After The Boom

When big oil spends less, an area built on oil services feels unease.

They call it “the billion mile.” Along a short stretch of road between Ølen and Vats in western Norway, in a municipality with a population less than 10,000, you find several major businesses, some with revenues well into the billions of NOK.

Most companies are connected to the oil service industry, making the entire community vulnerable to changes in the business cycles of the petroleum industry at large. In boom years, outside workers flock to the area in such numbers that one oil consultant firm even had to establish its own construction company to build housing for their new employees. That’s good for the local economy, obviously, with the town bar (smalltown bars are always good business barometers) reporting most nights as good nights. But that was then.

When a journalist from the Norwegian Business Daily and I visited the area in January of 2014 to see how lacking investments from the oil industries affect the community at large, we found the bar in question and saw the house band playing to a room empty but us.