Minot AFB Community
In Ward County
The North Dakota oil fracking boom drew thousands of new workers into what had been open farm and ranch country, putting hard pressure on housing, but now, shadowed by an oil price collapse that began in August 2014, the Ward County cost of living has eased from its 2014 high (7.4 percent more to live in Minot than the national average) to 2.1 percent less than the national average, according to the American Chamber of Commerce’s Cost of Living Index. In 2016, groceries were still more costly (2.6 percent more) and so was health care (12.4 percent) but utilities were 22.5 percent cheaper and transportation cost 14.5 percent less than the national average, and housing prices had fallen 34.2 percent from June 2014 to June 2016 to make housing 3.1 percent cheaper than the average elsewhere.
Though oil prices at the beginning of 2016 plunged to a third of their 2015 levels, recovery seems to be underway, to $52.36 per barrel in January 2017, up from a bottom of $28.47 in January 2016. In a region whose explosive growth was fueled by technology and oil prices, the turnaround is welcomed.
In 2015, an estimated 71,275 people called Ward County home, the U.S. Census Bureau estimates. At its most recent count, in 2010, population density was 30.6 people per square mile.
Minot Air Force Base, in Ward County, is almost 12,500 people strong, base figures show — 6,300 active duty and civilians and 6,189 family members. An additional 6,385 veterans live in the area.
The Minot area has choices for newcomers looking for a home, and a reputable real estate agent can help sort through the options. The North Dakota Association of Realtors (ndrealtors.com; 701-355-1010 or 800-279-2361) and the Minot Board of Realtors (minotboardofrealtors.com, or 701-839-8217) are central sources of local real estate information and services.
Ward County, perched over part of the oil-laden Bakken shale formation, covers almost 2,014 square miles in North Dakota’s northwest quadrant and until around 2000, when drilling took off with fracking technology, was made up primarily of farms and ranchland, the rolling prairie terrain being ideal for grains, grasses and cattle.
The county tilts from its southwest high to a northeast low, from an elevation of about 2,400 feet to 1,800 feet. Its five surrounding counties are Renville to the north, McHenry to the east, McLean to the south, Mountrail to the west and Burke to the northwest. For more information, check out Ward County’s website at www.co.ward.nd.us, the North Dakota Tourism Division at www.ndtourism.com/cities/minot and the Minot Convention & Visitors Bureau at http://visitminot.org.
In addition to Minot, the county seat, principal Ward County commuter communities near Minot Air Force Base include Surrey, Glenburn and Burlington.
225 Wallace St.
Burlington ND 58722 701-852-5233
Burlington, settled in 1883 at the junction of the Des Lacs and Souris rivers, is 8 miles northwest of Minot and about 10 miles from Minot Air Force Base. It’s a city of firsts: first town in the county, first county seat and site of the first load of grain sold by a farmer, first coal mine, first hotel, first store, first framed building, first newspaper, first school, first county park and now North Dakota’s first winery, the Pointe of View Winery, with its sweet and semi-sweet wines from North Dakota-grown grapes, honey wine with elderflowers and medal-winning rhubarb wine (“Really rhubarbyish” says its website.)
The city, population 1,181 in 2015, the U.S. Census estimates, shares its public school system with Des Lacs to the southwest (population 204). Kindergarten through eighth-grade students attend classes in Burlington and grades nine through 12 go to the high school in Des Lacs.
Burlington’s Wildwood Country Club has an 18-hole golf course, and other recreational opportunities include the Old Settlers Park campground, baseball field, volleyball court, horseshoe pits, playground equipment and fishing; Rice Lake’s swimming beach, hiking trails and fishing; and Nelson Carlson Park’s campground, hiking trails, swimming beach and fishing.
215 Main St. … 701-362-7544
Glenburn, ND 58740
Glenburn, population 456, is just over the county line in Renville County, about 15 miles northeast of Minot Air Force Base off U.S. Highway 83, but is part of the Minot Micropolitan Statistical Area. Its public school teaches students from kindergarten through grade 12.
Housing is tight in the small community. In January 2017, only a handful of homes were listed for sale. Median gross rent in 2013 was $748 per month. The mean commute to work was 21.2 minutes during the same time period, according to the Census.
515 Second Ave. SW 701-857-4727
Minot, ND 58702
Minot, a railroad town from the beginning, has been swarmed in recent years by oilfield workers and their families, driving up prices for the limited supply of the city’s housing, goods and services. As oil prices have fallen, though, so have costs, especially since much has been built to accommodate Minot’s swelling population. In 2015, the U.S. Census estimated Minot’s population at 49,450, which is a 20.7 percent jump since 2010. The mean travel time to work for residents was 17.8 minutes.
The Souris River runs through the heart of Minot, though many call it the “Mouse River,” “souris” being French for “mouse.” Though one of the loveliest corridors across the city, there is nothing mouselike about its rare floods. The most recent, in 2011, drove thousands from their homes, but a strong engineering response has lessened the likelihood of a repeat, and much of the damaged housing stock has been repaired.
Minot remains the regional trading and market center with strong arts, education and health sectors. The median selected owner costs of a home with a mortgage, 2011 to 2015, was $1,287, the Census said, while median gross rent for the same period was $860.
Rental policies vary when it comes to pets, so don’t assume yours will be welcomed. Most tenants are responsible for paying for their own utilities.
100 Pleasant Ave. S 701-852-4154
Surrey, ND 58785
Surrey, seven miles east of Minot on
U.S. Highway 2, was founded and christened by the Great Northern Railroad in 1900 and has prospered ever since as a railroad town. In 1910, the railroad made it the northern terminus of a shortcut east to Fargo that shaved 44 miles off the main line, and the Surrey Cutoff is still in use.
Most of the working residents commute to Minot or Minot Air Force Base for their jobs, but the 1,358 residents support an elementary school, a high school, a gas station-convenience store combo, a liquor store that also serves food, a cabinetry shop, four self-storage units, home builders and contractors, a greenhouse and a lumber yard.
You can send a letter to Surrey or receive one (there’s a post office); there’s also a Senior Activity Center, a Lutheran Church and an active municipal government.
Housing has been tight. In 2010, the U.S. Census recorded no homes for sale. Of the 31 rental properties, only one was available. Since then, builders have come to grips with the shale boom, and in January 2017, 13 homes (mostly new), a condo and eight vacant lots were on the market, plus one rental.