Market Report: Whatcom, Bellingham construction permits ahead of 2013 pace


Ferndale Public Library

Joe Gregory, of Faber Construction, finishes measurements for custom blocks for the new Ferndale Public Library, Monday, April 7, 2014. "We are finally starting to get to the finish work on the library," Gergory said. Construction on the 15,000-square-foot library on Main Street near City Hall is expected to be finished in late August.


Construction appears to be off to a fast start in 2014.

The value of the new projects in the first quarter is well ahead of last year in Bellingham and unincorporated Whatcom County. In the county, permits were issued for projects valued at $36.7 million last quarter, up a whopping 173 percent compared to the first three months of 2013. In Bellingham, permits were issued for projects valued at $42.9 million last quarter, up nearly 17 percent compared to the same period last year.

That bodes well for the local construction industry, which was hit hard by the recession but has increased its workforce this fall and winter. In February, about 6,000 people were employed in the industry, up 500 from a year ago.

So far, many of the big projects in Bellingham have been largely retail remodels, while unincorporated Whatcom County has posted a significant increase in single-family home construction.

Significant local business events that took place in March and early April:

-- Safeway officially unveiled plans to remodel the former Cost Cutter space on Sunset Square. The grocery company is expected to have its new store ready by October.

-- The annual springtime rise in gas prices continues to take place in Bellingham. The average price for a gallon in the Bellingham metro area on Tuesday, April 1, was $3.79, up 26 cents in the past month, according to AAA Washington. A variety of factors are in play when it comes to rising prices during the spring, including increased demand as well as less supply while local refineries change gas blends and do maintenance work.

-- The Bellingham Public Market is looking to the community for support, but this time it is to expand the business. Owner Stephen Trinkaus announced plans to expand the market into the vacant 11,000-square-foot space next door at 1530 Cornwall Ave., nearly doubling the size of the market, which is home to Terra Organica and several other tenants. He hopes to raise about $300,000 through donations and loans for the project.

Market Report runs each month.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q3 2013: $915.3 million

Q2 2013: $853.2 million

Q3 2012: $860.9 million

Quarterly change: up 12.1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 7.7 percent

Seven-year quarterly high: $915.3 million, third quarter 2013

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

Whatcom County bankruptcies

February 2014: 41

January 2014: 26

February 2013: 48

Monthly change: up 57.7 percent

Year-over-year change: down 14.6 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Eight-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County new auto sales

February 2014: 267

January 2014: 353

February 2013: 282

Monthly change: down 24.4 percent

Year-over-year change: down 5.3 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Eight-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

March 2014: 217

February 2014: 151

March 2013: 187

Monthly change: up 43.7 percent

Year-over-year change: up 16 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Eight-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

March 2014: $13.9 million

February 2014: $6.9 million

March 2013: $3.7 million

Monthly change: up 101.4 percent

Year-over-year change: up 275.7 percent

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

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

Whatcom County foreclosures

March 2014: 8

February 2014: 16

March 2013: 86

Monthly change: down 50 percent

Year-over-year change: down 90.7 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Eight-year monthly low: 8, March 2014

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

March 2014: $239,950

February 2014: $222,000

March 2013: $238,000

Monthly change: up 8.1 percent

Year-over-year change: up less than 1 percent

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

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

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

March 2014: 396

February 2014: 269

March 2013: 438

Monthly change: up 47.2 percent

Year-over-year change: down 9.6 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Eight-year monthly low: 131, December 2011

Bellingham airport traffic

March 2014: 60,543

February 2014: 41,533

March 2013: 61,402

Monthly change: up 45.8 percent

Year-over-year change: down 1.4 percent.

Eight-year monthly high: 61,402, March 2013

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

Canadian dollar

End of March 2014: 91 cents

End of February 2014: 90 cents

End of March 2013: 98 cents

Eight-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Eight-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

February 2014: 1,015,064

January 2014: 1,129,744

February 2013: 1,121,940

Monthly change: down 10.2 percent

Year-over-year change: down 9.5 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 1,786,840, August 2013

Eight-year monthly low: 645,792, October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

March 2014: $21.1 million

February 2014: $13.4 million

March 2013: $11.4 million

Monthly change: up 57.5 percent

Year-over-year change: up 85.1 percent

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

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

Ferndale building permit values

February 2014: $2 million

January 2014: $1.3 million

February 2013: $2 million

Monthly change: up 53.8 percent

Year-over-year change: no change

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

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

Whatcom County construction jobs

February 2014: 6,000

January 2014: 5,800

February 2013: 5,500

Monthly change: up 3.4 percent

Year-over-year change: up 9.1 percent

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

Eight-year monthly low: 4,900, January 2013

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom February 2014: 7.6 percent

Whatcom January 2014: 6.7 percent

Whatcom February 2013: 8.1 percent

State February 2014 (seasonably adjusted): 6.4 percent

Nation February 2014 (seasonably adjusted): 6.7 percent.

Eight-year monthly high: 10.4 percent, February 2010

Eight-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; City of Ferndale; Washington State Employment Security Department.

Reach Business Editor Dave Gallagher at 360-715-2269 or Read the Business Blog at or get updates on Twitter at @bhamheraldbiz.

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