Mark Zuckerberg visited the Bakken recently and hopefully he saw more than the incredible technology that brings oil from the ground, because, even though North Dakota is still a newcomer as a leader in the global oil and gas markets, the impact is remarkable.
The state has 10 times as many oil and gas jobs as it did in 2005 and workers have flocked here from across America and the world. Small towns that struggled for decades have exploded with new residents and high paying jobs. There's an energy among them. They are here to find opportunity. There are fresh high school and college graduates, as well as seasoned workers with decades of experience in this industry and others.
Families are surging with the economy. School enrollments are doubling and tripling across western North Dakota, mostly with young elementary students. Young adults who would have moved away are able to find well-paying jobs near home, letting their children grow up near their grandparents, and many farm kids to continue the farm with their parents supplemented income from oil and gas jobs.
Diversity is spreading. The area morphed from a homogenous mix of people with a hundred years of history in the area, to communities representing a mix of ethnic and racial diversity, as well as cultural diversity reflecting every corner of our country and even parts of our globe.
Most surprisingly, they have a long outlook. They believe the Bakken formation will provide 60 to 100 years of economic opportunity. This isn't a short-term boom to them, which is why they have staked their careers on the Bakken's success and are bringing or creating families here.
The quality of North Dakota's energy resources is remarkable, and the energy of its people better defines it.