A North Dakota oil boom is creating a trove of unlikely millionaires in a normally quiet state and has pushed some counties there to grow as rich as Manhattan or suburban Washington, D.C.
In North Dakota, the oil boom is hard to discern, Reuters noted. Many of the new millionaires are men like Robert Western, a farmer who still wears overalls and a baseball hat despite his vast wealth.
“Some of the younger people buy a lot more – machinery, vehicles, things like that,” said the 75-year-old Western. “The rest of us, I guess it doesn’t alter our lifestyle a great deal. I don’t have a lot of needs.”
But as Western left the restaurant where he spoke to a Reuters reporter, another man revealed a secret about the Western: He’s rich.
“You can’t tell the average Joe farmer from the average Joe millionaire,” said Ward Heidbreder, Stanley city coordinator.
The North Dakota oil boom has pushed the average income in Mountrail County to roughly double in the last five years. The average person there now makes $52,027 per year, ranking it in the richest 100 counties in the nation along with New York City and Marin, California.
Bruce Gjovig, founder for the Center for Innovation at the University of North Dakota, said the North Dakota oil boom is creating as many as 2,000 millionaires a year in the state. Much of that comes from oil royalties that require no work: Many residents in oil regions receive up to $60,000 a month, some more than $100,000.
In Stanley, a well drilled under the town means that many homeowners receive a royalty check just for living there. In the last five years, the town’s population has doubled to 3,200.
The North Dakota oil boom hasn’t done much to change lifestyles there, Reuters reported. There aren’t luxury cars or mansions, but there is one accessory the new millionaires do buy: pickup trucks.
“They are a lot more elaborate, a lot more loaded up than what they used to be, even the accessories,”said Gary Evans, co-owner of Stanley’s Ford dealer, Prairie Motors Inc. “There is a big demand for accessorizing a pickup truck – everything from running boards to grill guards to chrome wheels.”
The North Dakota oil boom could still have more steam. Enbridge Inc. plans to build an oil pipeline to transport the crude oil from the state, the Tulsa World reported. Known as “Sandpiper,” this line would be able to carry as much as 200,000 barrels a day from North Dakota to oil refineries in eastern Canada.