2016Book of Lists
Should you worry about the falling Canadian dollar? 4-6
Published as a supplement to The Bellingham Business Journal
2 | THE BELLINGHAM BUSINESS JOURNAL | FEBRUARY 2016
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Due to space limitations, we can not provide a complete list for every category. Some companies did not rank high enough to be included on a list. Other companies were contacted for these lists, but either declined to respond, provided inadequate information, or did not respond by press time. Companies tied for rankings are listed alphabetically.
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The 2016 Book of Lists
Population trends, 8Accountants, 9-11Architects, 11Banks, 12Banquet/Meeting halls, 13Caterers, 14Credit unions, 14Engineering firms, 15
Financial advisers, 17Insurance firms, 18Law firms, 19Real estate companies, 20Social characteristics, 21Wages/Occupations, 22
The plummeting Canadian dollar will be one of the top issues for Whatcom County in 2016, Pages 4-6
FEBRUARY 2016 | THE BELLINGHAM BUSINESS JOURNAL | 3
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Whats on tap for 2016
Last year was packed with unexpected business news in Bellingham, and many of the stories that made headlines last year will continue to play out in 2016. The county is losing jobs with layoffs at Alcoa Intalco Works and CH2M Hill, and its possi-ble that more could be lost as Haggens bankruptcy process continues.
In a story thats impacted local retailers, the Canadian dollar is likely to stay low, but cross-border experts think the Canadian dollar and the number of southbound bor-der crossings into Whatcom County are no longer bound together as tight as they were in previous decades.
Meanwhile, the beer indus-try continues to build, and theres no shortage of brewer-
ies preparing to open in 2016.With those and other trends
looming, 2016 should be another year of change for business in Bellingham and Whatcom County. The follow-ing are just a few of the stories that could make headlines in 2016.
Fallout from recent layoffs
Whatcom County gained some good news at the end of January when Alcoa announced that it was delay-ing idling the Intalco Works aluminum smelter until the end of June. Whether it's just a delay or if it opens the door for the smelter to continue to operate remains to be seen.
If those jobs do go away, the county will lose 585 high-pay-ing jobs with between Alcoa and CH2M Hill. Those job
losses will likely impact other areas of the local economy in 2016.
CH2M Hill, a multinational environmental and engineer-ing consulting firm, closed its local office in late 2015 because of a downturn in the oil and gas industry, a com-pany spokesperson said. Alcoa is looking to close the smelt-ers at its Cherry Point facility due to low aluminum prices, which have affected the alu-minum industry throughout the U.S.
CH2M Hill said in a press release that it will attempt to find jobs for laid-off local workers in other offices, and WorkSource Washington met with Alcoa employees in Janu-ary to discuss their options.
A CH2M Hill spokesperson said the Bellingham jobs paid well, but he didnt give an average salary figure. Employ-
Whatcom County experienced several years of job growth, but layoffs by CHM2Hill and potential ones by Alcoa and Haggen will hurt the area. OLIVER LAZENBY PHOTO | The Bellingham Business Journal
BY OLIVER LAZENBY The Bellingham Business Journal
Layoffs, falling Canadian dollar bear watching
ees at Intalco Works made an average of $105,000 annually in 2013, an Alcoa spokesper-son said. Thats much more than Bellinghams mean annu-al salary, which is $45,032, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.
Western Washington Uni-versity economist Hart Hodg-es said one job at Alcoa indi-rectly supports an estimated two other jobs in the county through consumer spending and other economic activity, according to his statistical modeling.
For each job at Intalco that goes away, we can imagine that two other jobs in the county are at risk, he said in an email in November. Equivalently, if we lose 400 jobs at Intalco, we might lose 1,200 jobs in total.
Canadian dollar not likely to rebound
The Canadian dollar isnt worth us much as it used to be and its likely to stay that way for a while, a panel of economists said at an event in November hosted by Western Washington Universitys Bor-der Policy Research Institute.
Thats bad for Whatcom County retailers, but it may not be that bad, Hodges said at the event.
After dropping in 2014, the Canadian dollar hovered at around 75 cents for most of 2015. By December, it was worth about 72 cents U.S. The two countries currencies were equal as recently as January 2013.
The low loonie has affected local retailers, but due to changes in the way people shop, it hasnt hurt retailers as much as it would have 20 years ago.
Im going to be contrarian but I dont think the decline is as significant as a lot of people are worried it is, Hodges said at the gathering of cross-bor-der economists. I think the story is a lot more complex. Retail sales have fallen with
FEBRUARY 2016 | THE BELLINGHAM BUSINESS JOURNAL | 5border crossings, but its a much richer story than that.
Other variables in the rela-tionship between the Cana-dian dollar and the amount of Canadian shoppers in Whatcom County include increasing shopping options in the Vancouver area and the fact that gasoline in Whatcom County continues to be a deal for Canadians.
Southbound Canadians surveyed by the Border Policy Research Institute in 2014 reported that gas was a big part of the reason they came south and the main reason for as much as 20 percent of trips.
In the 1990s, when Bellis Fair Mall was new, Whatcom County had better shopping than the lower mainland, said Ken Peacock, chief economist with the Business Council of British Columbia. Thats changed. New retailer centers popped up in the Vancouver area in recent years, and the developers of one project that
broke ground last yearthe Tsawwassen Mills shopping center just north of the border in Tsawwassen, B.C. hope to attract shoppers from Bell-ingham.
I remember being a kid and I wanted Converse run-ning shoes and I had to go to Seattle because you couldnt get them in Canada, Peacock
said. We didnt have diverse retail options.
Peacock expects the Cana-dian dollar to stay low com-pared to the U.S. dollar. Since Canada exports so much oil and gas, its economy and cur-rency are closely tied to oil prices, which have fallen due to a global oversupply. Pea-cock doesnt see that changing
anytime soon, he said.
New player enters grocery market
Whole Foods Market will open in Bellingham halfway through 2016 and shake up the already crowded grocery industry. The Austin, Texas-based natural foods grocer has wanted to open a Bellingham store for years, its president said in a press release. But its moving into a location where other grocery stores have struggled. The Markets LLC closed its grocery store in that location, at 1030 Lakeway Drive, in early 2014 and the location has been empty ever since.
If Whole Foods succeeds, it could put a pinch on The Community Food Co-op and Terra Organica, two other natural food grocers which both expanded in recent years. A major unknown in the local grocery industry is how Hag-
The Canadian dollar continues to fall, but economic experts say that may not hurt Whatcom County as much as it would have in the past. FILE PHOTO | The Bellingham Business Journal