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It's not the first oil boom to hit North Dakota, but it's undoubtedly the biggest. North Dakota has quickly become one of the largest oil-producing states in the country. The Bakken has brought thousands of people to North Dakota and billions of dollars in state revenue. But it's also brought its share of headaches for those living in oil country. Home construction can't keep up with the rapid growth in population. Crimes, accidents and arrests are at an all-time high in western North Dakota. Small cities that were once off the grid are making national headlines as they face challenges they've never had to deal with before.
Clip: Bakken Boom Brings Business Growth
Business is booming in the Bakken and it doesn't look like it's slowing down anytime soon. Many business owners say they never would have dreamed they'd be turning so much revenue. Everything from restaurants to construction companies is seeing a spike in clientele. But it doesn't mean there aren't unique challenges along the way.
Long lines, long waits and an employee shortage. Many business owners are feeling stressed and overwhelmed at the surge of business in oil country.
"I don't believe any of us were geared for the pace of what Williston has turned into. That has been a different mindset that we have to learn to deal with if we continue to stay in business in Williston," said Bob Horab, owner of McCody Concrete.
That's been the mantra of how businesses are feeling in the Bakken. With more than 400 oil companies operating in western North Dakota, the economy couldn't be stronger.
"The oil activity is so strong here and the vast majority of businesses in Williston are doing very well. It's just a matter of taking orders to be honest with you," said Williston Mayor Ward Koeser.
But this rapid pace has come with its own set of challenges. With the need for concrete in both construction and the oil field operations, McCody Concrete has seen its demand rise by 200 percent.
In fact, last fall the company ran out of powder for five days, taking a tremendous toll on business.
"You just have to do your best and produce what you can and don't let it get to you. Just try to enjoy the ride," Horab said.
Gramma Sharon's is another business along for the ride. Owner Penny Groth says the business is serving an additional 200 people per day, with even more on the weekends. As a manager, she's had to be flexible.
"Today we were down two dishwashers, which is why I've been doing dishes all day. If I had anything else I had to do today pressing, you have to put that on the back burner and kind of go where you're needed," Groth said.
Gramma Sharon's has a 26-year run in Williston. Groth says her secret to success is the core people she has working for the restaurant.
"The main thing is I have really good help. And I have long-term help. They have been with us from the day we opened. We have a lot of employees who have been here 22 years. And that is kind of the secret to doing what we do as good as we can do it," Groth said.
"The wait staff is really nice. It's usually pretty quick and really friendly people around," said Kristofor Bue, a customer at Gramma Sharon's.
Despite those key employees, Gramma Sharon's does run through its fair share of help just like every other business in the oil patch. Many businesses such as Economart and Dairy Queen started recruiting internationally through a World Work and Travel Program. College students from Thailand and many other countries helped staff business last summer.
"They have been lifesavers to us. They help tremendously. I don't know what we would be able to do without them. These programs have been great for the community because all of us employers in Williston have been up against the same problem: not enough employees but surging business. It's a win-win situation for the kids and the community," said Essie Wright, owner of Dairy Queen.
Despite the challenges, businesses are looking to the future for more growth.
"The foreseeable future is supposed to be like this, so anyone with a business in Williston is pretty grateful that it's happening," Groth said.