Economic benefits of Bakken boom discussed


by David Jay

BILLINGS- The challenge for Billings businesses is how to tap into the Bakken Boom. That was the main topic of discussion Friday as Montana Senator Jon Tester held a roundtable discussion with Magic City business leaders.

The Senator and the Billings Chamber of Commerce organized the roundtable and much of the focus was on the need to plan and prepare for the opportunities.

The oil exploration has already helped many businesses in Billings as hotels have more customers than two years ago and tourism has increased.

Homes occupied in Billings increased to 95% and vehicle sales have gone up for many dealers as some companies transport employees from Billings to the Bakken.

Tester says the economic boost will be greater by preparing for the impact heading toward Billings.

"If we're smart about this and we communicate and we think long-term and short-term, we can have some real positive things happen here and across eastern montana," Tester said. "We tend to focus on the challenges, but the fact is, with those challenges, come great opportunity."

"If people want to explore an opportunity in the Williston area and in the Bakken, there are opportunities to be found," said John Brewer, president and CEO of the Billings Chamber of Commerce. "It's just a matter of how quickly a company wants to grow and how much they want to look at doing business in Billings and outside of Billings."

Some of the negative impacts mentioned at the roundtable include colleges.schools losing students and Billings businesses losing workers to the higher paying jobs in the Bakken.