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Patti Faustini: How you can benefit from the Eastern Montana/North Dakota Bakken Oil Boom, Part 3: housing and cost of living
Lots of folks need housing in order to work in the Bakken oil fields of eastern Montana and western North Dakota: RV sites, rentals and other housing can be hard to come by. But, yes, the jobs are there.
True, if you have an RV you have housing, but finding a spot for your RV can be a challenge. The Wal-Marts and RV parks are often full and many RV sites are reserved through the next several months. Lots of guys live in “man camps” and other barrack/dormitory style housing. It’s not paradise, but neither is unemployment.
If you, or someone you know, will go where the jobs are, and are willing to embrace the challenges, read on:
I just made a total of nine telephone calls to property rental places, RV parks, one police department, and employers with posted job openings in different small towns in these areas. This is what I learned (from talking with a bunch of really great, helpful guys):
1) Do not just show up in these oil boom towns without a place to live. Get yourself set up, have a job and a housing plan before you head out.
2) If I were looking for an RV site, I’d call a Realtor or property rental place. I’d ask if they know of any RV spots (maybe somebody’s driveway, seriously…), and assuming they say, “Not really,” I’d offer to pay a “finder’s fee” that makes it worth their while, if they could find a place for my RV. It never hurts to ask, and I’d be willing to pay someone who could get things set up for me. The cost of living is high because of the boom: you’ll pay accordingly to park your RV.
And speaking of that RV, winter on the Great Plains makes winter in Chicago look like Palm Springs. If you’re taking an RV to eastern Montana or western North Dakota during the winter, you’ll need to invest in heavy duty skirting, heat tape on the lines, and a power house storm door. The wind blows steadily and winter temps can get 20 below zero, or lower. Can you say “wind chill factor?” Most RVs aren’t cut out for this kind of weather, so you’ll need to research how to adapt yours to the climate. Note: the winter of 2011-12 has been about the mildest winter on record, but it’s an aberration, for sure.
3) The best advice I heard: Get your job before you arrive. Many places hire over the phone. Ask your new employer about housing or RV sites. Employers know what’s going on over there; it’s in their interest to get you set up. There are Bakken rental places that work with employers to provide housing. I just talked with a guy at Bakken rental, and they do currently have housing. He said they offer a weekly or nightly rate, if folks want to check things out before they make big decisions. But the rate he quoted isn’t cheap, let me tell you (I’m still in recovery). In order to get their rental discount, you need to be employed by an employer who works with the rental company. The the costs are manageable.
Without exception, everyone I talked with was compassionate about people’s need for housing; they were helpful; had specific ideas and great, welcoming attitudes.
In conclusion, the jobs are there. The experts predict the Bakken oil will be in production for several more years, if not decades.
It’s just a matter of doing one thing before you head that way:
Your homework: Check everything out and get yourself set up ahead of time.