Faces of the Boom: Dominican native proud to have played a part of boom’s beginnings

Willy Amparo, pictured Friday, March 21, 2014, in Williston, N.D., moved to North Dakota seven years ago from Florida and works in the oil industry. Amy Dalrymple/Forum News Service

WILLISTON, N.D. – Willy Amparo became part of North Dakota’s oil boom by accident.

While thousands of people now move to the state each year looking for work, the Florida man was ahead of the curve.

Amparo wound up in Williston seven years ago after an opportunity he was pursuing in Canada didn’t work out. The 47-year-old held a variety of jobs in the beginning, from restaurant work to doing maintenance at a nursing home, before getting a start in the oil industry.

Now Amparo, who repairs equipment for hydraulic fracturing, is proud to have been part of the oil boom since the early days.

“We have made history over here. We are part of that,” Amparo said. “Now everyone knows Williston around the United States. No one knew seven years ago.”

Many of the workers Amparo met during his first years in Williston are no longer around, he says.

Amparo has stayed because his son-in-law also moved to Williston and began working in the oil industry, which led to several members of their family relocating to North Dakota.

“For families that come over here now, it’s not that tough,” Amparo said. “But back then, it was real tough.”

The shortage of affordable housing has been the main challenge for his family, said Amparo, who lived in a truck for the first five months.

Amparo got divorced after moving to North Dakota, which he says was largely because his wife didn’t want to move to the state.

“A lot of guys went through the same thing,” he said. “The wives didn’t want to put up with this town back then.”

Amparo said he has watched living and working conditions improve for workers and their families. One significant change he appreciates is the increase in diversity. Amparo once thought he was the only native of the Dominican Republic in Williston, but now the city has residents from all over the world.

“We have seen how the town has changed and how we have changed,” Amparo said. “We have grown up with the town, mentally, emotionally.”

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