Our Economy Looks Pretty Rosy Going Forward

Spencer Cohen painted a rosy picture of the over all Puget Sound regional economy at the Bainbridge Island Chamber’s recently-held Economic Vitality Summit.

Cohen, a senior economist with Seattle-based Community Attributes Inc., said the economy should expand by at least 2.4% for the remainder of 2019.

“The fundamentals are still very strong for this region,” he said.  Cohen was the keynote presenter at the chamber event held at Wing Point Golf & Country Club on Feb. 20 and attended by more than 50 people.

Elizabeth Court, Director of the Olympic Workforce Development Council, and Chris Miller, a long-time island realtor with Coldwell Bain Real Estate, were the program’s other presenters.

Cohen predicted the four-county region – including Kitsap – would add another 1 million employees over the next 30 years, more than likely led by jobs in the computer and mathematical sectors (software engineers, programmers and the like), and food preparation and service occupations.

Through the end of 2018, he said Kitsap County had more than 92,300 jobs on its employment rolls, not including uniform personnel working at the area’s many Naval installations. That number is up from 75,600 in 2001.

Court relayed some interesting factoids about Bainbridge Island. She said the population is around 24,000 and the median age is 46 compared to 36 for the nation as a whole.

Some 70 percent of island adults have a four-year college degree or higher, and many – around 40% – commute to Seattle or elsewhere for work and typically earn higher wages, Court said, noting that the commuting population spends more than 60 minutes going to and from work each day.

Of Bainbridge’s work force, she said roughly 2,500 people live and work on the island, with 6,227 commuting off-land daily and another 4,496 coming on to the island. She said the latter figure might account for the traffic jams islanders are witnessing on Highway 305.

Miller said Bainbridge tends to “lag behind Seattle by six months and LA by a year” when it comes to residential real estate trends. For the rest of 2019, he said, “things will moderate as always.”

Bainbridge’s real estate market is pricier than the rest of Kitsap County and tends to shadow Seattle. Last year, 398 homes sold on the island, down slightly from 2017, but the median price for a home was $908,500, up nearly $70,000 from the previous year.

Miller said 32 homes sold for more than $1 million last year, with more than half of that number fetching more than $2 million. Fellow realtors whom Miller surveyed said 2019 should be a strong year, but some noted that it is still a seller’s market due to the low inventory of available properties.

Miller said there were 104 single-family resident building permits and seven accessory dwelling unit permits issued in 2018, with another 50 SFR permits and nine ADUs permits issued by the city so far this year.

A number of multiple-family developments are either under way or in the planning pipeline, Miller added, including the Bainbridge Landing Apartments, the Madrona Town Homes and Madison Landing.

Meanwhile, Cohen said the Washington economy should continue to stay strong, with its low unemployment numbers, buoyed somewhat by Boeing’s backlog of almost 6,000 orders and a strong export sector.

While aerospace accounts for nearly three-quarters of state exports, lots of agricultural products and other goods are being shipped through Puget Sound ports, Cohen noted.

He said the only thing that could possibly disrupt the state’s economy is an escalating trade war with China. And, he added, “I don’t know what the end game is there.”  — BY KEVIN DWYER