Market Report: It's tourism time for Whatcom County economy


Ferndale Market

Visiting from Seattle, Sarah Atwood shares her raspberries with her boyfriend Mike Brown, eating peas from the pod, at the Ferndale Public Market on July 2, 2011 in Ferndale.


This is the time of year when tourism ramps up in Whatcom County.

With Ski to Sea events, high school/college graduations, weddings, the start of the berry-picking season and the start of outdoor recreation activities taking place in the coming weeks, plenty of folks will be paying this area a visit. That'll mean a boost for hotels, restaurants and retailers.

It'll be interesting to see what this will mean to hotel vacancy rates. Usually Whatcom County hotels are fully booked in the late spring/early summer. This area has two new hotels that have opened in the Marriott SpringHill Suites and the La Quinta in Bellingham, as well as a re-opened Semiahmoo Resort.

Tourism jobs have steadily increased in Whatcom County during the economic recovery. Last June 9,800 people were employed in the Whatcom County tourism industry according to the state Employment Security Department. That's the highest total since 2008.

In 2012, it's estimated that tourists spent $595.5 million in 2012, a 10.3 percent increase compared to 2011, according to data from the Bellingham Whatcom County Tourism website. That spending total ranks fifth highest in the state.

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

-- The average price for a gallon of gas topped $4 a gallon in Bellingham for the first time this year, according to the latest data from AAA Washington. The average price on April 30 was $4.01 in the Bellingham metro area. The record high average price for Bellingham was set in June 2008, at $4.50 a gallon.

-- All American Marine hosted a ceremony on April 25 to kick off construction work on two aluminum passenger ferries for the King County Ferry District. Each boat will be about 105 feet long and carry up to 250 passengers. Each boat represents about 37,000 worker hours; the first is expected to be delivered in February 2015, while the second is scheduled for a September 2015 delivery. The $11.8 million contract was awarded to All American Marine in December.

-- Burlington Coat Factory has officially announced it is moving into the former Meridian Cost Cutter building, filling a large retail space in north Bellingham. In a news release the clothing retailer announced that it plans to open a 73,000-square-foot store at 4131 Meridian St. this fall. The new store will add between 50 and 100 jobs.

Market Report runs each month.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q4 2013: $907.9 million

Q3 2013: $915.3 million

Q4 2012: $891.5 million

Quarterly change: down 0.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 1.8 percent

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

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

Whatcom County bankruptcies

March 2014: 51

February 2014: 41

March 2013: 59

Monthly change: up 24.4 percent

Year-over-year change: down 13.6 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Eight-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County new auto sales

March 2014: 302

February 2014: 267

March 2013: 259

Monthly change: up 13.1 percent

Year-over-year change: up 16.6 percent

Eight-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Eight-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

April 2014: 190

March 2014: 217

April 2013: 212

Monthly change: down 12.4 percent

Year-over-year change: down 10.4 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

April 2014: $254,000

March 2014: $239,950

April 2013: $248,250

Monthly change: up 5.9 percent

Year-over-year change: up 2.3 percent

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

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

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

April 2014: 525

March 2014: 396

April 2013: 447

Monthly change: up 32.6 percent

Year-over-year change: up 17.4 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 April 2014: 91 cents

End of March 2014: 91 cents

End of April 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

April 2014: $9.1 million

March 2014: $21.1 million

April 2013: $28.1 million

Monthly change: down 56.9 percent

Year-over-year change: down 67.6 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

March 2014: 6,000

February 2014: 6,000

March 2013: 5,800

Monthly change: no change

Year-over-year change: up 3.4 percent

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

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

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom March 2014: 7.1 percent

Whatcom revised February 2014: 7.5 percent

Whatcom March 2013: 7.5 percent

State March 2014 (seasonably adjusted): 6.3 percent

Nation March 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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