Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Economic numbers show slow but steady recovery

Automotive and retail companies experiencing growth in 2014

Express Staff Writer

Carol Knight, owner of The Toy Store, right, makes a sale at her Ketchum store location. Photo by Willy Cook

The Wood River Valley saw an increase in sales, local-option tax receipts and jobs between 2012 and 2013, despite a winter with little snow and the economic blow of the Beaver Creek Fire last summer.
    Adjusted for inflation, total sales in Blaine County last year increased by $5 million—from $662 million in 2012 to $667 million in 2013, according to data collected by Sun Valley Economic Development. Raw data pertaining to jobs and wages came from the Department of Labor; for that data, their most recent numbers come from 2012.
    Hailey saw a jump from $203 million to $213 million, a nearly 5 percent increase in sales. Ketchum’s sales increased by $1 million to reach $297 million, and Carey’s sales increased by a margin of $3 million, ending the year at $20 million. Sun Valley’s reported sales for 2013 totaled $81 million, down from $89 million in 2012, and Bellevue’s 2013 numbers came in $2 million under the previous year, at $55 million.   
    For Sun Valley Economic Development Executive Director Harry Griffith, recorded sales figures are the “best pulse of the economy,” and the county is in the second up year.
    Wages are another good indicator, Griffith said, and the annual wages of Blaine County went from $417 million in 2011 to $448 million in 2012—a 7 percent increase. Ketchum saw the largest jump, with a $15 million dollar increase between 2011 and 2012: from $159 million to $174 million. Hailey also saw a boost, with a $3 million increase to hit $185 million in 2012. Sun Valley’s wages decreased slightly, from $40 million to $39 million. Griffith said that throughout every city, the “shape” of those wages appears differently.
    “People are picking up second jobs or part-time jobs,” he said. “I don’t think we’ve recovered fully in the sense of full-time jobs.”
    Whether or not locals are getting more work to supplement their income, there were more jobs in the valley in 2012 than the year prior: from 11,411 in 2011 to 11,640 in 2012. Hailey and Bellevue were the only cities that saw a decrease—Hailey went from 4,215 in 2011 to 4,143 in 2012 and Bellevue lost 126 jobs in that time period. Carey reported more than 50 new jobs, Ketchum two and Sun Valley four. The numbers for unincorporated Blaine County represent vagaries in reporting, but available data shows 81 jobs in 2011 increasing to 450 in 2012. Griffith said the figures represent job creation across the county.
Business numbers decrease
    Obvious by the number of empty storefronts on Hailey’s and Ketchum’s main streets, the number of businesses valley-wide is the only business indicator that doesn’t show a bounce-back. Hailey businesses saw a steep decline with most recent data, from 532 in 2011 to 487 in 2012. Griffith said the loss in businesses in Hailey came primarily from the construction and professional-services sectors. Both sectors took a hit throughout other municipalities in 2012 as well: Ketchum lost 31 professional service-type businesses and Sun Valley lost all four of its construction businesses, he said. Businesses declined from 1,500 to 1,316 throughout Bellevue, Carey, Ketchum, Hailey, Sun Valley and unincorporated Blaine County between 2011 and 2012.
    The answer to a changing retail landscape, Griffith said, is new business models. Positive signs of growth include expanded Internet marketplaces for local businesses and entrepreneurial risk-taking. In the past six months, Griffith said, the automotive, apparel and drug stores throughout the valley have seen financial gains.
LOT receipts go up
    Local-option tax receipts show increases for Sun Valley and Hailey between 2012 and 2013. Hailey’s jumped from $339,000 to $350,000 and Sun Valley’s from $1,241,000 to $1,249,000. Though seemingly small, these increases are impressive considering the factors that put a damper on commerce and tourism in 2013, Griffith said. The Beaver Creek Fire and lack of snow during the winter is also justification for Ketchum’s small decrease in LOT receipts: from $1,782,000 in 2012 to $1,774,000 in 2013. Griffith said next year’s numbers, which will reflect the new 1 percent LOT for air service that began Jan. 1, 2014, should be significantly higher in all three municipalities.         Building supply sales countywide have been on the rise since 2012, and is the sector making the best recovery in the past year, with a $7 million increase between 2012 and 2013, from $36 million to $43 million. Since 2006, Griffith looked specifically at annual sales for building supplies, farm/garden, grocery/food, automotive, apparel, home furnishings, eating/drinking, drug stores, jewelry and sporting goods—sectors that he believes are of particular interest to residents.
    Of those sectors listed, six have seen increased sales between 2012 and 2013: building supplies, farm/garden, grocery/food, home furnishings, eating/drinking and drug stores. The total number of sales for the 10 sectors increased by 3.1 percent between 2012 and 2013—from $283 million to $292 million.
    Automotive, jewelery and sporting goods sales decreased by $1 million each, data show, and apparel sales took the largest hit, with a $4 million decrease, from $17 million to $13 million. However, apparel sales have been making a recovery in 2014.
    Looking to the future, Griffith said the hospitality sector is sure to grow with the addition of two new Ketchum hotels going up. Developer Jack Bariteau’s partnership with Auberge Resorts to create a five-star hotel should create dozens of year-round jobs. Bald Mountain Lodge is another upcoming local project.
    “It’ll be a huge boon for construction and trade jobs,” Griffith said.
    So will the nine-month-long construction project to remodel the Sun Valley Lodge, which began in September, Griffith said. While the contractor for the extensive project and addition isn’t local, ripple effects from local subcontractors and tradesmen should make an impact, he said.

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