Even as frigid winds whip across the frozen plains of North Dakota, creating wind chills of nearly 50 degrees below zero, many businesses in this state are feeling warm and toasty.
Two weeks ago, when the state's Republican governor, Jack Dalrymple, gave his "State of the State Address," he proclaimed the first strategy to job creation is "sustaining a positive business climate."
He continued: "In North Dakota -- unlike most other states -- we are setting our own course and reaping the rewards of ... our careful fiscal management [and] pro-business climate."
Dalrymple was alluding to the state's 3.8% unemployment rate, the lowest in the nation, and an estimated $1 billion surplus, which state legislators are currently debating about how to divvy up or stash away for a rainy day.
"The state of our state is strong," Dalrymple said, "and we're growing stronger."
Many other states across the nation would envy North Dakota's current position. Legislators in Illinois agreed last week to raise state income taxes 67%, a move which only partially closes the state's massive budget gap. Cuts in New Jersey have forced that state to even slash its ranks of police and firefighters, usually considered a last resort.
North Dakota, on the other hand, expects the cash to continue rolling into Bismarck, the state capital.
The good times are due in large part to the newly-exploited shale oil fields in the Bakken Formation, found two miles below the earth's surface, stretching across North Dakota's northwest.
According to published analyses, state tax revenues from oil extraction could total an additional $2 billion through mid-2013. And depending on where rising oil prices eventually go as the global economy continues to recover, the amount could be even higher.
"There have been booms and busts in the past in North Dakota," Mark Jendrysik, chair of the department of political science and public administration at the University of North Dakota, told FOX Business. "But this time people think it's going to be different, especially with the newer technologies."
North Dakotans take pride in what they call a diverse economy, including a vibrant agricultural sector and the many expanding industries surrounding petroleum development. Yet, at its core, the state remains a beneficiary of commodities, precisely at a time when global hunger for such products has been turning upward. Whether it be oil, natural gas, coal, soybeans or grains, a growing world economy is driving higher prices and demand for North Dakota's goods.
"It's been a perfect storm," said Jendrysik. "Several recent excellent harvests, combined with the state's energy sector, has certainly been a perfect storm for economic growth."
What remains in question, including for Jendrysik, is whether the state can accommodate, on an infrastructure level, its rapidly-expanding industries.
For example, oil field service company Halliburton (NYSE:HAL), in a dire need for workers, moved the Olympic Village from the Vancouver games to the city of Williston, located in the state's Bakken oil belt. Smaller communities, in particular, do not have enough room for the thousands of newcomers to live, or for the thousands more that could yet arrive, so companies have been improvising.
In Stanley, workers spent the summer in a tents. During cold months, they seek shelter in "winterized" recreational vehicles, often protected from harsh drafts by plywood sheets attached to the vehicle's lower outside walls.
"The question is whether there is a will to invest in the things needed to continue the boom," said Jendrysik. "Will this state build more roads, more schools, the things that come with growth? Will North Dakota produce value-added products?"
Oil companies in the Bakken region have helped build the roads they need to expand their work. But a broader-scale, longer-term expansion could require additional state involvement.
North Dakotans concede that in a future "State of the State" address, the talk could turn to sustaining the boom, rather than riding it. Yet, the governor remains confident. During his address, he also reminded constituents: "We in North Dakota are in a position of strength and can use our surplus funds to meet the needs of our state."
FOX Business Correspondent Jeff Flock will be reporting from the Bakken region all day Thursday.