Wisconsin man who needed work drawn to North Dakota oil fieldsPeople see dollar signs in North Dakota, and Steve Kass of Hayward joined the growing crowd moving there to find work in the booming oil and gas industry.
By: Lisa Miller, Forum Communications
People see dollar signs in North Dakota, and Steve Kass of Hayward joined the growing crowd moving there to find work in the booming oil and gas industry.
He moved to Dickinson, N.D., after his work in Wisconsin slowed.
“I used to work construction, panelizing and building walls,” Kass said. “In the summer of 2006, I was working on a big commercial project in Illinois, when day after day union carpenters began coming in looking for work. I thought to myself, ‘If they are slow, what’s coming next?’ ”
And he was right.
“By the fall I had to let between 15 and 20 guys go because there was just no business,” Kass said. “It was a very difficult thing to do.”
Kass then did remodeling on his own until that “petered out,” too.
“My family (wife, Amy, and kids Tyler and Jordan) were barely getting by, and this spring I decided I had to do something,” Kass said.
He said a few people in his community were moving to North Dakota because they had heard a lot of places were hiring.
“So I decided to check it out,” Kass said. He and a friend packed up one weekend and attended a job fair.
But on the way, one of the tires on the camper the pair was pulling blew out near Richardton, N.D.
“We went into town for help and a young man offered, so we went and got the tire fixed, and then he offered to let us park the camper on his dad’s farm,” Kass said. “One thing that really surprised me was how nice everyone in North Dakota is.”
He added that other things that surprised him were the lack of trees, the general landscape and the amount of wind.
Two days after the job fair, both men were hired.
“It was such a relief,” Kass said.
He now works for Steier Oil Field Service as a roustabout.
“It’s kind of like being a mechanic. We fix things on location,” Kass said. “I had no experience. I didn’t even know what an oil field looked like, but they trained me, and things are going well.”
Kass said sometimes he feels like a fish out of water because of his lack of experience and because most of his co-workers are younger.
Kass said what he misses most is his family.
“I talk to them every day and always get the same question: ‘Dad, when are you coming home?’ It’s tough, it’s really tough to be away from family and missing out on all their big adventures,” Kass said.
He added that he wants to move his family to Dickinson but can’t find affordable housing — nor can he sell his home in Wisconsin.
“My wife is an accountant, so we both have good jobs, but in today’s economy and cost of living, things are tight,” Kass said.
Right now, Kass and his friend are living in their camper.
“I have to find something before the winter,” Kass said. “But if housing stays this way, it’s almost not worth staying. It’s cheaper to buy another house, but then my wife and I will be paying for two houses.
“You hear and learn about the Great Depression. I never thought I’d live it,” Kass said. “No one is hiring back home. People in North Dakota should feel very blessed, because it’s not like this everywhere else; you
*eally don’t know unless you’ve seen it.”
Lexi Sebastian, the executive director of the Dickinson Area Chamber of Commerce, said since the beginning of the year, the chamber has received about 500 phone calls and 225 walk-ins requesting information about the community.
Lisa Miller writes for the Dickinson (N.D.) Press. The Press and the News Tribune are owned by Forum Communications.