"Who would have thought that we'd be in our 50s and struggling?" Pam Weaver said. "We're not the only ones. We've had three different friends who have lost businesses in town in the last five years."

Zimbelman, the Minot mayor, and Menards store manager Graef said they hope some Wisconsin workers eventually decide to make Minot their permanent home instead of commuting more than 500 miles by air to get there.

But Eau Claire's Schatz has another idea.

"We would hope just the opposite," Schatz said. "We want them to bring that North Dakota money back to Eau Claire."

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