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Published May 18, 2012, 09:45 AM

Builder: ND oil boom best opportunity in decades

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — A Salt Lake City real estate developer with 40 years of experience in the building industry believes the oil boom in western North Dakota presents the biggest opportunity for builders in decades.

WILLISTON, N.D. (AP) — A Salt Lake City real estate developer with 40 years of experience in the building industry believes the oil boom in western North Dakota presents the biggest opportunity for builders in decades.

"Without federal interference, this will be one of the most significant economic opportunities this country has had in the last 50 to 100 years," said Michael Milner, managing member of the American Landmark Group.

Milner was one of the more than 350 people from 33 states who attended the Bakken Housing Summit in Williston this week, The Forum newspaper reported (http://bit.ly/Jcd1QJ ). The Bakken is the name of the shale formation that is pumping out oil in record amounts.

North Dakota has gone from being the ninth-leading oil-producing state to the second-leading producer in the past six years, and has eclipsed California and Alaska just this year. With the boom, available housing in the oil patch has become almost nonexistent. Organizers of the conference called for 5,000 homes within two years.

American Landmark Group, which has done major developments in Utah and Nevada, began working in North Dakota and Montana about a year ago. The group has properties in Glendive and Sidney, Mont., and is tying up some properties this week in Watford City and Dickinson, Milner said. The firm also has joint ventures with property owners in Williston.

Barry Rutenberg, chairman of the National Association of Home Builders, told conference participants that one challenge to financing projects is that many lenders are not convinced the North Dakota oil boom is not a temporary phenomenon.

Builders and developers also spoke about the difficulties of finding enough licensed electricians, plumbers and other contractors in North Dakota, and the need to do a lot more planning to get materials.

"Building up here is kind of like building on the moon," said Clint Wilson of HybridCore Homes, a California-based company. "If you haven't brought it with you, you're going to have a delay for trying to complete your project."

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Information from: The Forum, http://www.in-forum.com

Copyright 2012 The Associated Press.

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