The oil boom in North Dakota has brought unprecedented wealth to the state. Countless infrastructure projects have been started due to the influx of oil money, including everything from schools to hospitals, and developers are racing to deliver accommodation as workers continue to pour in. Now, North Dakota's airports become the latest beneficiaries of the black gold billions.
Figures from the North Dakota Aeronautics Commission show that the state's eight commercial airports saw a 12% jump in passenger number for November 2014 when compared with a year earlier. Director Kyle Wanner reported that several of North Dakota's airports broke records during 2014, including the one at Williston, the town at the centre of the oil boom. Passenger numbers there topped 100,000 for the first time in history.
The airport has become so busy that a new site is needed, which is a significant undertaking that is expected to take some three to five years to bring to completion. Other airports are also on the radar for changes. Steve Synhorst of KLJ Engineers comments on Dickinson airport,
"Larger and wider runways are needed, the terminal is way too small and exceeds capacity."
Minot airport is also planning for expansion, as booming passenger numbers look likely to cause the airport to treble in size. Even Grand Forks airport, on the eastern side of the state, has been impacted by the oil play, with workers having to resort to commuting across the state by plane due to the lack of available housing closer to the drilling sites.
Robert Gavin, Group CEO of specialist accommodation developer NDD Group , which has been active in the Bakken for several years, explains,
"The phenomenon of the Bakken Formation oil boom took the whole state by surprise, and despite billions of dollars pouring in as a result, North Dakota is still playing catch up in several respects. The airports need extensive work in order to catch up with the record passenger numbers and the accommodation sector also needs serious attention. In the years that NDD Group has been operating in North Dakota, we've developed four of our signature Great American Lodge sites and are now working on a hotel and apartments - and still even more accommodation will be needed!"
The company's Transhudson Hotel - Parshall is available for investment from $89,950 and will feature spacious and comfortable accommodation spread across three floors, allowing workers to relax and revitalise after a hard day's labour. For oil workers looking for a more permanent form of accommodation, the Transhudson Apartments - Williston Heights will offer a mixture of studio and one bedroom apartments, which have been carefully designed to make excellent use of space and offer a cosy, homely atmosphere. Investment prices begin at $150,945.
This quality accommodation should help to ease some of the pressure on accommodation within the state and offer several hundred workers an alternative to commuting in to the oilfields, whether by train, car or plane.
2015 will see a further raft of changes planned and undertaken across North Dakota, as the state continues to get to grips with its surprise popularity. As William Swelbar at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology's International Center for Air Transportation observes,
"Who would have imagined that North Dakota would be the hotbed of commercial aviation? But it has everything to do with what's going on with the economy and underlying demographics there."
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DANIEL PEACOCK ON MON 12TH JANUARY AT 14:42 GMT