Written by Devon Boen
North Dakota may have experienced the most dramatic changes resulting from the Bakken oil boom, but there is no question northeast Montana has been affected as well and will continue to see changes in the future.
Considering this reality, Great Northern Development Corp., has decided to work with the Montana Department of Commerce to complete a needs assessment in relation to oil.
GNDC overlooks the growth, development and needs of six counties, including Sheridan, Daniels, Roosevelt, Valley, McCone and Garfield, and the organization has started preparing for the effects of oil on the area.
A “needs assessment” is a culmination of statistical research and community input used to determine what an area must do in order to accommodate all facets of change pertaining to the oil boom.
Linda Twitchell, the recently retired executive director of GNDC, agreed to be in charge of the assessment and has already started speaking with community members about how they would like the oil boom to be approached.
“Great Northern wants to know how [oil] affects law enforcement, how it affects housing, what people’s greatest concerns are, and if they have any solutions that could be taken to the state legislature. Already we’ve gotten some good ideas from people,” Twitchell said.
One idea Twitchell has seen enacted in North Dakota where the boom is in full force was a housing plan where community members could contribute to it financially and receive a tax break in return.
This sort of community involvement and cooperation is what Twitchell believes is the most important part of preparing for any side effects oil may have on the area.
Nearly anyone can see the dramatic effects oil has had on surrounding areas with Williston, N.D., being the most prevalent, and some of those changes are likely headed in Roosevelt County’s direction. Twitchell thought a few key elements made up the majority of the oil issue.
“I’m asking people what their three major concerns are,” Twitchell said. She said she has already met with 20 people so far and will meet with many more before the assessment ends next spring. Of the people Twitchell has already spoken to, most identified housing, law enforcement and transportation as the main concerns regarding oil.
Twitchell and GNDC understand the possible negative ramifications of oil, but also believe the good outweighs the bad.
“I see a lot of opportunities. I think they’re (community members and business owners) more excited about it. Because our population has been declining for 40 or 50 years and all of a sudden we have all this activity,” Twitchell said.