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N.D. adjusting to changing times

North Dakota has entered into a period of adjustment as lower oil prices and other factors have prompted changes in the oil patch. Companies have reduced production, focused on prime areas and cut the workforce.

North Dakota Petroleum Council President Ron Ness told reporter Jessica Holdman that "I think the next four to five months are going to be a struggle." He explained that future layoffs will be difficult because they will involve high-quality workers. These workers, he said, will be more likely to stay in the state during the downturn. Many of the workers in the earlier layoffs returned to their home states, something they always planned to do. They follow the oil play, but never intend to permanently leave their home base.

The upside is that Ness expects the high-quality workers who are furloughed to find other jobs in North Dakota and wait for the oil-related opportunities to open again. Some, he thinks, might find construction jobs related to surge funding approved by the Legislature. And there are signs there will be more jobs in the future.

Badlands NGLs LLC and two partners announced plans last October for a $4 billion plant in North Dakota that would convert ethane gas into polyethylene for use in plastic products. And last month, Badlands NGLs announced it has a “precedent agreement” with Continental Resources Inc. to supply the plant with ethane gas, a byproduct of natural gas processing. When the original project was announced, the partners said they expected to create 500 jobs.

While North Dakota no longer has the lowest unemployment rate in the nation, it still ranks among the lowest in the country. While it’s true the latest revenue figures for the state aren’t as robust as in previous months, many states would like to have them. Other sectors of our economy remain strong and the oil industry remains a vital part of what makes the state hum.

When this period of adjustment ends, the state should still be in a strong economic position.


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