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Bellingham ranks well in economic study because of consistent growth across many jobs

Here are the top 10 employers in Whatcom County

Here are the top 10 employers in Whatcom County, according to information compiled by the Center for Business Research at Western Washington University.
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Here are the top 10 employers in Whatcom County, according to information compiled by the Center for Business Research at Western Washington University.

When it comes to economic performance, Bellingham is doing well when compared to other similar size cities.

Last month the Milken Institute came out with a report that ranked Bellingham the 17th best performing small city in 2018. That is down nine spots compared to the 2017 ranking, but is still in the top 10 percent of the cities studied.

The report considers several different components to put together its ranking, including job growth, wage growth and high-tech growth. Bellingham ranked high in job and wage growth, while ranking low in five-year, high-tech gross domestic product growth.

Bellingham finished one spot behind Wenatchee, while Mount Vernon finished 37th highest. Bend, Ore. had the top ranking for small cities.

Job and wage growth are more heavily weighted in this report. Bellingham has experienced strong job growth, particularly in construction, in recent years. In December, Whatcom County had an estimated 8,300 people employed in construction, up 1,200 people compared to December 2016, according to the state’s Employment Security Department.

The overall picture for Bellingham continues to be slow and steady growth, said Hart Hodges, director at the Center for Economic and Business Research at Western Washington University. Bellingham ranked well because of consistent growth across many economic data points.

“Bellingham just does not have the same sort of fast growth story right now,” Hodges said in an email, comparing this area to Bend. “And I’m not sure many residents want that story because of the challenges that come with rapid growth.”

Dave Gallagher has covered the Whatcom County business community since 1998. Retail, real estate, jobs and port redevelopment are among the topics he covers.

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