Best states for business

A pump jack in Williams County. Despite lower oil prices, North Dakota still ranks in the top 10 states for businesses, according to a study released Thursday by Forbes.

Development of the Bakken oil fields has successfully positioned North Dakota to rank eighth in Forbes annual best states for business list.

“It’s a fair assessment that North Dakota remains one of the top ten states to do business, contrary to outside reports, North Dakota is still doing very well,” Williston Economic Development Director Shawn Wenko said. “In western North Dakota, state and local entities have invested billions of dollars in infrastructure in order to keep up with an exploding industry. Energy prices will eventually go up. Oil and gas activity will increase again, albeit probably not as hectic as we saw in 2012-2013.”

Over the past five years, the booming energy industry showed unprecedented job growth at 3.8 percent, income growth at 4.5 percent. State product growth jumped 7.5 percent, and unemployment rates were the best in the nation, averaging 3 percent.

Forbes also ranked the state third in both labor supply and economic climate.

The Forbes annual ranking measures six categories for businesses: costs, labor supply, regulatory environment, current economic climate, growth prospects and quality of life, according to their website. Factoring the metrics, North Dakota dropped four spots in overall ranking due to the fall in energy prices. 

“If you compare statistics from 2015 to this year, I think it’s a fair assessment by Forbes to show a drop in the rankings for North Dakota,” Wenko said. “Lower energy prices has resulted in a deep decline in activity for western North Dakota. Many companies have shifted into survival mode and have looked extensively at ways to reduce their costs and increase efficiencies.”

While the robust economy calmed from the breakneck pace that peaked in 2012, other industries found a foothold. 

“We have worked hard and strategically to diversify the economy of North Dakota,” North Dakota Commerce Commissioner Alan Anderson said. “Our technology, manufacturing and aviation industries are booming, allowing us to continue to be one of the top rated places in the nation to do business.” 

Large scale expansion and development projects like the $250 million Williston regional airport, which recently broke ground have stood as contrary evidence to rumors that North Dakota is anything but a key player for business growth. 

“Companies like Microsoft, Northrop Grumman and Bobcat have all recently announced expansions plans, and groups like NASA are committed to long-term projects in North Dakota,” Anderson said. “Our economy is strong and there has never been a better time to be in business in North Dakota.” 

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