Minot population drops as oil communities continue growth

ND’s oil epicenter continues population growth

Jill Schramm/MDN Houses line a neighborhood that’s been added in southeast Minot in recent years.

Minot’s population dipped somewhat in the latest estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau today.

The estimate of 47,370 as of July 2018 is down 1% from 47,885 in 2017 and down nearly 4.4% from the peak estimate of 49,531 in 2015. The official 2010 census was 40,888.

Although communities such as Minot and Stanley have seen declines from their oil boom highs, significant growth still is occurring in northwest North Dakota’s oil patch. That growth is concentrated around Williston, which saw an estimate increase of 5.7%, and Watford City, up 8% in 2018.

Watford City’s new estimate of 7,080 is lower than the community believes is its true population. Vawnita Best, community development director, said the community estimates its population around 8,500. Working with the Census Bureau, the city learned its error rate on the 2010 count could have been off as much as 25 percent, which if carried over in the estimates would put the 2018 population at 8,750, she said. That compares with 1,744 residents counted in 2010.

Best said Watford City never experienced the oil bust felt by some communities a few years ago.

“We were still really clipping along, growing at a slower rate, but we did not ever see a decline,” she said.

Watford City built out its infrastructure to accommodate a population of 15,000 so it has been able to absorb its recent growth, Best said. The 312% growth in school enrollment since 2010 is pushing the school system toward capacity, though, and housing is a concern.

“There’s no question we need to continue to get creative in addressing single family housing and affordable family housing,” Best said.

Shawn Wenko, economic development director in Williston, agreed that housing is the latest concern now that a good share of community infrastructure is in place to accommodate the people. The growth in school enrollment, daycare demand and need for single-family homes are the current challenges.

“All three of them are off the charts. Again, it shows there’s a shift from a transient to a more permanent population,” Wenko said.

Williston also estimates its population in the mid-30,000s rather than the latest census estimate of 27,096. The numbers are important in business development, particularly in attracting more restaurant and retail sector businesses that residents want to see, Wenko said.

Both Wenko and Best say their communities are projecting more growth.

“All indicators are signaling that we will see continued growth with the continued development of the Bakken resources,” Best said. “From a natural gas and oil development standpoint, those industries are signaling to us that they will be making significant investment in the next few years. There’s a lot of dirt being moved and a lot of infrastructure being put in right now.”

According to census estimates, other oil field communities showing growth from 2017 to 2018 were Dickinson, up 2.1% to 22,739; Tioga, up 5.8% to 1,588; and Ray, up 6% to 829; Grenora, up 6.6% to 306; and Wildrose, up 6% to 139. New Town and Parshall also each were up a few residents.

Much of the growth in the state has been in the larger cities. West Fargo grew 2,3% to 36,566. Fargo grew 1.9% to 124,844. Bismarck and Grand Forks also each grew 0.2%. Bismarck’s population estimate is 73,112 and Grand Forks’ estimate is 56,948. Mandan also grew about 1% to 22,519.

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