Welcome to Boomtown

The recent news of a major oil discovery in North Dakota has attracted an army of people from all over the U.S. to fill high-paying jobs, not just with oil companies, but across all industries; hospitality, retail, personal services, and more.  The boom is a positive sign for many amidst a period that has seen unemployment rates unwavering from levels that are extremely high.  In fact, North Dakota now boasts the nation’s lowest unemployment rate, as low as 1.5% in certain townships along the oil formation. Not only are there more jobs available, they are also paying some of the highest wages in the country. In a twist straight out of a ‘freakonomics’ book, the boom has been so rapid and powerful that it has resulted in a shortage of housing and services.

North Dakota has literally “struck oil,” but there have been a number of other strong growth sectors in the weak economy that haven’t simply been the result of luck. Sustaining business when there are less resources available merely requires a different mode of thought and the vision to understand what users will and will not prioritize. Small ideas executed in the right order can be just as effective as one big one.

For example, the beauty industry has flourished during the economic downturn, with haircutting and styling on the rise, thanks to a level of emotional attachment that brings clients into salons regardless of budget constraints. Some unemployed professionals have taken the initiative to shift their career paths, taking jobs at salons due to the demand. Offering a more competitive rate and attracting customers has helped many of these individuals thrive in their industry. Despite being a luxury service, beauticians have successfully monetized the priority many individuals place on their appearance.

It is hard to tell how long the oil boom in North Dakota will last. The size of the reserve suggests that there may be as many as 30 years of steady drilling, but a changing regulatory environment and alternative fuel sources could diminish that demand within a decade. Along with the sudden explosion of opportunity comes a great degree of uncertainty.  In other industries, such as beauty, building a sustainable business against the obstacles of the economy is a slower, more carefully planned practice. The right strategy can take chance out of the process.

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