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Study: Cherry Point industries support about 9,000 jobs in Whatcom County

Pot operator Suzi Pickett pours molten metal Thursday, Oct. 25, 2013 in  at Alcoa Intalco Works in Ferndale. A new study shows the Cherry Point area supports about 11 percent of all jobs in Whatcom County.
Pot operator Suzi Pickett pours molten metal Thursday, Oct. 25, 2013 in at Alcoa Intalco Works in Ferndale. A new study shows the Cherry Point area supports about 11 percent of all jobs in Whatcom County. THE BELLINGHAM HERALD

The Cherry Point area supports about 11 percent of all jobs in Whatcom County, according to a new report quantifying the impact the industrial area has on the local economy.

“Employment at Cherry Point” is an analysis report that was presented at the Northwest Business Expo and Conference on Thursday, Oct 23, at the Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa. The study was put together by Hart Hodges of Western Washington University and University of Washington’s Bill Beyers.

The study presented several key findings that indicate the sway Cherry Point jobs have in the region. The area includes two oil refineries and an aluminum smelter:

•  The Cherry Point Industrial Zone has about 2,200 jobs, not including those who go into the area for contracting projects, such as refinery turnarounds. The area directly or indirectly supports about 9,000 jobs, or about 11 percent of the jobs in Whatcom County.



•  The jobs in the Cherry Point area have an average wage of roughly $114,000 a year, with the average heavily influenced by wages paid at the refineries. According to the report, if those wages were removed, the overall average Whatcom County wage would drop from $41,334 to $39,400.



•  The local refinery jobs have an employment multiplier effect of 5.39, which means every refinery job supports another 4.39 jobs in the county. As pointed out in the report, the addition (or loss) of 50 jobs at the refineries would result in a total gain (or loss) of 270 jobs throughout the county.



The reason for the study was to highlight what currently exists at Cherry Point and have a set of data in place while the community considers future economic development in the area, said Tony Larson, president of the Whatcom Business Alliance, which organized the business expo.

“This is the beginning of the conversation,” said Larson, who feels that the economic development component has been missing from the conversation about Cherry Point, particularly when it comes to the proposed Gateway Pacific Terminal coal terminal.

The employment numbers at Cherry Point show most of the jobs come from BP Cherry Point (900 employees); Alcoa Intalco Works (570 employees); Phillips 66 Refinery (425 employees) and Barleans Organic Oils (150 employees), which is on the border of the industrial zone.

With an average annual wage of $156,210, the petroleum manufacturing sector for Whatcom County has a huge impact on the overall wage average in the Cherry Point area. However, other jobs in that sector, including primary metals manufacturing and food production, are above the overall county average.

While oil refining has a high employment multiplier, other sectors at Cherry Point also are above the county average. Many have a multiplier higher than three, while most other sectors in the county have multipliers of less than two.

A question was raised in the audience about whether other costs were studied for this report, including the environment. Hodges said the report was focused on the jobs that currently exist at Cherry Point and the influence it has on the regional economy. He added that he hopes the report can lead to a broader, meaningful conversation about the area.

READ THE REPORT

To read a copy of the "Employment at Cherry Point" study, click here.

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