Thankful for Williston, North Dakota

Going in to this holiday season we have a lot to be thankful for, as individuals and as a country. While we all have problems, our problems are not nearly as grave as those being faced by others around the globe. This week we wanted to detail one city that truly has a lot to be thankful for in these economic times; Williston, North Dakota.

When we read the numbers on this Northwestern North Dakota town, it seems surreal. Williston is a small town, with only 7.56 sq. miles in total area and a little over 16,000 people living there. By comparison, Toledo has a total area of 84.1 sq. miles and a population of 286,000+. Also, the population density in Williston is half of that in Toledo at 1962.1 people per sq. mile.

Out of this tiny town comes some of the most astounding statistics economically that one could imagine. Williston’s unemployment rate is 0.9%, as opposed to the national average of 8.6%. North Dakota’s average fuel price ranks 20th nationally and is continuing to drop. The median home cost is 30% less than the national average and home appreciation rates are over 4x higher than the rest of the country. Home vacancies in Williston are 50% below the national average as well.

Williston, as well as North Dakota in general, beat the national average in the job market as well. Median household income in North Dakota is 2.4% higher than the rest of the United States. Just as important, the average cost of living in Williston is below the North Dakota average by over 1% and is nearly 3% below the national average.

All of this economic activity has been fueled by the search for oil and has caused a high demand for labor, in and out of the oil industry. According to Advertising Age, workers are being offered up to $14 an hour to work the night shift at local gas stations, or a $300 signing bonus to work at McDonald’s.

This small town bordering Montana and Canada has taught us a valuable lesson in regards to how an economy can grow and expand. When one industry thrives, not only do neighboring industries thrive, but the inhabitants of nearby municipalities are also enriched.

Still don’t believe me? The Washington Post and Bloomberg report that New York based KKR & Co.’s real estate arm has decided to invest in the small town and capitalize off of the booming oil industry. KKR & Co. reportedly plan to invest up to $150 million to develop apartments, homes, a park and a sports field.

The Williston Herald also reports that KKR & Co. recently closed on 160 acres of land for a new subdivision that will bring in over 800 new units to the area. The apartment complexes that are under way are set to provide an additional 330 units and the remainder of land is set to provide 48 duplexes and 144 single family homes.

Just by something as simple as drilling for oil, this town has seen every business one could imagine benefit, from retail sales to construction to the service industry. Williston provides a shining example of how private industry can better the lives of all, and they certainly have that to be thankful for this holiday season. 

Ben Treece is a partner with Treece Investment Advisory Corp ( and licensed with FINRA ( through Treece Financial Services Corp. The above information is the opinion of Ben Treece and should not be construed as investment advice or used without outside verification.
« Back to the blog.