By: Katherine Grandstrand, Forum News Service
As oil activity makes its way south, Bowman County and its cities are gearing up and getting ready to grow.
City and county officials gathered last week for part two of their Vision West economic development planning where they identified 11 areas — including tourism, downtown development and creating a bedroom-community reputation — that they want to progress or continue focusing on.
“It’s not your typical bedroom community, that’s not what we were going for,” said Teran Doerr, program specialist for the Bowman County Development Corp. “It was more of, Bowman still has that quality of life — Bowman County still has that North Dakota quality of life that we all think is so valuable. We truly think that we could be the bedroom community for the Bakken.”
But Lynn Helms, director of the North Dakota Industrial Commission Department of Mineral Resources, said Tuesday more oil development is planned for Bowman County in the Red River formation, including a reserve pit and an oil well.
“Denbury Resources likely will be drilling several hundred wells in Bowman County,” Helms told the Industrial Commission, made up of Gov. Jack Dalrymple, Attorney General Wayne Stenehjem and Agriculture Commissioner Doug Goehring. Denbury has an office in the Bowman County city of Rhame.
In Bowman, they’re thankful for the chance to plan before the activity moves south.
“Our community — the counties, the cities — is really trying to be proactive instead of reactive,” said Kevin Bucholz, board member of the Bowman County Development Corp. “A year and a half ago, a lot of the community leaders went up to Watford City, saw what they were facing. … It was almost overnight when all this happened to them.”
So far, Bowman hasn’t seen the drop in quality of life that its counterparts north on Highway 85 have suffered.
“Ours started out on some of the positive quality of life things that we have that have happened in the last few years or that are strong points,” said Bucholz, who is the Bowman School Board president.
Bowman and Scranton are both excited to advance their downtowns, Doerr said.
“I’m quite proud of our downtown district — our business district in general, not just downtown,” Mayor Lyn James said. “But there’s always room for improvement.
“I think if a community doesn’t have a vision for improvement in their business district, as well as everywhere else in their community, you’re really not thinking forward.”
The city also wants to publicize its proximity to both the North Dakota Badlands and the South Dakota Black Hills.
“We really have the opportunity to get people to stop here,” Doerr said. “We’ve got our local museum and things like that that are really popular.”
The town of 1,600 usually has a limited time to impress visitors, Bucholz said.
“We can’t capture them for more than that overnight stay, for the most part,” said Bucholz, who is co-owner of the North Winds Motel.
“But a lot of that’s in place. It’s just how do we enhance that a little bit more and do a better job with that. We have a lot of motels and a lot of restaurants; the gas station — we have all that to service those people but how can we make people a little more aware.”
Bowman County’s Vision West focus
Bowman County city and county officials identified 11 areas of economic planning at a meeting last week. They are:
- Attracting government funding
- Business retention and expansion
- Downtown development
- Energy development
- Entrepreneurial development
- Growing reputation as a bedroom community
- Health care
- Infrastructure development
- Local regional tourism
- Pass-through visitor services
- Value-added agriculture