Western Cooperative Credit UnionWhile national reports of gasoline dropping to less than $3 a gallon had consumers almost everywhere revving their engines for joy, in North Dakota, the mood was a little different.

“Some of the oil producers here wouldn’t be too excited [by falling prices],” said Melanie Stillwell, president/CEO of $345 million Western Cooperative Credit Union, who oversees the only financial cooperative in Williston, N.D.

Until about five years ago, Western Cooperative was a leading agricultural lender in an area known for its wheat and barley production and little else. But then new drilling technology and an increasing demand for domestic oil led to the tapping of the massive Bakken oil reserve two miles below those fields and life in northwestern North Dakota and parts of eastern Montana abruptly changed.

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