2013-01-03 / Top News

Williams County, Williston are continuing to grow fast

The population of Williams County could go as high as 70,000 by 2017.

The city of Williston and Williams County will continue to grow for at least the next five years, according to a study by Nancy Hodur and Dean Bangsund, researchers in the Agribusiness and Applied Economics Department at North Dakota State University.

“Because of the oil boom, things are changing so fast that cities such as Williston need an estimate of population growth to try to gauge their response for housing, public services and infrastructure,” Hodur said. “The nature of the workforce also makes projecting population difficult. The census does not capture what we refer to as the service population, which is the people that work in North Dakota but live elsewhere.”

The census population for Williston in 2010 was 14,716, with the current service population (permanent and temporary) of Williston at 25,000 to 33,000. The service population of Williams County is estimated to be 49,000 to 51,000.

Hodur and Bangsund estimate the population potential for Williston to be 40,000 to 44,000 by 2017. Meanwhile, the population potential of Williams County could go as high as 70,000, which is more than double the 2010 census of 22,398.

Hodur and Bangsund used two different methods to predict future population growth.

“The employment model is based on regional employment projections that looked at various growth scenarios in the oil and gas industry,” Bangsund said. “We also used a housing model to estimate population growth. We identified what has been built and what may be built in the near term to estimate population growth based on potential housing build-out.”

The housing and employment models ended up being within a range of 5 percent of each other.

Temporary jobs, such as those associated with construction, drilling and fracking, may begin to decline around 2022, Hodur said.

The study confirms that housing will continue to be a key issue in western North Dakota and that temporary lodging will remain an important part of the solution.

“To maintain a good handle on future population growth, the build-out data should be maintained on an ongoing basis because of possible future changes in oil field development,” Hodur said.

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