Editorial: Ready for the boom

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Editorial board members:

• Matt Beckett

— Community representative

• Brad King

— Community representative

• Allan Reishus

— Community representative

• Bryce Jacobson

— Newspaper representative

• Jerry Martin

— Newspaper representative

Our View

With a recent increase in oil and gas activity, some members of the Moffat County community contend an oil boom is on the horizon. With Williston, N.D. — America’s hottest oil boomtown at the moment — as an example, the editorial board urges local officials, business owners and residents to prepare for the possibility of an oil boom in Moffat County in order to avoid the pitfalls of the boom and bust cycle.

The reality of life in a community economically dependent on the oil and gas industry is that the good times — when oil and gas activity produces money, more jobs and an increase of people in town — are almost always balanced out by slow periods — when oil money dries up and the local economy shrinks.

It’s a boom and bust cycle very familiar to anyone who has lived in Northwest Colorado for longer than a couple decades. With an increase in oil and gas leases and activity in recent years, the possibility of another boom looms large.

Whether it comes or not, the editorial board urges business owners, elected officials and community members to be prepared. Taking a proactive approach will help establish long-term growth and not just another bust at the end of a boom, seemingly an eternal struggle faced by oil and gas-based economies everywhere.

And if America’s current oil boomtown is any example, being ready for what an increase in oil activity brings might help our community avoid some of the pitfalls that come with rapid economic and population growth.

According to National Public Radio, the population of Williston, N.D., has doubled in the past two years. The small city in Northwest North Dakota sits 10,000 feet above the Bakken shale formation – regarded by some as being the largest oil deposit in the country.

However since tapping in to that deposit, the city’s infrastructure hasn’t been able to keep up with its growth. Simply put, demand for everything from food to housing to transportation far outpaced by the supply the town can produce.

Though wages have increased as a result, the dramatic increase in the cost of living has more than cancelled out that effect. According to NPR, apartments that used to cost $300-$500 per month now are going for $2,000-$2,500 each month.

And the increase of available jobs — a prospect that would seem to be only good — has resulted in what many business owners see as a decrease in the number of committed employees. If someone doesn’t like their job, they need only walk down the street to find another.

Even the cost of a Big Mac has increased in Williston.

The editorial board contends a little planning and preparedness will go a long in way in avoiding a similar situation in Moffat County should an oil boom arrive in the near future.

Elected officials should make a plan to help navigate through the instability of a boom period and establish permanent growth. Local business owners should make sure their employees’ customer service skills are sharp help while readying them for a possible increase in business. And community members should be ready to embrace the new growth while incorporating it into the culture and community of Moffat County.

We have been through the cycle before, and the editorial board strongly believes we have the experience, knowledge and work ethic to be able to use any boom in the near future to our long-term advantage. We just need to be ready.

And if a boom doesn’t come, those of us who call Moffat County home now can benefit from the increase in municipal planning and customer service.

It’s a win-win situation for Moffat County.

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