The Oil Patch is leading the way to an economic upturn, as indicated by the latest statistics for taxable sales and purchases, helping to counter sales tax declines in the eastern half of the state.

A map showing the percent change in annual taxable sales for 2016 to 2017 paints most of the Oil Patch counties in dark blue, representing the areas with highest percentage increases.

Williams County was 24.3 percent higher at $1.45 billion on an annual basis, while Mountrail posted a 25.9 percent increase at $178.3 million. Mckenzie County increased 25.77 percent to $215.3 million, Dunn County 45.19 percent to $45.5 million and Stark county 14.58 percent to $901.7 million.

For cities, the largest annual increases were seen in Williston, 24.45 percent increase to $1.38 billion; Dickinson, a 14.67 percent increase to $847.2 million and Watford City at 9.4 percent to $181.9 million. New Town, Ellendale and Casselton also posted high percentage increases as compared to the fourth quarter of 2016. Nearby Tioga increased slightly by 1.5 percent to $61.96 million.

“Aside from the numbers and graphs that are showing growth, if you are in Williston, you can see and feel the increase in activity,” Williston Economic Development Director Shawn Wenko said. “Our partner, the Small Business Development Center — Williston office, is leading the tate right now in client contacts.”

Development of new and existing businesses are also seeing an uptick in Williston, Wenko said.

“We’ve invested more than $300,000 so far this year and have seen close to $2 million dollars in return through private investment,” he added. “Not to mention matching funds of more than $130,000 from the Bank of North Dakota through their interest buy-down program.”

The City Commission recently approved STAR Fund grants totaling up to $118,500 for seven projects in Williston, which together total an estimated additional private investment of $1.8 million.

These projects are unique, Wenko said, because they are quality of life drivers for the community.

They include relocating Grace and Glam, a high-end woman’s boutique clothing store, to a vacant storefront downtown, and an upscale men’s barbershop that will be called The Man Cave in Harvest Plaza.

“(Quality of life) is our focus right now,” Wenko said. “If we can continue to build an exceptional quality of life by assisting businesses like the aforementioned, we build a community that’s attractive to new and existing residents. The residents are the entrepreneurs that will spawn new business ideas that create jobs and diversification for the long haul.”

Other projects recently approved for STAR fund assistance include:

• Destiny Med Spa, $5,000 mini match for remodeling costs in the Landmark Building. Grand opening April 9.

• Exhale Yoga & Wellness, $5,000 mini match for a hot yoga studio in Harvest Plaza.

• Edman Commercial Holdings, $32,00 from Flex PACE interest buydown so the general contractor business can purchase the building it is leasing.

• Lutheran Social Services, $25,000 from the Community Growth program to remodel the basement of an office on Main Street for a day care center;

• Williston Economic Development, $13,000 from the Community Growth program to bring in a consultant from South Dakota to Williston in June. The consultant will assess the potential for a downtown public plaza.

The city’s STAR fund is financed by a portion of the one-cent city sales tax for projects that improve quality of life in Williston. The funds are administered by a seven-member board.

Not all North Dakota cities experienced an increase in taxable sales and purchases for 2017.

West helped mitigate decreases in the east

Bismarck, Fargo, Grand Forks, and Minot all decreased in annual taxable sales year over year, according to the 2017 annual report. Fargo fell the most by 5.45 percent, followed by Bismarck at 3.9 percent and Minot at 3.74 percent. Grand Forks fell the least, by 1.76 percent.

Total annual taxable sales and purchases were up overall, despite the decrease in major cities, however, thanks to the resurgence of oil activity in the western part of the state. Total taxable sales and purchases were $17.9 billion for 2017, a 3 percent increase from 2016 figures of $17.3 billion.

Fourth quarter 2017, meanwhile, was up 7.2 percent year over year, suggesting that the pace of economic activity is picking up. Fourth quarter gains for Williston and Williams County were up 37.5 percent to $392.5 million and 37 percent to $412.1 million, respectively.

Breaking the figures down by economic sectors, oil and gas were the clear leader in increased taxable sales and income. Mining and oil extraction increased 52.25 percent by $663.6 million in fourth quarter 2017. Wholesale trade, meanwhile, increased by $409.6 million or an 11.5 percent increase and the Other Services Sector increased by 35.4 million, or an 8.92 percent increase. The professional, Scientific, Tech. & Management services sector also increased, as did the MIscellaneous sector.

While the lion’s share of gains were oil and gas, retail trade continues to dominate economic activity in the state, with more than $6 billion in 2017.

Data is included in the reports for the largest 50 cities in North Dakota and all 53 counties. They are available in their entirety online at and


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