Grays Harbor County’s economy did not emerge unscathed from a year marked by the COVID-19 pandemic. But the regional economy has shown courage and resilience despite unforeseen circumstances that could have thrown it into chaos last year.
That’s the result of the Greater Grays Harbor, Inc. 2021 Economic Vitality Index, released this week. The index’s results were detailed at a Tuesday Zoom meeting hosted by Lynette Buffington, CEO of Greater Grays Harbor, Inc.
Highlights included a 5.7 percent increase in the average annual wage for workers in Grays Harbor County and a 2.4 percent increase in taxable retail sales despite the restrictions imposed by the pandemic.
And although tax revenues from hotels and motels fell by 1.8 percent in 2020, the accommodation industry experienced a spirited comeback in the second half of the year with “historically high revenues in September and October that made up almost all of the loss in sales from the beginning of the year” the report says.
The real estate market also performed well, with existing home sales up 5.1 percent to 2,050 in 2020 from 1,950 in 2019. At the same time, the average home price rose 16.7 percent to $ 251,000 from $ 215,200.
Even more impressive, the average price of a house in Grays Harbor County has nearly doubled since 2015, when it stood at $ 138,000, the report showed. The sharp rise in the median price means that buying an apartment in the region is becoming increasingly expensive.
While this is good for homeowners looking to make money and move on, it will undoubtedly make it harder for others to own their own homes and add to the strain on a wafer-thin rental market.
There is plenty of anecdotal evidence to confirm the state of the rental market – just ask any would-be renter what it is like to find an apartment in the area these days. A quick online search will no doubt give similar results.
While there is no short-term answer to the rental market problem other than securing work and residency elsewhere, it seems time for local governments to think at least long-term.
Our economy is growing, it did so even in the midst of a pandemic and appears to be armed for future growth. But we have to be able to offer decent housing options to people who want to live and work in the region.
We are open to suggestions.