Kenmare’s Future Looks Bright
By Tina Ding
A ribbon of highway winds and stretches through rolling hills, carrying drivers northwest from Minot to a community rich with agricultural heritage. Family farms dot the countryside, nestled between crops of durum, wheat, canola and flax. And though many folks near Kenmare work the soil to reap the harvest each autumn, others tap into a multitude of opportunities in the energy industry.
With both the Bakken and Three Forks Formation drilling creeping eastward, the oil play impacts not only those holding mineral rights, but employs many workers who, in turn, need readily available housing, services, water and equipment. Businesses at Kenmare benefit by selling water, servicing more vehicles and by constructing rigs for use in the oil industry. As in much of western North Dakota, housing is largely unaffordable or unavailable in town.
“Truck traffic has increased due to not only our commodities, but for transportation of water,” Kenmare mayor Roger Ness said. “Although we are right on the edge, we see plenty of production in every direction. The energy industry surrounds us.”
As part of the Northwest Area Water Supply project, purchased water now flows through a pipeline from Minot to Kenmare. Eventually, a water intake and treatment facility built at Lake Sakakawea will draw Missouri River water into the system. Additionally, a new 1 million gallon steel water tank stands a mile east of Kenmare. With ample water for town use, Kenmare profits by selling bulk water to the oil industry for fracturing wells.
Overall, employment in the energy industry changes rapidly as technology expands exponentially. Interest in modern harvesting of power means more diverse employment opportunities than ever before. From discovery, drilling, pumping and transportation of underground oil to capturing wind power, North Dakota workers face a range of choices today.
Capitalizing on the oil opportunity, locally-owned MW Industries, Inc,. manufactures oilfield equipment, such as service rigs, parts and components. A key employer for area welders, mechanics and machinists, the company paces with growth and development in oil business.
A projected wind farm south of Kenmare equates not only to job opportunities for construction of wind turbines and transmission lines, but could mean a steady flow of income to landowners for the future. Conversational negotiation with landowners brings Denali Energy, a subsidiary of Denali Companies, steps closer to the construction of an indescribably large wind farm.
“Hartland Farms will be the largest wind farm development in the United States, due in part to the massive site area,” said Curt Johnson, Denali Companies principal owner. “Wind is a massive resource to North Dakota. Not only does the wind blow during the day, it blows frequently and with strength. Using wind as an energy resource is not new in farming. Old days farming included wind powered generators; this is simply an advance of that technology.”
Further, Johnson said farmers having a couple of turbines in their fields will allow their farms a chance to harvest the resource, by powering their farms and offering a deserved hedge of protection.
“To the north, there is a potential for tremendous potash drilling,” said Ralph Hoversten, Kenmare Community Development Corporation executive director. “Like oil, potash is underground and will require drilling to mine the product. Should this come to pass, the potash would be used primarily for fertilizer production.”
In addition to fertile croplands and energy related work providing much of the backbone to Kenmare’s workforce, the town is steady in growth.
“We have a good diversified business sector,” Ness said. “With two grocery stores, Kenmare News, restaurants, automobile sales, medical facilities, as well as a new fire hall and an updated high school, we are fairly balanced. Our two implement dealers (John Deere and Farmers Union Oil) employ several workers and continue to be good for the economic stability of the town.”
“We draw birders, hunters and tourism from Des Lacs Lake,” Hoversten said. “As a part of the National Wildlife Refuge, the lake is protected.” He said the refuge is home to snow geese at the peak of migration. Each fall, area teams rally to celebrate Goosefest by providing differing social activities or events for a weeklong festival.
New families are also attracted to the area. Ness said upgraded national security means the addition of customs agents and border patrol workers. “As many as 10 families have moved to town for securities work,” he said.
New families need housing, and like much of western North Dakota, Kenmare doesn’t hold a lot of vacancies. With available homes already remodeled or resold, the market is tight. “We do see inquiries for housing,” Hoversten said. “It’s my goal to get new housing underway, whether we’re looking at rentals or single family homes. We want to see Kenmare grow and progress and move in the right direction.” He said Kenmare has promise of a good future, strong in both renewable and nonrenewable energies.
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