Sunday, February 7, 2016

Third Day In The Bakken -- February 7, 2016

Most of the day was spent with Dad. He said it was one of the best days he's had. I picked him up about 11:00 and went out for lunch, again, the same spot he goes every time we go out together, the Cash Wise deli (in Williston, of course).

It is amazing how busy Cash Wise is. The parking lot was packed and the checkout lines were quite long. And there are plenty of grocery shopping options in Williston: Wal-Mart, Albertson's, as well as all the convenience stores in addition to Cash Wish.

We visited a number of stores. I found a perfect Christmas gift at Home of Economy for my son-in-law. I bought the item for myself -- I've been looking at it for the past several years -- but after walking out of the store I thought he might enjoy it as much as I would. I can't say what it is in case he reads the blog (which I seriously doubt; he has more sense than that and no interest in the Bakken).

Hopefully I won't forget where I put it between now and next December; maybe I'll send it to him for a birthday present.

Then off to Menards. I've driven by it several times since it opened a couple of years ago, but never visited assuming it was household furnishings only. Wow, was I wrong. It's an incredible store. I was quite amazed. I gave Menards a bit of grief for waiting so long to come to Williston, but that's water under the bridge. They more than made up for it with this incredible store. I can only imagine the draw from eastern Montana and southern Canada.

Then we drove out to the new high school which is scheduled to open this fall, 2016. It certainly has come a long way; I wonder if the entire shell might be complete and they are able to get a lot of inside work done this winter. I don't know; I hope it's on schedule so they can open as originally planned, but whether they do or not, it appears it will be worth the wait. Again, an incredible building. I was going to take a photograph but the sun was such it would have been impossible to get a good photograph. I will try Monday or Tuesday.

We drove through all the new housing developments. It's impossible to say how everything is working out but nothing looks "dead" or abandoned. Lots of vehicles in front of apartment buildings, duplexes, single-unit homes.

By 5:00 p.m it was time for dinner again. And again, Cash Wise. After dinner back to his room to watch the first half of the Big Game. At half-time I had planned to leave to check e-mail, blog, etc., and so I'm at the Daily Addiction on Main Street. Hopefully the game will be over by 9:00 p.m. when they close. Denver has really surprised me: 13 - 7 well into the 3rd quarter, and now with another good run, another good series going down the field. It's Denver's game to lose. I think playing (and beating) the Patriots was huge for the Broncos.

Tomorrow I will be with dad again. He is always eager for Mondays to come; weekends are too long for him. 

Overall, I'm getting the same overall impression that Dustin Monke is reporting in Dickinson
Now, instead of eyeing expansion and trying to track uncharted growth, most businesses and cities are planning for modesty and hoping they can plan for the possibility of both a calm and busy future, should oil prices and activity suddenly rebound.
Major projects and commercial development in Dickinson have all but come to a halt as the hub city begins paying off deficits created by infrastructure and building projects that helped alleviate the booming, oil-driven economy.
What remains of Dickinson’s once hurried building sector is on the public side, where the Dickinson Middle School building is taking shape and water treatment facilities are under construction. New commercial developments — such as stores and restaurants — while still opening, aren’t coming as fast as they were the past two years.
However, Dickinson’s economy isn’t faltering — even in the face of low oil prices and uncertain farm commodities and livestock prices.
I would assume we are near the bottom of the current cycle. Whether it's a long 'U" or a short "U" recovery is impossible to say. But the tea leaves certainly don't suggest a "V" recovery. I assume there are not many unemployed in Williston; winters always seem to sort that out. I suppose there could be a fair number of folks on the edge who have children in school and will decide at the end of the school year what to do. Folks that have jobs now are unlikely to leave if they don't have a job waiting for them someplace else.

The big, big plus for families on the cusp: the school system is as good as any in the country, and much, much better than most. It may sound corny, but the community of faith, churches, etc., is also very, very strong. A lot of families on the cusp will get a lot of support from others, and many will make ends meet by getting a second or third job. By the way, my Dad asked a 20-something -- maybe eighteen or nineteen years old -- what she was getting paid as a cashier at one of the big box stores we visited. It was $14/hour.

Real estate and restaurants will be the sectors to watch.

Among the big box stores, the big three competing with each other: Home of Economy, Menards, and Wal-Mart. They all have their weaknesses and strengths. I will leave it at that, for now.

Oh, the big story I forgot to mention. This may have been the highlight of the day. While walking to our table at Cash Wise, I passed two middle-aged men; they appeared to be somewhat Latino but their language seemed more Slavic. They were a bit older than middle-aged; a bit out of place in a young person's oil patch world, but they were both field workers one could tell. The one had a clam-shell phone on the table; the other was showing off pictures of his grandchild (looked to be six months old) on his iPhone. He appeared as proud as could be.

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