North Dakota officials are telling business and government leaders in South Dakota to prepare for opportunities and challenges when the oil boom moves south.
More than 150 lawmakers and business leaders are at the Black Hills Bakken Conference in the western South Dakota city of Spearfish this week to talk about how officials can prepare for an oil boom and take advantage of it. Experts said $2 billion dollars a month is being spent in and around the Bakken oil patch in western North Dakota.
"People need to eat, people need haircuts, they need to buy supplies, need to be entertained. It's opening up a broad spectrum of opportunity," said Shane Goettle, North Dakota's former state commerce commissioner.
The oil boom also has brought challenges. Goettle said North Dakota officials were unprepared for the influx of people.
"The first well that's drilled (in South Dakota) that proves up and generates excitement, start planning immediately because those trucks are coming," he said.
Northwestern South Dakota lies within the oil-producing Williston Basin, fueling speculation that it might have petroleum reserves similar to North Dakota. Energy companies have been snatching up oil and gas leases in South Dakota.
Goettle said once one energy company has success in South Dakota, "all of a sudden other companies will come in and start trying to develop those leases. That's when the faucet gets turned on."
Spearfish Economic Development Director Bryan Walker said officials plan a trip to Williston in the heart of the North Dakota oil patch in the next couple of weeks, to get a firsthand look at what that city is dealing with.
"As the footprint of the Bakken expands, we can be ready for those opportunities," Walker said.
People paid $500 to attend this week's conference. Nick Caggiano flew in from Delaware to determine if he should invest in commercial property in the area. He told the Rapid City Journal he was encouraged by what he heard about the activity in western North Dakota.
"People are sleeping in cars and pandemonium everywhere, and it's fantastic," he said.