Unemployment Down, Tourism up on the Harbor
Here at NeighborWorks of Grays Harbor we’re not just interested in helping others buy, fix-up or rent a home, we like to encourage the overall health of our community – including the economic health!
That’s why we were so encouraged recently when the 2017 Grays Harbor Economic Vitality Index was released.
This document is compiled by the staff at Greater Grays Harbor, Inc., our regional Chamber of Commerce, Economic Development Council and Visitor Information Center all rolled into one.
CEO Dru Garson took us on a little tour through the numbers recently. And, to sum it up, overall the right numbers are up and the right numbers are down!
“The unemployment rate is an important indicator of economic well-being,” Garson said. It is the percentage of the total labor force that is unemployed but actively seeking employment and willing to work.
Grays Harbor County has one of the higher unemployment rates in the state, but the good news is it’s on its way down!
In fact, unemployment rates within the county have declined over the past five years after cresting at a record high unemployment rate of 16.5 percent in January 2010.
In 2015, the average unemployment rate in our county was down to 9.1 percent. One year later, that rate dropped to 8.7 percent, representing a .4 percent decrease in the overall average unemployment rate.
“Currently the unemployment rate in Grays Harbor is at 6.9 percent as of May 17,” Garson said. “Although we won’t expect to catch up to the unemployment rate in King County anytime soon, we have made tremendous gains and the numbers are very encouraging for the rest of 2017,” he said.
The biggest areas of job growth in our region over the last five years are health care and social assistance -- up 586 jobs, and accommodation and food services – up 225 jobs.
The picture for more job opportunities is bright, Garson said, noting the following:
Quinault Beach Resort is undergoing a $30-million expansion that will lead to an estimated 100 new jobs once completed.
Summit Pacific Medical Center in Elma is planning to break ground this summer for its expansion and development of a Wellness Center, which is expected to create about 100 jobs.
Seabrook is constructing their new Main Street that includes some 8 to 10 new businesses, as well as additional jobs in that community.
Oyhut Bay in Ocean Shores is not only selling lots of real estate, they’ve recently welcomed a new restaurant and bar –the Oyhut Bay Bistro, with a pastry and coffee shop coming next. Also, an 8,000-square-foot retail addition that will include a grocery store and event space is expected to be finished by August.
Eagles Landing in Elma, which attracted Burger King to town, has announced that a Bi-Mart store is on its way too.
In 2016, Willis Enterprises purchased Hoquiam Plywood. This helped retain numerous jobs in our community and allowed them to expand from 42 to 106 employees a year later.
Fox Lumber revived the former mill site of Mary’s River Lumber near Montesano, which had recently closed. In doing so, the facility is now running and many local jobs were preserved.
The craft brewing industry has blossomed in Grays Harbor with two new breweries, Steam Donkey in Aberdeen, Hoquiam Brewing Company opening this summer and Bogwater Brewery in Westport reopening last year after rebuilding from their devastating fire loss at the end of 2015.
The Port of Grays Harbor has several tenants that are considering expansion, which could lead to additional family wage jobs in our county.
In 2016, the Port saw an increase in the number of deep water vessels from 82 in 2015 to 98 the next year.
In 2016, the Satsop Business Park added Fuller Hill Development Company, LLC and Overstock.com as tenants. It also celebrated the grand opening of Xpress Natural Gas’s compressed natural gas facility. (Of the 150 employees hired at Overstock, 141 of them are residents of Grays Harbor!)
A GREAT PLACE TO RUN, BIKE
We’ve recently talked about the economic importance of tourism to our community. Different tourists come for different reasons and many are discovering Grays Harbor and making a point to return.
Thinking outside the box a bit, recently CEO Garson made a presentation to attract the “Reach the Beach” relay event for the American Lung Association. He was successful and we can look forward to 350 teams comprised of six bicyclists plus family and supporters heading from Lacey to Westport on Sept. 30.
As if bringing this event to our county wasn’t reward enough for Garson’s pitch, it turns out the organizers also organize another event – “Hood to Coast.”
Yep, the beauty of the area and willingness of people to work with the organization for the Reach the Beach event wowed and wooed the organizers.
“They were especially enamored of Seabrook during the initial tour of the area,” Garson said. So, in addition to the upcoming Reach the Beach bicycling relay, the first-ever Hood to Coast Washington event was held in Grays Harbor recently.
In Oregon it is a huge, prestigious event with some 60,000 people applying for the coveted 20,000 spots.
“They were looking for a place to expand the race into Washington. It was a good opportunity to bring people here and highlight the Washington Coast,” Garson said
So on June 3, 350 teams of six people, plus their supporters and fans got a close-up view of Grays Harbor as they traveled 77 miles from Shelton on Hood Canal to the finish line at Seabrook.)
The route took them through McCleary, Elma, Montesano, Aberdeen and Hoquiam on their way to the finish line at Seabrook. Not only were the teams raising money for charity, they paid local non-profit organizations to assist with the race.
Both of these events are in the “shoulder” tourist season will boost our local economy and introduce many people to what Grays Harbor has to offer.
And that principle is already at work, Garson said. “Based on the success of the 2017 Hood to Coast race, they already plan on expanding next year from 350 to 500 teams of six, for a total of approximately 5,500 participants as well as friends and family gathered next year at the finish line at Seabrook.
“The economic impact of this event will be considerable!” he said.
It sure feels good to take a look back every once in a while and note the things in our community that give us hope as we look ahead!
THE VITALITY INDEX
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 www.graysharbor.org.
MORE FROM DRU NEXT WEEK
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.
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