WILLISTON, ND— In recent years, thousands of oil workers havepoured into the towns and cities that sit atop the nation's shaleformation areas like the Bakken in North Dakota and Eagle Ford inTexas, creating the need for new housing and retail outlets. Andaccording to JLL's new 2014 North AmericanEnergy Outlook study, even small cities like Williston,ND, which still have relatively little retail, have caught the eyeof major brands like Whole Foods andTrader Joe's. JLL expects that $80 billion inannual investments over the next six years will pour into theregions, turning small outposts into genuine boom towns.

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“The energy boom is having a dramatic effect on theinfrastructure of these boom towns and on the economies of the hubsthat support the oil and gas business,” said BruceRutherford, international director and head of the oil& gas practice for JLL, in a prepared statement. GlobeSt.comwill provide more detail from him later in the week.

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“Sites like Williston and Midland, TX, Hobbs, NM in the PermianBasin are having a tremendous influx of workers, and those workersneed to eat, they need places to shop and they need homes," headded. "All of this demands infrastructure that doesn't exist, andit needs to be built.”

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As reported in GlobeSt.com, in Williston and the surroundingtowns, those needs have kicked off the development of housing, restaurants and hotels. However, “we are just scratching the surfaceof the benefit on our local economies,” Rutherford said. “It alsocreates a business that has to be supported regionally which meansjobs and a surge of economic activity in cities like Houston,Denver, Dallas and Pittsburgh.”

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The average retail square-foot per person is only 12.05 in NorthDakota, nearly 50% below the US average, JLL found. “Man camps arecommonplace, due to low housing vacancy rates and rising homeprices, which are expected to jump 9.69% by 2018.” Furthermore,apartment rents are now more than $2.50-per-square-foot.

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Estimates are that the oil and gas supply will last for decades,and big developers have begun to launch North Dakota projects. TheSwiss real estate company Stropiq, for example,“is planning a $500 million, 219-acre development, featuringone-million-square-feet of retail, entertainment and hotel spacealong with offices and residential plots,” according to JLL.

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“The US Commerce Department recent announcementto open the door to more U.S. oil exports is an incredible economicopportunity,” Rutherford added. “Increase in crude production couldlead to a nearly $73 billion rise in the US GDP in 2016. That meansmore jobs and economic growth in these communities.”

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Brian J. Rogal

Brian J. Rogal is a Chicago-based freelance writer with years of experience as an investigative reporter and editor, most notably at The Chicago Reporter, where he concentrated on housing issues. He also has written extensively on alternative energy and the payments card industry for national trade publications.