Advancements in pulling oil out of shale changed North Dakota forever in 2008, and no place is that change more evident than the city of Williston.
Like a modern-day gold rush, workers have flocked to Williston for work and paychecks that can’t be found anyplace else in the U.S. The hours on the job here ensure that even a modest hourly wage can bring in $100,000 a year doing anything from working a rig to driving a truck.
But this economic largesse comes with a cost as the population has doubled in size since 2010, residents have been forced from their homes by doubling rents, and a transient workforce shifts the city’s focus.
When Business Insider went to Williston in March of 2012 the city had accepted the challenge before it, and the amount of work it would take to grow. The following photos show Williston’s progress since our visit last year.
Williston, North Dakota has gone from a conservative farming community to the epicentre of a 21st century oil boom in just a handful of years.
When Business Insider was in Williston in early 2012, Lonnie's Roadhouse Cafe was still where locals and over-the-road truckers alike gathered for breakfast and news of the day.
The diner is where locals go to talk about what has happened to their town since technology thrust it onto the forefront of America's oil shale boom.
Change in Williston has come with a vengeance, it is now the most rapidly expanding area in the U.S. with nearly 10% growth since 2012.
That double-digit growth is fuelled by 1% unemployment and a flood of jobs ranging from the shale oil fields …
… to stocking the empty shelves at Wal-Mart. Stock sells so quickly that pallets are left in the aisles un-shelved and locals go to neighbouring towns for shopping to avoid the crowds.
There's an excitement here as people who have struggled to find work and support their families find a thriving wage.
Entrepreneurs are here too, offering services and wares to oil field crews much like they did in towns during California's gold rush of the 19th century.
From roadside espresso, to tortillas in a make-shift restaurant constructed of plywood and two-by-fours and attached to an RV ...
As cities like Detroit flounder and file for bankruptcy, Williston faces a different set of challenges.
There is so much oil being pulled up from the 4,000 or so wells here that $100 million a month in natural gas is just burned off racing to extract the petroleum.
The federal government believes there are 7.4 billion barrels of oil here and as a result the state has a $1 billion budget surplus.
With more than 800,000 barrels a day already being pulled from beneath the North Dakota prairie, getting the oil to market may seem like the biggest challenge around.
But housing shortages and astronomical rents have created a stratified community, between men living in 'Man Camps' dedicated to oil field hands …
… crime is up. And when Business Insider was there, drug use was widespread. Traffic accidents between overworked truckers and personal vehicles plague the community.
But conditions are improving with the city providing incentives to workers moving their families into town.
A new $70 million recreation centre is coming to offer recreation for families of all ages. The city hopes workers will stay and settle down, rather than work only to go back home.
Living here can be a struggle with pre-fabricated homes 20 miles from town renting for $1,500 a month.
With six-figure salaries the norm, more than the exception, any type of housing was welcome just last year.
With no place to go, last year newcomers often slept in their cars and did their best to stay warm in the frigid North Dakota winter.
The only thing certain in Williston is the work. It's everywhere, offering the American Dream to anyone willing to put in the hours.
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