Expendable industry: Oilfield service companies, workers deal with layoffs in wake of low oil prices

Command Center branch manager Kristen Vesledahl, left, speaks to staffing specialist Rena Olheiser on April 22 at their downtown Dickinson, N.D.,office. Vesledahl and Olheiser said more people are coming to their staffing service looking for work since the oil prices dropped. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)
Command Center branch manager Kristen Vesledahl, left, speaks to staffing specialist Rena Olheiser on April 22 at their downtown Dickinson, N.D.,office. Vesledahl and Olheiser said more people are coming to their staffing service looking for work since the oil prices dropped. (Dustin Monke / The Dickinson Press)

A few weeks ago, a man walked into Command Center, a temporary labor and staffing service in downtown Dickinson, and said he needed a job after being laid off from a high-paying position on an oil rig.

The man said he’d only work for $35 an hour, needed a minimum of 50 hours guaranteed each week, and wanted his housing paid for along with a $150 a day per diem.

After realizing the man wasn’t joking, staffing specialist Rena Olheiser responded in the kindest manner she could muster.

“Well good luck with that,” she said with a smile.

The days of high wages, overtime, free meals and company housing for many oil workers in the Bakken are coming to an end. At least for now.

This is especially true around Dickinson, where there isn’t a drilling rig within 50 miles and likely won’t be until the price of oil climbs back to levels oil companies deem profitable.

“I tell them here, ‘Everyone is expendable. Everyone,’” said Kristen Vesledahl, Command Center’s branch manager.

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Hundreds of kids attend Health & Safety Fair


More than 1,000 children and parents laughed and learned Thursday afternoon during the Kids Health & Safety Fair in Dickinson.

The superhero-themed four-hour event featured several hands-on and educational booths and activities, as well as family entertainment.

There were hearing and eye tests for young ones, interactive games and a chance to play and learn.

Badlands Baby Fair & Expo draws young mothers, families

Hundreds of young and expecting mothers, and their families, attended The Badlands Baby Fair & Expo on Saturday at the West River Ice Center in Dickinson.

Check out the video to learn more.

Energy showcase: Slowdown impacts Bakken product show, but exhibitors keep making connections

The slowdown of oil production and drilling in the Bakken Oil Patch is apparent even in the sales and trade areas.

Foot traffic was a little slow at times Wednesday during the inaugural Bakken Oil Product & Service Show, exhibitors said, but picked up in the afternoon as attendees stayed busy networking and showcasing new products at the West River Ice Center. The trade show continues at 9 a.m. today.

“We’re seeing some of the effects of the slowdown,” said Jeff Zarling, president of DAWA Solutions Group, which promoted the event. “Just like everybody else in the marketplace, we’re waiting to see what’s going to happen and anxious to see when things are going to accelerate again.”

More than 200 exhibitors from across the country showcased products and services, and exchanged information while hundreds of others walked the Ice Center talking to business owners and representatives, taking in product demonstrations and workshops.

“Everybody likes to see lots of people, but there’s also the fact that they like to see quality people,” Zarling said. “It only takes one to make it all worth it.”

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Wild stallion

A wild horse in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit stands atop a ridge near the scenic route while taking a break from grazing on Sunday afternoon near Medora.
A wild horse in the Theodore Roosevelt National Park South Unit stands atop a ridge near the scenic route while taking a break from grazing on Sunday afternoon near Medora.

I took a drive through Theodore Roosevelt National Park’s South Unit near Medora on Sunday and captured a couple photographs of the park’s wild horses, including one close-up with a lone stallion. For more photos, check out my photo site.

Bringing back Bailey: Couple reunites with lost golden retriever 2 months after she went missing in Oil Patch

Luke Rodenbough, of Blaisdell, and Staci Moore, of Dickinson, sit with their dog, 13-month-old golden retriever Bailey, on the steps outside of their Dickinson apartment building on Wednesday. They reunited with Bailey on Monday after the dog went missing Jan. 27 near Parshall. (Dustin Monke/The Dickinson Press)
Luke Rodenbough, of Blaisdell, and Staci Moore, of Dickinson, sit with their dog, 13-month-old golden retriever Bailey, on the steps outside of their Dickinson apartment building on Wednesday. They reunited with Bailey on Monday after the dog went missing Jan. 27 near Parshall. (Dustin Monke/The Dickinson Press)

Bailey can be a handful.

A loveable, smiling and prancing handful of soft, golden fur.

On Wednesday afternoon, the 13-month-old purebred golden retriever — still very much a puppy at heart — tore around a Dickinson apartment. She played with her toys, teased a cat and nuzzled up to whoever would pet her.

Bailey was happy. She was home.

It was a welcome and relieving sight for her owners, Luke Rodenbough, of Blaisdell, and his girlfriend, Staci Moore, of Dickinson.

A little more than two months ago, Rodenbough thought he had lost Bailey forever.

The dog he had raised, trained and loved since he got her last May as an 8-week-old pup disappeared Jan. 27 after he had taken her to a job site near Parshall.

“We just couldn’t find her,” he said.

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City should build an event center

A few weeks ago, I found myself sitting in a room with some lifelong community members.

Like men who like to talk do, we started fixing the world’s problems — starting with Dickinson’s.

Because this happened inside of a room at Trinity High School during the Region 7 boys basketball tournament, the conversation quickly turned to sports and the 2,300-person crowd packed into the Knights of Columbus Activities Center gymnasium just down the hall.

Each March, thousands of fans sardine themselves into arguably the best high school gymnasium in North Dakota to watch high school basketball tournaments.

Why? Because it’s all Dickinson, a regional hub city, has to offer.

So finally, I asked everyone a question: “Do you think this community would support a 5,000-seat event center?” The resounding answer was, “Yes.”

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