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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 Growth Arrives in Capital City
Michelle San Miguel
Since 2010, North Dakota's population has increased by more than 36,000 people. While most of that growth is in oil country, the Bismarck-Mandan area is seeing its own boom of sorts.
It's a busy time to be a builder in the Bismarck-Mandan area. More people are moving into the area and there simply aren't enough homes on the market for them all.
"A lot of things on the market are older homes and you know when people are spending two to three hundred thousand dollars, they want what they want. They don't want something that was built fifty years ago that needs a lot of remodel work to it," said Arthur Goldammer, president of Red Door Homes.
Thanks to low interest rates and a strong local and state economy, buyers are building. In the capital city alone, single family home construction has gone up by 33 percent since 2010.
"I think every city in the state is seeing some effect from the Bakken," said Doreen Riedman, executive officer of the North Dakota Association of Builders.
"Numbers we're hearing are anywhere between 6 to 900 apartment units being planned for Bismarck-Mandan just in 2012," said Brian Ritter, director of business development for the Bismarck-Mandan Development Association.
The biggest challenge facing builders- there aren't enough of them. It's taking Mitzel Homes about three weeks longer to build a house.
Eddy Mitzel, vice president of Mitzel Homes, said, "We are definitely short on skilled laborers. We need framers. Siders. Finish carpenters. Any type of skilled laborer in the construction business."
But it's not just residential construction that's seeing an uptick. Commercial construction is up, too. In fact, there's a pretty big lack of commercial property in the Bismarck-Mandan area.
"We'll have the infrastructure. We'll have it in six to nine months or further, but everyone now is scrambling for space right now," Ritter said.
That's why about 100,square feet of office space is under construction or waiting to be- all to the fill the needs of a growing population.
"We're seeing a lot of young professionals move to the area," Goldammer said.
Jodi Jorjorian is one of them. She's a civil engineer from Las Vegas. She was laid off back in 2008 when the economy plummeted. "When I got laid off I thought I would find some other opportunity because it had been so long, the development had been so strong for so long in Las Vegas that in my mind, at least, I had been doing it for 13 years, I just figured I would find another opportunity," Jorjorian said.
But she didn't. Eventually, she took a job as a waitress.
"The transition to go a waitress, it was- I think you kind of take a look at yourself and you say I'm close to 40-years-old, I don't have a career anymore. What am I gonna do," Jorjorian said.
After about three years in the service industry, Jorjorian met up with a Las Vegas friend who had since moved to North Dakota because of the Bakken. Once she heard Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson was hiring, she applied.
"The total amount of people in the corporation that have been added since 2008 would be upwards of 250," said Niles Hushka, CEO of Kadrmas, Lee & Jackson.
That's almost double from what they had before the Bakken boom. It's not Hushka's first time working through a boom but like just about everyone else will tell you, this one's not like the others.
Hushka said, "If it's asked for today, it's due as fast as absolutely possible and we're turning around well plan designs in hopefully less than seven days where we used to turn them around we had 21 to 30 days."
But when these professionals aren't on the clock, business owners hope to find them in downtown Bismarck. About $30 million worth of projects are going on downtown. The hope is a more revitalized downtown will keep people there long after 5 o'clock and not just people from Bismarck.
"We have people that come back on our Friday afternoon flight to spend the weekend here in Bismarck and then get back on the Monday morning and go back home to Williston," said Paul Vetter, chief operating officer of Executive Air.
Last year Executive Air began direct, commercial flights to and from Williston. Passengers leave Bismarck at eight in the morning and arrive in Williston by nine, returning to Bismarck later that day. The flights are designed for those doing business in the oil fields who don't want to be slowed down by a fleet of oil trucks on the highway.
"We were thinking about what could we do to bring a regular service to people that need to get back and forth to Williston and so Bakken Air was born," Vetter said.
Bakken Air began with two six-seater aircrafts and has since added another jet. While the bulk of what Bakken Air does is fly people to and from Williston, it'll also fly to places like Watford City and Tioga, even if it's just to haul freight.
"Sometimes it's more of a kind of an emergency on-demand situation where something broke down and the part is here in Bismarck maybe and we'll just take it up there," Vetter said.
Hushka said, "We feel, again, very blessed at the loss of the rest of the country because had this boom occurred at a time when the United States economy was even healthy, we would never have been able to find the professional staff that we need to."
And as long as those professionals need direct flights to and from the capital city and oil country, Bakken Air will continue flying high.
The Bismarck-Mandan Development Association says the local economy was strong before the oil boom even began because of the area's government, medical and energy industries. Developers say adding oil and gas to that list makes for a great recipe for success.