BNSF Railway does big business in North Dakota, said Denis J. Smith, vice president, Industrial Products Marketing for the railroad, during the annual meeting of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce.
Smith, the keynote speaker, told attendees that BNSF now hauls more crude oil out of the Bakken region than does the oil pipeline because rail produces a bigger profit. The railroad hauls crude oil out of the region and also brings in sand, aggregate, drilling and transmission pipes and other materials needed by the oil business within North Dakota.
BNSF Railway has invested in facilities that make it far easier to quickly transport crude oil out of the Bakken by rail. The first such facility went up at Stanley in November 2009. Others in North Dakota that are or soon will be in operation are at Tioga, Manitou, Dere, Trenton, Epping, Berthold and Fryburg. Oil can be loaded in less than a day and reach its destination in about a week, compared with the several weeks that used to be customary, he said. BNSF has also spent money on upgrades to new train tracks and ties and invested in new jobs in the state. People have also bought more products.
Outgoing Minot Area Chamber of Commerce Director Bruce Walker, left awards Tim Mihalick of IRET with the Impact Award.
Rail remains important for transporting all goods, said Smith. He said there has been a decline in the goods transported since 2006, which was the banner year, but there are signs that the amount of goods are picking up again and could soon reach the levels seen six years ago.
Smith said agriculture remains the largest industry for BNSF for North Dakota, but the petroleum industry is nipping at its heels.
Smith spoke during the 89th annual meeting of the Minot Area Chamber of Commerce, at which members received honors.
Ryan Ackerman and Alan Estvold of Ackerman Estvold Engineering received the Spirit of Minot Award; Tim Mihalick of IRET received the Impact Award; and Kathy Gaddie of Ryan Family Dealership received the Business Stewardship Award.
Walker, the outgoing chairman of the Chamber, also received a plaque and praise for his service.
The incoming chair, Jonn Knecht, market president for American Bank Center, recalled how he first learned about business while helping to clean up dust and spilled grain at a grain elevator in Donnybrook when he was 10 years old. Knecht's father ran the elevator for 30 years and he was given his first lessons in business sense from watching his father with his employees and the elevator customers. Knecht has lived and worked in Minot for 25 years and got his start at JC Penney and has held various other positions in finance.