October a busy start to fourth quarter in Whatcom County

October was a busy start to the fourth quarter of 2011 in terms of economic activity in Whatcom County.

Along with a variety of business expansion announcements and moves, one of Whatcom's largest manufacturing employers went through a contentious contract negotiation. Workers at Alcoa Intalco Works voted to strike on Friday, Oct. 14, but remained on the job as long as progress was being made in negotiations. After two weeks, the union members voted to accept a revised contract offered by the company.

In terms of economic data, signs continue to point toward slow, steady improvement. Retail sales remain healthy, with the latest report on the second quarter indicating Whatcom County is faring better than the state average in terms of in-store sales. Bankruptcies and the unemployment rate continued to steadily decline locally, although foreclosures jumped in September.

Airport traffic: In September the Bellingham International Airport posted a significant year-over-year jump in passengers, but it should be noted that in September 2010 the airport was closed for most of the month while runway construction work was done.

Border traffic: According to data collected by Western Washington University's Center for Economics and Business Research, nearly 10.7 million people have gone through the five border crossings south into Whatcom County this year through September. That's a 16.2 percent increase compared to the same period in 2010.

Other significant business events that took place in October: Oxbo International, which makes specialized harvesting equipment, including raspberry harvesters, is merging with a company in the Netherlands called Ploeger Agro B.V. Oxbo International is headquartered in Byron, N.Y., but has a facility in Lynden that employs about 90 people. Before being acquired by Oxbo, the Lynden facility was Korvan Industries, which played a key role in the development of mechanical harvesting of raspberries. ... The Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa is embarking on another major expansion that will add a new event center, more gaming machines and a new restaurant. Design work is under way for the $29 million expansion, which will be added on to the southern side of the casino facility, said Aaron Thomas, director of marketing for Silver Reef. The project is expected to be completed by spring 2013. ... Crystal Creek Logistics, a local shipping company, purchased the former Ocean Kayak/Johnson Outdoors facility at 2460 Salashan Loop, north of Ferndale. The 41,000-square-foot warehouse is more than triple the company's previously leased space near Walton Beverage and Pacific Highway.

Whatcom County quarterly retail sales

Q2 2011: $742.6 million

Q1 2011: $657.7 million

Q2 2010: $716 million

Quarterly change: up 12.9 percent

Year-over-year change: up 3.7 percent

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

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

Whatcom County bankruptcies

September 2011: 54

August 2011: 61

September 2010: 67

Monthly change: down 11.5 percent

Year-over-year change: down 19.4 percent

Five-year monthly high: 83, February 2010

Five-year monthly low: 11, February 2006

Whatcom County auto sales

September 2011: 214

August 2011: 198

September 2010: 193

Monthly change: up 8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 10.8 percent

Five-year monthly high: 553, May 2006

Five-year monthly low: 140, December 2008

Whatcom County residential sales

September 2011: 209

August 2011: 250

September 2010: 173

Monthly change: down 16.4 percent

Year-over-year change: up 20.8 percent

Five-year monthly high: 398, August 2007

Five-year monthly low: 104, February 2009

Unincorporated Whatcom County building permit values

September 2011: $7.3 million

August 2011: $25.2 million

September 2010: $7.4 million

Monthly change: down 71 percent

Year-over-year change: down 1.4 percent

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

Three-year monthly low: $3.1 million, January 2010

Whatcom County foreclosures

September 2011: 82

August 2011: 49

September 2010: 98

Monthly change: up 67 percent

Year-over-year change: down 16.3 percent

Five-year monthly high: 153, April 2009

Five-year monthly low: 17, September 2007

Median price of homes sold in Whatcom County

September 2011: $225,000

August 2011: $234,750

September 2010: $239,900

Monthly change: down 4.7 percent

Year-over-year change: down 6.7 percent

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

Five-year monthly low: $224,900, March 2009

Whatcom homes newly listed for sale

September 2011: 308

August 2011: 414

September 2010: 360

Monthly change: down 25.6 percent

Year-over-year change: up 14.4 percent

Five-year monthly high: 707, May 2007

Five-year monthly low: 170, December 2010

Bellingham airport traffic

September 2011: 40,512

August 2011: 48,204

September 2010: 12,597

Monthly change: down 16 percent

Year-over-year change: up 222 percent.

Five-year monthly high: 51,421, July 2011

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

Canadian dollar

End of October 2011: $1.01 cents

End of September 2011: 98 cents

End of October 2010: 98 cents

Five-year high: $1.07, November 2007

Five-year low: 77 cents, March 2009

Southbound Canadian border crossings into Whatcom County

September 2011: 1,250,971

August 2011: 1,540,776

September 2010: 1,121,705

Monthly change: down 18.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 11.5 percent

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

Five-year monthly low: 645,792 October 2006

Bellingham building permit values

September 2011: $4.8 million

August 2011: $9.5 million

September 2010: $6 million

Monthly change: down 49.5 percent

Year-over-year change: down 20 percent

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

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

Ferndale building permit values

September 2011: $1.9 million

August 2011: $1.6 million

September 2010: $0.6 million

Monthly change: up 18.8 percent

Year-over-year change: up 217 percent

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

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

Whatcom County construction jobs

September 2011: 5,900

August 2011(revised): 6,000

September 2010: 6,000

Monthly change: down 1.7 percent

Year-over-year change: down 1.7 percent

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

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

Whatcom County unemployment

Whatcom September 2011: 8.1 percent

Whatcom August 2011 (revised): 8.3 percent

Whatcom September 2010: 8 percent

State September 2011 (not seasonably adjusted): 8.5 percent

Nation September 2011 (not seasonably adjusted): 8.8 percent.

Five-year monthly high: 10.4 percent, February 2010

Five-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.