McKenzie County's 2023 Economic Projects Mean A Promising Start To 2024

2023 was a potentially profitable year for McKenzie County, North Dakota. Several things happened that might serve to benefit the county’s economy over the following years.

February KUMV The North Dakota Department of Transportation has approved a contract to begin construction work to expand Highway 85. They started work to create a four-lane highway between Watford City and the Long X Bridge in March according to a Roundup article and, “The expansion of the highway will safely accommodate more industrial, agricultural, and passenger traffic, promoting economic development.” The two-year long project is expected to be finished near the end of 2024. In December the expressway was awarded $55 million for the next phase of construction.

In a March press release from the office of the governor NDSU researchers, Dean Bangsund and Nancy Hodur, presented their study of the economic contribution of oil and gas exploration, extraction, transportation, processing and capital investments to the state in 2021. They showed the industry directly employed 14,200 people, while economic activity from the indirect and induced effects of the industry supported an additional 35,185 jobs, for a total of 49,385 jobs attributed to the industry. Employment compensation was estimated at $3.9 billion. Similar studies are conducted every two years. Daniel Stenberg, McKenzie County Economic Development director expects studies to show a lot more for 2023. He said, “Oil prices were high all of 2023. There was an increase of activity, and 2023 saw 750 more workers in McKenzie County than in 2022. Oil and gas leads the economy.”

According to a March press release at, Watford City Municipal Airport was recognized as North Dakota’s “2022 General Aviation Airport of the Year.” They received it for excellence in community outreach because of their fly/drive-ins, support of weather modification and crop spraying to aid farmers, and hosting of air crash training and boy scout merit badges. For facility management, because of the reconstruction they did on their runway, new lighting system that allows for most large business jets, and beautification projects, and participation and hosting of special events. Continuation of their work will continue to greatly aid in the economy.

The JDA Home Builder Construction Loan Participation Program was launched in June 2023 for the construction of single-family dwellings in McKenzie County to address the current housing shortage. It was approved with $4.5 million in revolving loan funds provided by the McKenzie County Commission. The first applications for four single-family homes were approved in December.

ND Petroleum Council created plan to welcome 25 Ukrainians to the Bakken by July 2023. By October they placed 50 Ukrainians in the program throughout western North Dakota. Seven of them have been placed with McKenzie County employers.

The Bakken Area Skills Center, the program for increasing the availability of career and technical education for high school students and incumbent workers throughout the Bakken region, held a beam-raising event in June. Classes are set to start Jan 15.

To help with all this activity a second campus for McKenzie County and Watford City’s Wolf Pup Daycare is being built south of the Rough Rider Center and Fox Hills Elementary. The daycare facility that Alexander and McKenzie County are working to bring to Alexander is only in the designing stages, at the moment.

McKenzie County in 2024 has a lot going for it economy-wise. The projects that have not been completed yet are well on their way to being done. They may cause a little inconvenience here and there but only make living in McKenzie County better in the end.


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