Concrete inFocus - Summer 2013 - (Page 6)

corporate suite Three Days in Boom Country Jon Hansen I n 1942 my dad signed on with one of the Midwestern construction companies hired by the Army Corp of Engineers to build the Alaskan Highway. Built as the military superhighway of its day as a direct result of the attack on Pearl Harbor, the “Alcan,” as my father referred to it, was over 1,700 miles long yet was completed in just nine months. It was so fast in historical terms that if you blinked, you missed it. My boyhood was filled with stories of “work camps” and “hell raising guys,” working long days at hard labor in adverse weather for “good pay for the times.” My mind created images from the few photos my dad brought home as to what it must have been like to be in the midst of a real construction boom. That was, until I spent three days in northern North Dakota earlier this year. With the lowest U.S. unemployment rate and the highest rate of population growth, North Dakota is a destination for all types of construction activity. It is all because of the process called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or simply “fracking.” It makes it possible to tap the huge oil reserve in the Bakken formation, a subsurface rock formation that stretches 200,000 square miles within the Williston Basin and lies beneath 12 counties in North Dakota and parts of Montana and Canada. Ready mixed concrete plays a small role in the actual oil mining process with the occasional equipment pad or base, but the real opportunities are yet to come—provided the boom continues. And like every boom before, the unknown is a risk not to be taken lightly. “We are fortunate in North Dakota to have an economy based on two resources that are, and will be, in demand for years to come: energy and food,” said Hank Hauge, technical services manager for Strata Corporation and current member of the NRMCA Board of Directors. “We are also fortunate that our economy is based on ‘new wealth,’ because 6 ı SUMMER 2013 these resources are coming from the earth as new items of value as opposed to a service industry, or just value-added manufacturing. Th is new wealth does create opportunities for businesses in a support role or value-added manufacturing.” Hauge went on to say that the “Bakken Formation oil boom” had been nothing short of a blessing for North Dakota. However, it has come with a dark side. The rising cost of housing in the Bakken has caused many on fi xed incomes to relocate away from family and friends. Transient labor has brought with it exponential increases in crime and drug abuse rates. Businesses that have moved to North Dakota to ‘cash in on the boom’ have not done their homework on the increased costs of doing business in North Dakota. Many have gone bankrupt, leaving behind unpaid bills and displaced laborers. The biggest construction boom outside of oil drilling is yet to come, as long as the drilling continues and wells continue to produce. Average daily truck traffic (ADTT) numbers from just a few years ago are off the charts. One engineer we spoke with showed us a map of his county, where sections of roadway that had ADTT of 40 trucks five years ago are now over 2,000 trucks. “How do I plan for this,” he wondered. “Do we believe these numbers are real as we project into the future for growth like this, or could it all bust in five years?” The state leaders showed their support in February with the governor signing a bill worth $720 million over the next two years for work on state roads and highways. Th is is in addition to federal funding the state will receive. Housing and infrastructure will also benefit with a continual boom. Williston is eyeing extensive development in infrastructure, housing and new businesses. The city topped $470 million in construction and remodel permit valuations in 2012 and has added a dozen new hotels since 2010. But how long this level of construction will last is anyone’s guess. “The boom has hit its peak, and everything is stabilizing,” added Hauge. “The oil rig count has actually decreased from last year by 10 to 15 percent.” With the lowest U.S. unemployment rate and the highest rate of population growth, North Dakota is a destination for all types of construction activity. It is all because of the process called horizontal hydraulic fracturing, or simply “fracking.” And North Dakota has seen its share of oil booms sputter, so it is hedging its bets against long-term prosperity from the region’s current thriving oil industry. The state is saving 30 percent of collected oil and gas taxes in a fund that will remain untouched until 2017, with the fund expected to accrue $3 billion to $4 billion by then. So if you feel the need for adventure, risk, hard work in adverse weather, good pay for the times and you’re not opposed to living in a modern day work camp made up of camper trailers skirted with cardboard or whatever you can fi nd to keep the pipes from freezing in the 40 degree below zero temperature I experienced during my January trip, then head north. Not as far as Alaska, but to Northwestern North Dakota. Who knows, along with the work you also might fi nd some “hell raising guys” and a few good photos to show your kids someday. ■ Jon Hansen is a senior national resource director for NRMCA. Contact him at 515-266-1058 or

Table of Contents for the Digital Edition of Concrete inFocus - Summer 2013

Corporate Suite
From Hand Shovels to Keystrokes
Walking on Art
NRMCA’s Design Assistance Program Works for Producers
Maryland Ready Mix Producer Gives Back to Community
Structures That Last
Responsible Sourcing Through CSR Reporting
Index of Advertisers
Responsible Sourcing Through CSR Reporting
White Cement Delivers Beautiful, Profi table Mixes
Impact of Concrete Quality on Sustainability
Tulsa Driver Named NRMCA Driver of the Year

Concrete inFocus - Summer 2013