The industrial housing market is booming in the Bakken and father and son real-estate partners, Tom and Jeff Lunnen, have capitalized on the needs of local oil and service companies wanting to build in the Williston area.
Tom started Lunnen Development 35 years ago, after serving in the Vietnam War then earning his Master of Business Administration degree from California State University. His full spectrum real-estate company was based in San Juan Capistrano, Calif., when he started to build “small shopping centers and business offices.” The company has a hand in the development of over 13,000 acres in California, Utah and Colorado.
Two years ago, Tom and his son Jeff began moving their business into the Bakken, having learned Williston was “one of the fastest growing Micropolitan areas in the country,” Tom said.
In his eyes, the city had become the prime real-estate settlement for successful oil and gas companies. This route of thinking was encouraged when the Williston Economic Development Center projected a significant growth in population and new businesses, a rise in job creation and soaring valuations of building permits.
“I didn't want years to go by and not be part of the boom – the largest story in this American century,” Tom said.
Today, North Dakota reports it has become the second largest oil producer in the U.S.; it was formerly ninth, Tom said. The state has more than $2 billion in surplus and the unemployment rate is the lowest in the nation.
Furthermore, monthly oil production for Williams County has continued to rise and state projections say numbers should tower a total of 4,000 wells in the next four years.
Tom said he is grateful for family foresight and continues to research the area to stay ahead of the curve.
“Williston was and remains the bright spot in the U.S.,” Tom said. “We thought development was under served and that we had the horsepower to do something about it.”
The Lunnens soon began to offer area clients real estate solutions through traditional brokerage, auction marketing and development. Their knowledge of the market conditions, long standing relationships with investors, lenders and government established them as one of the most trusted and respected companies in the area real estate industry.
Tom said his son's marketing expertise gives Lunnen Development the “leg-up” needed to have completed 14 transactions for major company facilities in the Bakken, including those in Williams County, Williston, Tioga and Ray.
The Lunnens pride themselves on their abilities to purchase, rehabilitate, rent and sell properties through their construction crews, property management and real estate sales divisions, Tom said. They see a project through, working with city and county officials to secure zoning permits, titles, and work to install all utilities if clients wish them to do so.
“We help meet the tsunami of needs,” Jeff said.
Most of their business has involved serving the “insular groups that assist the larger oil companies,” Tom said. These might include trucking, electric, excavators and roustabout crews searching for office and storage spacing.
The Lunnens live in California but often spend two to three weeks a month in the Bakken, overseeing construction of 5,000-40,000 sq. ft. metal facilities in the area.
“No matter what your business, we can provide you with a facility,” Jeff said.
Acquiring the necessary documentation to build has not always been easy for the company, since the city and county have experienced a rush of real-estate applicants.
“There is an explosion of growth and we understand the issues at hand,” Jeff said. “We have a good relationship with city and county officials.”
The Lunnens are trying to secure long-lasting relationship with government officials while recognizing city and county needs for infrastructure. They said their best investments often involve building on properties already hooked up to city and county utilities – working in accordance with government comprehensive growth plans.
Today the company is at various stages of development on large commercial projects in the Bakken, one being a four lot, 50.7 acre project.
The industrial land is located just off the truck bypass, fronting Cartwright Drive nearing the southeast corner of 56th and Williams County Highway 9.
“It is well situated, near the bypass and all utilities are being delivered to the site,” Jeff said. Utilities include water, three phase electricity, gas, fiber optic and telephone stubbed to the lots.
The Lunnens asked $55,000 per acre and the four lots qualify for the $75,000 interest rate buy-down offered by the city of Williston.
Another building currently in the works is one 5,000-10,000 industrial duplex just off a principle arterial East Broadway, fronting Bean Street, which is currently under construction in the down-town area of Williston.
All city utilities are being delivered to the site in close proximity to the Williston Public Works Department, Halliburton, Schlumberger, SanJel, XTO Energy, Coca-Cola and Sabin Metals. The asking price was $619,000.
The success of the Lunnens has made Tom grateful, who debated whether to retire before heading into the Bakken with his son. Inspired by the times, Tom plans to stick around for years to come, then will hand down the business to Jeff, keeping the company he built in the family.
“We expect to be around for the 40 year plus oil play,” Tom said. “And we are proud that Williston and Williams County are bringing prosperity back to the country.”