Fueling the Community

Jim Arthaud shares his instinct for seizing opportunities in business and the importance of passing along wisdom to others

I started in the late seventies with nothing but a pickup truck that I purchased with five hundred dollars borrowed from my younger brother. I was working for an oil company at the time—when the oil and gas industry was booming—and when they couldn’t find people to take care of certain services, they asked if I would. I had nothing to lose, so I started MBI Energy.

At first I supervised individual wells, but soon they asked if I would provide maintenance servicing. So my brother came on board, we bought our first rig, and MBI Energy morphed from there. A few years later, my father retired from his career as a trucker with Koch and joined us as well. MBI Energy has always been very family oriented.

The biggest part of our business is transportation of fluids. Trucking was extremely regulated in the early eighties, so we fought to be issued the first permit in North Dakota in thirty years. Just a couple years later, when trucking was deregulated, we were afraid we’d lose business after we had spent so much in fees and permits. But trucking deregulation turned out to be another opportunity for us—one that opened the door to competition based on service and ability to operate. It allowed us to build our business on a level playing field.

We at MBI Energy live and breathe the oil and gas industry. I’m in the middle of my career, but there’s a saying in the oil and gas industry: you never retire because it’s just too exciting. In the last few years, we’ve brought on lots of young talent to help us build the business and expand the future of the company. We want to make sure that all the newer employees have the same opportunities that those of us had at the beginning. We’re all family at MBI Energy. You get taken care of here—it’s just the way we are.

We like to care for the rest of our community as well, and one way that we give back is by backing schools, sports teams, rodeo clubs, and “Home on the Range,” an educational place for kids who haven’t been given many opportunities. Another way we’re involved is through local politics. I’m a county commissioner, and we have other employees who sit on different boards as well. This is where we live, where we grew up and raised our families, and we want to see our community grow old with us in the right way.

A lot of people ask why we grew like this, and I often say that we didn’t have a choice. We grew to satisfy our customer’s needs, and we protected the market share that naturally came with growth. We also had to understand the cyclical nature of business—the ups and downs. But no matter what, we never leave the business when we leave the building, and we use the tools in front of us to understand where it’s going. We compete to be the best every day.