A common belief amongst Bismarck citizens is that we are all immune to the current economic conditions felt across the country, despite the fact that this is perhaps the worst recession in decades.
What people seem to forget is that many of Bismarck’s top industries are directly dependant on the rest of the country. In fact, North Dakota’s largest commodity, agriculture, is sold all over the world. Bismarck’s strong economy can collapse like a chain reaction if we continue to hold onto the belief that we are invincible.
Our farmers do not grow food for just North Dakota. If people across the country are not buying as much food as before, than the farmers are making less money, which means they are buying less merchandise – including Bobcat machinery, which is also one of Bismarck’s largest employers.
Bobcat has already taken efforts to cut costs, including a temporary shut down and several rounds of layoffs. Bobcat ships its equipment all over the world, and is therefore already feeling the effects of the slowed economy. It would not be all that surprising if Bobcat were to close all together as a result of the nation’s economic conditions. The closure of the Bobcat plant would greatly affect Bismarck’s economy.
For the past couple years, people have flocked to North Dakota seeking jobs in the oilfields. With oil prices plummeting and the demand also lessening, those jobs could now fall by the wayside as well. In fact, some already have.
Many national businesses, such as Aetna and Unisys, have branches in Bismarck. If those businesses are affected on the national level, it will eventually dwindle down to our local branches. Retailers are amongst the most in danger now. North Dakota is often one of the top markets for retailers, so there on the surface there may not seem to be any danger of layoffs. Think again.
Also consider what would happen if one of the Big 3 Automakers went out of business. How would this affect the dealerships in Bismarck? What if a major retailer with a presence in Bismarck suddenly closed all of its locations nationwide – as many have in the past year.
Nonprofit agencies, hospitals, and schools are also vulnerable to national economic conditions, as many of them depend of federal grants to survive. If there is less federal money to go around, than these types of industries will have no choice but to cut costs – including payroll, or shut down all together.
Let’s see how the chain reaction occurs. What happens when many of the oil jobs dry up, farmers sell fewer crops, nonprofit agencies such as hospitals and schools receive less federal aid, and national businesses with local branches cut payroll. If even one or two of these occurred, it would put considerable strain on the families of those workers affected. They would have to cut their spending, which would now begin to affect the other businesses, especially retail and restaurants.
Many in Bismarck are already living paycheck to paycheck, and teetering on the edge of bankruptcy. If someone were to loose their job, you can guarantee life would be difficult for their family. Unemployment only goes so far. Where are they going to find another job? If the chain reaction occurred, what industries would be hiring?
If people start losing their jobs, than they stop paying bills. Foreclosure on their home could be around the corner, and if enough of these happen, our housing market will also collapse.
It may be a stretch to say North Dakota’s economy will collapse, but to say we are immune is ludicrous. I have just shown you one possibility of how our economy could collapse. Some local industries are already feeling the strain. Could this be a sign of what’s to come?
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