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When it comes to making things, Whatcom County grew in 2016

Workers start aluminum smelter pots on potline B at the Alcoa Intalco aluminum smelter west of Ferndale, Feb. 15, 2011. The smelter, a major contributor to Whatcom County’s Gross Domestic Product, was in the process of winding down at the end of 2015 before it was saved from closure in 2016.
Workers start aluminum smelter pots on potline B at the Alcoa Intalco aluminum smelter west of Ferndale, Feb. 15, 2011. The smelter, a major contributor to Whatcom County’s Gross Domestic Product, was in the process of winding down at the end of 2015 before it was saved from closure in 2016. pdwyer@bhamherald.com

Despite a dip in product value for one of its biggest industries, Whatcom County was able to grow its Gross Domestic Product in 2016.

The area produced goods valued at $10.15 billion last year, according to the latest data from the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. That’s a 1 percent increase compared to 2015, which is less than the 1.7 percent average across the U.S. metro areas.

The 2016 GDP total ranked Whatcom County 198th highest out of 382 metro areas.

Oil refining is the biggest contributor to Whatcom County’s GDP, but the nondurable goods category it is in experienced a 6.7 percent drop in the past year.

One factor could be the dip in oil prices last year, leading to a drop in the value of what the two local refineries were producing. In early 2016 oil dropped to nearly $25 a barrel and bounced around before stabilizing above $50 a barrel at the end of the year.

Whatcom County experienced growth in other industries to make up the difference. The durable goods category jumped 10 percent year-over-year, while construction rose 6.8 percent, according to the data.

The durable goods category may have been influenced by what was happening at Aloca’s Intalco. The smelter, a major contributor to Whatcom’s GDP, was in the process of winding down at the end of 2015 before it was saved from closure in 2016.

construction
Patrick Daniels installs blinds in the new Fisher Elementary School Tuesday, Aug. 22, 2017, in Lynden. Whatcom County’s construction industry produced goods valued at $679 million last year. Philip A. Dwyer pdwyer@bhamherald.com

The local construction industry was late in bouncing back from the recession, with much of its recovery in jobs and projects happening in the past couple of years.

Whatcom’s construction industry produced goods valued at $679 million last year, according to the data.

GDP in the finance category, which includes insurance and professional services, dropped 5.5 percent year-over-year in Whatcom County, while manufacturing decreased 1.2 percent.

Dave Gallagher: 360-715-2269, @BhamHeraldBiz

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