SEQUIM — North Olympic Peninsula counties have added jobs while population has grown in the past few years, but the average earnings have dipped since 1970, said Brian Kuh, deputy director of the Jefferson County Economic Development Council, at an economic development summit.
Kuh, who spoke at the summit hosted Monday by the North Olympic Peninsula Resource Conservation &Development Council in Sequim, said that although total income is up — $2.8 billion in Clallam County and $1.3 billion in Jefferson County in 2014, higher than in previous years — the average earnings per job has gone down.
Kuh said looking at average earnings from 1970 at 2015 rates, the average job earned $43,000 in Clallam whereas in 2014, the same job earned about $39,000, when figured at 2015 rates.
While the numbers don’t distinguish between part-time and full-time jobs, he said, Jefferson County’s per job rate went down, too, from $43,000 to about $32,000 at the same times and rates.
“It’s a downward trajectory and a widening gap between the two counties,” he said.
Kuh, who resigned from the Clallam County Economic Development Council board in 2015, was one of the speakers at the summit hosted by the nonprofit, which operates under the Economic Development Administration as part of the Department of Commerce.
The conservation and development group is led by Kate Dean, regional director, who also is a candidate for a Jefferson County commission seat. She is running in the Nov. 8 general election against fellow Democrat Tim Thomas.
The summit brought together leaders of local agencies to discuss strengths and weaknesses of the area’s economic development.
Dean and other economic development leaders will conduct a similar event Friday in Jefferson County.
Both Clallam and Jefferson County input will go into a plan for the Comprehensive Economic Development Strategy (CEDS), which is required to be reviewed every five years.
“That makes it a living, breathing document,” Kuh said.
Some of the advantages for creating the five-year strategy, Dean said, includes bringing in funding, creating local buy-in and creating measurable goals.
Participants in Clallam’s event included representatives of private business, political offices, government agencies and education.
They were asked to meet in groups and perform a SWOT analysis — Strengths, Weaknesses, Opportunities, Threats — with group members coming to a consensus on some points.
Clallam’s strengths, groups agreed, are its quality of life, cost of living relative to Puget Sound and its geographic diversity.
Groups found some of the weaknesses and threats cross paths — such as school infrastructure affecting education and turning away professionals.
Other perceived weaknesses included a lack of upward mobility, a cost-of-living gap, lack of transportation options and the high cost of shipping.
Sequim Schools Superintendent Gary Neal said it’s difficult to retain some teachers when they can ride a ferry and make $30,000 more across the water.
One group felt there is difficulty in accessing resources to finance small businesses. However, Nathan West, director of community and economic development for the city of Port Angeles, said he feels there are a lot of resources available locally such as Craft3, a national development fund and advantages through the U.S. Department of Agriculture for businesses.
Kuh said business start-up “boils down to perceived resilience in the area … and the continued challenge is awareness of resources.”
A few of the other weaknesses/threats groups saw to businesses include drug and alcohol addictions and businesses not being accommodating to the working class — for instance, closing earlier and/or not being open on weekends.
Caleb Anderson, vice president of Anderson Homes, said it bothers him not to have stores open in the evening or weekends, especially after living in Seattle.
“They need to have employees that they say, ‘You’re working the weekend,’” he said.
For opportunities in the area, group members said passage of bonds for schools and hospitals are important.
They also pointed to opportunities in vacant or undeveloped commercial-based properties, public-private partnerships and harbor traffic/waterfront and manufacturing development.
Other attendees included Marc Abshire, executive director of the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce; Connie Beauvais, Port of Port Angeles commissioner; Gerry Christensen, small-business owner/investor; Wendy Clark-Getzin, general manager Clallam Transit; Neil Conklin, owner of Bella Italia; Randy Johnson, president of Green Crow and candidate for a Clallam County commissioner seat, running against Ron Richards; Jennifer Linde, director of operations and finance for the Clallam EDC; Rosa McLeod, representative of Sen. Maria Cantwell’s office; Jim McEntire, board member of Clallam EDC; Ted Miller, Sequim deputy mayor; Joe Irvin, Sequim assistant to the city manager; Judith Morris, representative of U.S. Rep. Derek Kilmer’s office; Clea Rome, county director of the WSU Clallam Extension office; Steve Shively with the Olympic Culinary Loop; Carolyn St. James with the Lower Elwha S’Klallam tribe; and Jill teVelde, director of workforce education for Peninsula College.
For more information on the report, visit www.noprcd.org or call 360-301-1750.
Matthew Nash is a reporter with the Olympic Peninsula News Group, which is composed of Sound Publishing newspapers Peninsula Daily News, Sequim Gazette and Forks Forum. Reach him at [email protected].