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Rising Economic Tide Lifts all Boats in Grays Harbor County

It’s not just the summer sun that’s making things seem bright in Grays Harbor, in many ways things are just looking up around here!

Perhaps you’ve experienced that rise in optimism yourself as new neighbors move into the empty house down the street, you see construction of another new business, and one more of your friends finally finds a good job.

In the last couple of weeks we’ve talked with Tom Quigg , owner of Windermere Real Estate Ocean Shores, who let us know that home sales are up and home values here are on the rise.

Not only do housing statistics show that more people are making Grays Harbor their home, but there’s also been an uptick of people discovering what a great place this is to visit.

Last week we talked with Mike Bruner, director of the Grays Harbor County Tourism Office, and learned that Grays Harbor County saw a 9.4 percent increase in tourism from 2015 to 2016.

That is approximately three times the increase in tourism the state had during the same period!


This week we talked with Dru Garson, CEO of Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. Greater Grays Harbor, Inc., located in Aberdeen, is our regional Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Council and Visitor Information Center all rolled into one.

Garson, who has been at the helm there for nearly 3 years, is encouraged by the activity of late.

“I’m very optimistic about the local economy,” he said. “Here in 2017 we have a lot of projects coming to fruition and some in the pipeline. We’re just seeing a lot of opportunities for our county. A lot of businesses that suffered from the effects of the 2008 recession are feeling more optimistic about their businesses and the opportunities for expansion.”

In fact, Garson and his office put together an annual “Grays Harbor Economic Vitality Index,” which compares all sorts of data from year to year to get an idea of economic trends and progress in our county.

The 2017 Economic Vitality Index was released in June, and to sum it all up, the right numbers are up and the right numbers are down!


The introduction to the Grays Harbor County Economic Vitality Index sums it up nicely: “Grays Harbor County experienced increases in many of our leading indicators in 2016 showing another year of improvement. Our average unemployment rate decreased slightly from 2015 to 2016, while Taxable Retail Sales and County Hotel/Motel taxes continue to steadily increase. Additionally, the median home price increased by approximately 10 percent for the second year in a row. Lastly, shipping activity increased at the Port of Grays Harbor, especially with the growth of liquid bulk and dry bulk cargo.”

Whew, that’s a lot of good news in one paragraph!

What we find especially encouraging is that many of the positive numbers are building from an increase the year before. We like seeing those kinds of trends!

If things can spiral down – as they did in 2008 throughout most of the country – they can spiral up too. And that’s what we’re seeing here.


From 2015 to 2016 retail sales are up 5 percent in the county, with some of the communities in the county experiencing quite an increase from the taxable retail sales from 2014 to 2015.

Five percent may not seem like a big increase, but the taxable retail sales estimates for Grays Harbor County grew 51 million dollars from $930 million in 2015 to $981 million in 2016.

Since a low of $795 million in 2012, the taxable retail sales have been going up significantly each year.

At the community level, many cities experienced increase in their taxable retail sales. Cosmopolis increased by 25 percent, McCleary and Ocean Shores, each increased by 14 percent. Unincorporated Grays Harbor County was up 13 percent, Oakville up 9 percent, Elma up 5 percent, Montesano up 3 percent and Aberdeen up 1 percent.

A few communities experienced modest declines including Westport at 6 percent down and Hoquiam at 5 percent down.

Overall, Aberdeen has the biggest piece of the pie, bringing in an estimated 41 percent of the taxable retail sales dollars throughout Grays Harbor County. It is followed by unincorporated Grays Harbor County at 21 percent.

If you are interested in these kinds of facts and figures, you can see the entire Grays Harbor Economic Vitality Index for 2017 online at

At his leadership role at Greater Grays Harbor, Inc., Dru Garson has a unique vantage point to view the economic picture of Grays Harbor. Next week, we will take a peak of even more of the view.


First-time homebuyer? To get the best loans, get educated. Check out for your internet homebuyer education and housing counseling needs. We here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor will help you get it done. We may be able to help you finance your home purchase, too.

Dave Murnen and Pat Beaty are construction specialists at NeighborWorks® of Grays Harbor County, where Murnen is the executive director. This is a non-profit organization committed to creating safe and affordable housing opportunities for all residents of Grays Harbor County.

Do you have questions about home repair, renting, remodeling or becoming a homeowner or one of our contractors? We have rehab loan funds at tailored rates! Call us at 533-7828, write us or visit us at 710 E. Market St. in Aberdeen.

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