Market Report: Bellingham bag ban among significant changes in local economy


We've entered the dog days of summer when vacations are the norm, but this area is experiencing some significant changes.

Much of the change this summer involves grocery stores. After adjusting shelves to take on liquor sales in June, stores got rid of single-use plastic bags in Bellingham last week to comply with the city's new ban on such bags.

Both events meant adjustments for customers, first with trying to figure out the new liquor prices and then trying to remember to bring reusable bags.

Bellingham building permit values shot up 451 percent with the $12 million Marriott Hotel planned for Northwest Avenue, a $24 million expansion of the Post Point wastewater treatment plant and a $1.5 million remodel for InterFaith Community Health Center.

Out in the county, agriculture is one of the busiest sectors. The strawberry harvest recently wrapped up and berry farmers have now turned their attention to raspberries and blueberries, hiring hundreds of people to help with the harvest.

Otherwise, the economy appears to be plugging along. With back-to-school shopping here, retail is now gearing up for the intense second half of the year. Real estate and new car sales are up, while unemployment, foreclosures and bankruptcies are down.

Other significant events that took place in July:

• Last month construction began on Marriott's Springhill Suites project at 4040 Northwest Ave., near the West Bakerview Road intersection. This phase of the project will have 122 rooms and underground parking.

• BelleWood Acres, an apple farm north of Bellingham, recently opened its new facility at 6140 Guide Meridian. It has a bistro, bakery, gift shop, tasting rooms, community areas and a distillery.

• Retailer Costco Wholesale has decided it will focus on building a new store in Bellingham rather than in Ferndale.

• Erin Baker's Wholesome Baked Goods moved to 427 Ohio St., near Bellingham High School. The 30,000-square-foot facility is twice as large as its former spot off of Meridian Street.

• The Woods Coffee announced it is adding two more cafes in busy sections of Bellingham. The company announced it is putting a café in the former Lychee Buffet building on Lakeway Drive, near Fred Meyer. Woods is also putting in a new café near the new movie theater being built in the Barkley District.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q1 2012: $716.1 million

Q4 2011: $828.1 million

Q1 2011: $657.7 million

Quarterly change: down 13.5 percent

Year-over-year change: up 8.9 percent

Six-year quarterly high: $873.4 million, fourth quarter, 2007

Six -year quarterly low: $624.4 million, first quarter 2009

Whatcom County bankruptcies

June 2012: 48

May 2012: 56

June 2011: 49

Monthly change: down 14.2 percent

Year-over-year change: down 2 percent

Six -year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Six -year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County auto sales

June 2012: 326

May 2012: 330

June 2011: 232

Monthly change: down 1.2 percent

Year-over-year change: up 40.5 percent

Six-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Six-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

June 2012: 271

May: 2012: 201

June 2011: 215

Monthly change: up 34.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 26.1 percent

Six -year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Six-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

June 2012: $8 million

May 2012: $5.7 million

June 2011: $6.7 million

Monthly change: up 40.4 percent

Year-over-year change: up 19.4 percent

Five-year monthly high: $65.3 million, July 2011

Five-year monthly low: $2.6 million, January 2012

Whatcom County foreclosures

June 2012: 35

May 2012: 57

June 2011: 65

Monthly change: down 38.6 percent

Year-over-year change: up 46.2 percent

Six -year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Six-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

June 2012: $250,000

May 2012: $235,000

June 2011: $247,450

Monthly change: up 6.4 percent

Year-over-year change: up 1 percent

Six-year monthly high: $280,450, May 2007

Six-year monthly low: $208,000, November 2011

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

June 2012: 392

May 2012: 514

June 2011: 431

Monthly change: down 23.7 percent

Year-over-year change: down 9 percent

Six-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Six-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

June 2012: 49,720

May 2012: 49,573

June 2011: 44,105

Monthly change: up less than 1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 12.7 percent.

Six-year monthly high: 52,872, March 2012

Six-year monthly low: 12,597, September 2010

Canadian dollar

End of July 2012: $1

End of June 2012: 98 cents

End of July 2011: $1.05

Six-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Six-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

June 2012: 1,326,464

May 2012: 1,317,092

June 2011: 1,180,623

Monthly change: up less than 1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 12.4 percent

Five-year monthly high: 1,540,776 August 2011

Five-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

July 2012: $44.6 million

June 2012: $8.1 million

July 2011: $10.2 million

Monthly change: up 451 percent

Year-over-year change: up 337 percent

Six-year monthly high: $47.3 million, December 2009

Six-year monthly low: $1.1 million, November 2008

Ferndale building permit values

June 2012: $2.9 million

May 2012: $2.1 million

June 2011: $4.7 million

Monthly change: up 38 percent

Year-over-year change: down 38.3 percent

Five-year monthly high: $12.9 million, July 2007

Five-year monthly low: $0.2 million, January 2009

Whatcom County construction jobs

May 2012: 5,600

April 2012: 6,100

May 2011: 6,200

Monthly change: down 8.2 percent

Year-over-year change: down 9.7 percent

Six-year monthly high: 8,600, September 2006

Six-year monthly low: 5,000, December 2010

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom June 2012: 7.5 percent

Whatcom May 2012: 7.7 percent

Whatcom June 2011: 8.4 percent

State June 2012 (not seasonably adjusted): 8.2 percent

Nation June 2012 (not seasonably adjusted): 8.4 percent

Six-year monthly high: 10.4 percent, February 2010

Six-year monthly low: 3.7 percent, October 2007

SOURCES: Washington State Department of Revenue; U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Western District of Washington; Cross-Sell; Washington State Department of Licensing; Northwest Multiple Listing Service; Whatcom County Planning and Development Services; Bank of Canada; Port of Bellingham; RealtyTrac; Center For Economics and Business Research, Western Washington University; City of Bellingham; Washington State Employment Security Department.

Reach DAVE GALLAGHER at or call 715-2269. Visit his business blog online at or get updates on Twitter at

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