--"With the nearby oil boom draining this city of many
of its service workers, businesses here are relying on a
cultural-exchange program for foreign college students to keep the local
More than 500 foreign students—from Thailand, Jamaica and about a
dozen other countries—are staffing nearly every hotel, car wash and
fast-food place in town, tending to the troops of roughnecks from the
"Without them, I don't know what we'd do," said Ward Koeser, mayor of
this city of 16,000, citing long lines, slow service and limited hours
at stores and restaurants before the students arrived."
Williston and the surrounding area face a rare problem in today's
economy: more jobs than workers. As of May, the county surrounding Williston had nearly 1,700 unfilled
jobs and 240 people unemployed. The unemployment rate is 0.7%. Since 2006, when new drilling
technology opened up the region's shale reserve to oil production, the
northwest corner of North Dakota has added 30,000 jobs—a 136% increase.
Those jobs were filled by many former service workers in Williston—along
with mostly male workers who flocked to the oil jobs from across the