The Daily Item, Sunbury, PA

Election 2012

November 3, 2012

Better off 4 years later? A mixed bag of answers

(Continued)

WASHINGTON — THE BUILDER

Four years ago, Dan Manjack was scraping by, a Florida building contractor struggling to stay afloat in a state drowning in foreclosures.

“It’s probably the first time in my life that I felt fear,” says Manjack, a 44-year-old Army veteran. “I had four kids to support. I had an ex-wife (they were divorcing at the time) to support.... My life savings were gone. My checking was gone. They were dire times.”

He eked out a living by taking small construction jobs and dabbling in marketing ventures; he even considered moving to Dubai. “I was trying to do everything I could to survive,” he says. “I really didn’t know where to go, to be honest with you.”

He headed north. Destination: Williston, N.D., ground zero in an enormous oil boom.

A friend had put him in touch with an investor who wanted him to come there to build a man camp — temporary housing for workers flooding into the area.

The investor portrayed Williston as modern-day gold rush country, So Manjack made the 1,500-mile trek. Before the camp was even finished, it was sold and he realized he was in a land of limitless opportunity.

There’s no doubt where he stands on that “better off” question.

“I think you can get rich up here,” he says, “but it takes sacrifice.”

Manjack traded his 1,800-square-foot Florida condo for a 40-foot motor home and 16-hour work days, far from his kids in Texas. But he has no regrets. Friends who told him he was crazy to go now call, looking for jobs.

He’s building a downtown office and condo and already has started a construction company.

Along with financial security, Manjack says he has “the feeling of American pride, that you’re doing your part in getting the U.S. off foreign oil. It’s exciting to live here.”

“Four years ago, I didn’t have any direction,” he says. “I didn’t know what the economy was going to do. I didn’t know what construction was going to do. ... I feel like I found out where I want to be. ... I don’t know how I got to North Dakota. But I’m really glad I did.”

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