Kari Cutting, Bismarck, North Dakota Petroleum Council
Man camp. The term has a very negative connotation. It sounds wild and undisciplined, but the temporary workhouse housing or "crew camp" of today is anything but uncivilized. Several months ago, I spent a night at the Tioga Lodge, a Target Logistics facility. This is what I saw.
Security is tight at the front gate. If you don't have a camp-specific photo ID, or your name is not on the guest list, you will not enter. The facility is very clean. Workers are expected to either remove their work boots or don booties to maintain clean floors.
At first, the building and its layout reminded me of a college dormitory, but then I realized the population of the crew camp was much more diverse. Today's crew camp is home to blue and white collar workers, roughnecks and engineers. Some are brand new to the workforce and others are well-seasoned men and women.
The food is world-class, hot, abundant and served many hours of the day for the convenience of those who live at the facility. The atmosphere is cheerful, considerate and, above all, very quiet. There are always people sleeping because of the varying work schedules of the residents.
A large TV room, workout facility and Internet cafe are there to accommodate needs for fitness, relaxation, education or contact with loved ones far away. Facility-wide Wi-Fi is also available for those wanting to use Netflix, catch up on emails, or those furthering their education through online learning.
As I visited with several fellow crewmates, I realized that this facility is so much more than temporary workforce housing. For some, it is a home away from home on a two-weeks-on-one-week-off schedule. A place to lay a weary head after a 12-hour shift and dream of sending kids to college or finally starting that retirement fund. In the winter, it is a welcoming place where a hot meal is served and a warm comfortable bed awaits in a small room with only a modicum of creature comforts.
For the nearby community, it is a means to provide housing without additional pressures toward rent escalation. Not all of the people who stay in a crew camp will be bringing their families to become permanent North Dakotans. That's OK. We don't want to overbuild to accommodate their time here. But temporary workforce housing will be there to meet their immediate needs until they return home.
Temporary workforce housing is not a North Dakota invention, but rather a tried-and-true method of supplying housing without further tapping housing infrastructure. North Dakota needs these men and women. Some are here to build the very infrastructure necessary to develop the Bakken and accommodate the growth of western North Dakota. They are crew members working side by side each day to get the job done.
Man camp. That term doesn't really effectively describe the temporary workforce housing facilities and the residents who live in them. Crew camp is a much better term for expressing the reality of the facilities and the hardworking men and women who call them home.