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How Employers in a Small U.S. Town Bring in Big Talent

North-DakotaWith an estimated 18,532 full-time residents, the town of Williston, N.D. doesn’t sound like a hotbed of economic activity. Yet, the formerly sleepy agriculture town – located in the northwest corner of the state, just 70 miles south of the Canadian border – is estimated to gain 10,000 jobs over the next five years, an increase of 27 percent, according to EMSI’s Talent Market Analyst.

In other words, Williston is growing nearly five times faster than the rest of the country. Despite the positive outlook, the challenge remains: How will employers find talent for these newly created roles?

This isn’t the first time employers in this area have faced such a challenge. Around 2008, when developers started using the controversial hydraulic fracturing method (also known as “fracking”) to reach untapped oil underneath the Bakken formation, Williston’s economy began to boom. With the sudden increase in opportunities, oil company employers were faced with the challenge of convincing thousands of workers to relocate to northwest North Dakota.

The solution, they soon realized, was money. Today, salary remains a major selling point for employers in this area trying to attract top talent. Williston boasts an average salary of $92,000, a whopping 55 percent more than the nationwide average. And it’s not just oil and gas jobs in this area that command six-figure salaries: Employees in wholesale trade command over $111,000 a year, while workers in the real Estate and rental and leasing industry average over $113,000 annually. Even those in the manufacturing sector – an industry typically at the bottom of the pay scale – average $80,000 a year in Williston.

Geologists estimate that only 6 percent of the oil around Williston is currently available for extraction, meaning the more technology advances, the more oil and gas activity in the region. As Williston approaches more than 50,000 jobs across all industries in 2018, it remains to be seen how the town itself will deal with rapid expansion.

In my next post, I’ll look at the town of Cupertino, Calif., where more than 12,000 Apple employees work. I’ll examine how Cupertino embraced this rapid growth, and how Williston’s labor market may have more in common with Silicon Valley than one might think.

Brendan O'Neill

About Brendan O'Neill

Brendan O’Neill has been with CareerBuilder since 2004 with roles in direct sales, management, training and business development. Most recently, Brendan has been with CareerBuilder’s Workforce Analytics team, rolling out data-driven solutions for clients in the US and Canada. Working with labor market data compiled by EMSI, Brendan works with customers to help them better understand growth trends, talent pipelining and site selection.


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