its workforce so quickly that it can no longer provide housing for all of them.

<a href="http://www.nytimes.com/2010/04/21/us/21ndakota.html?pagewanted=1&hpw" title="In this New York Times story”>In this New York Times story, Montana native and recent Williston, N.D., transplant Joey Scott says he has a steady paycheck but can’t find shelter.

Every motel in town was booked, some for months in advance. Every apartment complex, even every mobile home park, had a waiting list. Mr. Scott found himself sleeping in his pickup truck in the Wal-Mart parking lot, shaving and washing his hair in a puddle of melted snow.

“I’ve got a pocketful of money, but I just can’t find a room,” said Mr. Scott, 25.

North Dakota has a novel problem: plenty of jobs, but nowhere to put the people who hold them.

After graduating from the University of Montana in 2002, I briefly worked for the Associated Press at the state capitol in Bismarck. At the time, I remember the Legislature emphasizing that it needed to attract and retain young people as its population aged and growth remained stagnant. Apparently, all it needed was a 4 percent unemployment rate amid a recession.

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