Northwest News

State of Grays Harbor: tourism up, young residents down

Community leaders at last week’s State of Grays Harbor breakfast got good news and bad news: There’s been an uptick in employment and an increase in tourism, but people of prime child-rearing age are moving out of the area.

The event was designed to give a snapshot of the county’s economic well-being, providing information on indicators of economic success.

Greater Grays Harbor CEO Dru Garson started the presentation with positive numbers on tourism — especially on the North Beach, with its 3 percent hotel/motel tax revenue increasing from $302,932 in 2013 to $382,641 last year.

In 2014, $1.5 million was raised from hotel/motel taxes countywide. Garson said that every visitor to the county generates about $2 in local tax revenue.

A 10 percent increase in taxable retail sales also took place in 2014, making for $906.2 million in revenue. In 2013 the county’s gross regional product was $1.976 billion, up from 2012.

Population figures show that since 2000, Grays Harbor’s population has increased by 4,898 residents. However, during the same period, 2,002 residents ages 19 and younger left the area and 1,382 people between 35 and 44 years of age left the harbor.

“We really need a survey to figure out why people are moving away from the region. You can speculate, but I don’t have an answer for why people are leaving,” Garson said.

The biggest increases in population came from those ages 55 to 74.

“An aging population means more people to support, but less people to support them,” Garson said.

Ocean Shores Windermere Real Estate owner Tom Quigg shared information on the county’s housing market, which is on the upswing.

Seabrook, the beach community that broke ground in 2004, brought in $16 million in new home sales in 2014, according to Quigg.