WEATHER IN LINCOLN COUNTY

 

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Lincoln County’s economic future – A report to the county commission

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According to a just released economic outlook on Lincoln County, the county has emerged from the prolonged recession better than previous ones thanks to more diverse sources of income coming into the county. Those sources are primarily what are called transfers – retirees and investors who have moved to Lincoln County and brought their personal wealth with them or their retirement checks and both are spending them here.

But to be sure, The Research Group LLC out of Corvallis says income from other sources have certainly helped as well over the past 10 years. Income from commercial fishing is up 37% in those ten years. Timber income up 38% (mostly in terms of logging), 50% higher for farming, 18% from tourism and 47% higher from marine science employment – Hatfield Marine Science Center and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration providing the one-two punch-up on local income.

According to the Research Group, the community with the highest income is Newport with an average family income of just over $47,000 a year. Lincoln City’s average family income is far less at just under $30,000 attesting to the huge market they field from Portland and Seattle area tourists, but of course they require only service level jobs that don’t pay family wages, for the most part.

The poorest part of the county is around Siletz with 22.5% at or below the poverty level. The community with the lowest rate of poverty is Yachats, at 2%. County average is 11%.

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The Research Group reports however, that Lincoln County’s labor force has been shrinking since about 2008 as young families seek employment away from the coast. And that has brought the county’s unemployment rate down as a result. Of the new jobs created in the post-recession era, trade and food processing have shown strong growth. However, construction and health care employment has dropped. Income from timber has also been down but retail and service income has been up and small business and technology-related employment have also produced wage hikes. Professional service employment has been on the rise along with computer programing and computer science engineering. And more and more women are working outside the home to help their families cope with the aftermath of the 2008 Wall Street Crash-induced recession.

Trends in Lincoln County’s fishing industry, according to the report, show an upward tick in processing more fish in Oregon rather than shipping them off to Washington or California for processing. The recent addition of Fishpeople’s new Tuna processing facility in Toledo came with a five fold multiplier in benefits to the local economy than if the fish were simply landed here and sent elsewhere for processing. Fishpeople have indicated a strong desire to expand their facilities in Toledo, all with family wage jobs.

Dungeness Crab harvesting continues healthy with more processing of the crab locally as well as aboard processor ships at sea with a significant amount of benefit accruing to the Lincoln County economy, according to the report.

But as for salmon, The Research Group indicates that salmon harvesting has been in overall decline due to a number of factors: Ocean conditions, river, stream and estuary degradation from human impacts (not the least of which is logging) and more demands from various groups for more access to the harvest.

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As for agriculture in Lincoln County, it’s on the upswing but occupies only a very thin slice of Lincoln County’s economic pie. However with the growth of farmer’s markets throughout the region, that slice is widening.

The timber industry contributes substantially to the economy but that contribution has been in decline in recent years due to less and less cutting on state and federal lands, leaving the private sector to shoulder most of production. And that amount is expected to increase in the near future because the trees that were replanted after the big “cut off” in the 1960’s and 70’s are now getting to be harvesting age. And that is igniting interest from log exporting companies like AlCan and Teevin Brothers who expect to begin major log export operations next year at Newport’s recently revamped International Terminal. But the Research Group cautions that the benefit to Lincoln County will be largely from logging and any employment enjoyed on the docks as the logs are shipped overseas. They say there are too few lumber mill operations left along coast to even begin talking about processing lumber. What mills remain in the region are mainly in the Willamette Valley and Portland which usually offer high tech automated processing which smaller mills cannot effectively compete against. They also require a lot less labor.

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As for Tourism, The Research Group says it remains a vital component to Lincoln County’s economy and will continue to show slow steady growth. However, it remains a relatively low wage industry and is not a year round player in the economy. One bright spot on the tourism horizon however is the Oregon Museum of Science and Industry’s plans to create a marine science visitor’s center at South Beach near the Hatfield Marine Science Center in Newport. The OMSI campus will offer year round marine science excursions for families and their children who will no doubt take in a great deal of the area’s endless culinary, shopping and outdoor scenic opportunities. And besides OMSI, Oregon State University is planning to build a 500 student Newport Campus for those who want to get a jump on a career in marine science or natural resource management occupations.

In the area of manufacturing, The Research Group said there have been burgeoning manufacturing excursions into plastic wedge making, plastic water tank making, computer hardware and software development and of course every artistic creation under the sun or in the fog. And Georgia Pacific continues to make recycled paper into more recycled paper products. The Group says the coast gives more opportunity to discharge treated paper product effluent into the ocean than generating lumber products.

The Research Group took strong note of the growth of marine science activities in Newport and off the coast. The Hatfield Marine Science Center has been working closely with the recently added NOAA MOC-P headquarters at South Beach as well as with NOAA staff already ensconced at HMSC.

And again, the addition of more retiring baby boomers and other investors are contributing handsomely to the Lincoln County economy. However, as time marches on there are no expectations that such a substantial contribution will continue very far into the future as any population bulge moves through the timeline.

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So, what’s trending?

The Research Group predicts the economic benefits of commercial fishing will rise due to the rapid growth of China and of their already well established love of seafood. Although there may not be substantially higher catches of salmon or albacore tuna, the prices that will be paid will add greatly to the value of what harvest there is, and it will likely continue in a sea-saw manner. It just seems to be the nature of the beast – like this year’s salmon harvest is nothing short of spectacular with top dollar being paid at the dock and soon by an increasing number of fish processing facilities certainly in Toledo and possibly in Newport – something beyond just be-heading, gutting and bleeding.

The trend for agriculture is up, but up from a small base with only marginal influence on the county’s overall economy.

Timber, says The Research Group, will continue to contribute to Lincoln County economy, but mainly by logging and log exports. Timber’s contribution to the local economy has hovered around 6% of the county’s total income but has been growing substantially lately due to demand for logs overseas.

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Tourism is trending upward, providing roughly 8% of the county’s income. But the Group says it is vital that tourists who drive on local roads and access Lincoln County sewer and water systems are captured in the local taxing system to ensure that expensive infrastructure remains strong into the future and whose funding burden doesn’t fall just on local taxpayers.

And also trending upward are those retirees and investors who have been moving to the coast in droves – so much so that their contribution to the local economy is very, very substantial.

In conclusion, The Research Group recommends the county closely examine opportunities to expand marine research and other scientific and computer science avenues. The Group says those elements are already very powerfully influencing the local economy and have the capacity to do even more.

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