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North Dakota sees record growth in taxable sales

BISMARCK, N.D. (AP) -- Oil-rich North Dakota's taxable sales and purchases totaled more than $25.2 billion last year, an increase of about 29 percent from 2011, the state Tax Department said Wednesday.

Cory Fong, the state tax commissioner, said the state's strong economy lead to record growth in taxable sales and purchases 2012.

"As we enter 2013, North Dakota is still well positioned for more growth," Fong said. "But we anticipate it will be at a generally slower, yet more sustainable pace than the last few years."

North Dakota's taxable sales a decade earlier in 2002 totaled $7.15 billion, or just more than the $6.7 billion recorded during the last three months of 2012, data show.

Mike Rud, president of the North Dakota Retail Association, called North Dakota's economic growth "mindboggling."

"These are unprecedented numbers," Rud said of the Tax Department data. "We've had three years, 12 straight quarters of continued growth. Nobody else in the country can boast that."

Fong said all industries in North Dakota reported growth in 2012. The two largest categories of state taxable sales and purchases — wholesale trade and retail trade — both increased sharply. Wholesale trade rose 36.6 percent during the year, to $5.9 billion, while retail trade rose 16.5 percent, to $6.3 billion.

The biggest growth is coming from western North Dakota's oil-producing region. Taxable sales and purchases in Williams County totaled $4.6 billion for the year, up more than 43 percent, data show.

The city of Williston, where the official population count is pegged at 26,697, had more taxable sales and purchases during the year than Fargo, North Dakota's biggest city with a population of more than 107,000. Williston, in the heart of the state's oil patch, recorded $3.51 billion in taxable sales and purchases during 2012, compared with Fargo's $2.6 billion.

The state currently trails only Texas in oil output. North Dakota has risen from the ninth biggest oil state just six years ago with improved horizontal drilling techniques in the rich Bakken shale and Three Forks formations in the western part of the state.

Tax Department data show economic prosperity statewide and in communities far from the state's oil patch. Forty-two of North Dakota's 53 counties had growth in taxable sales and purchases during 2012, Tax Department records show. The agency said 155 of the state's 200 largest cities also showed increases in taxable sales and purchases last year.

Gov. Jack Dalrymple said in a statement Wednesday that the Tax Department data "shows strong purchasing power in areas throughout the state and in all industry sectors. It's further evidence that our focus on economic development continues to help grow and diversify our economy."


Follow James MacPherson on Twitter at http://www.twitter.com/macphersonja