Cherry Point

Not All Employers are Created Equal

When discussing job creation, it is clear that some jobs are far more beneficial to the general welfare than others. That’s the hard-nosed economic conclusion of the independent 2019 Cherry Point Economic Impact study conducted by Western Washington University’s Center for Economic and Business Research. This research updated the 2014 study previously conducted by Western Washington University and the University of Washington. 

Commissioned by the Whatcom Business Alliance and released on March 19, 2019 at a WBA breakfast that featured expert panelists from academia, industry, real estate, economic development, non-profit and government for the purpose of encouraging fact-based public dialogue on community economic policies, especially those affecting the Cherry Point heavy industrial zone in Whatcom County.

The panel discussion (posted on this website), went into a number of areas of impact and policy implications relating of Cherry Point industry including economic, job creation and wages, environmental, philanthropy, affordable housing, poverty, philanthropy and its impact on the tax base that supports schools, libraries, fire districts, road districts, EMS districts, parks and recreation, conservation futures and other essential public services. 

The study focuses on the economic impacts of 8 companies operating within the Cherry Point zone, which includes the Phillips 66 and BP oil refineries, Alcoa’s Intalco Works aluminum smelter, and several smaller companies, and will serve as a useful reference for other communities examining the merits of heavy industry on their economy.

While there are over 7,000 employers in Whatcom County, those 8 Cherry Point businesses and their at least 3,320 employees have a disproportionate impact on the County’s economy, because of the significant “multiplier effects” of business purchases and the spending of high-wage employees.

  • The median home price in Whatcom County was $345,900 in 2017 and has increased since then, while the annual household income required to afford that home is $51,575.
  • The businesses in Cherry Point paid more than $370 million in state and local taxes and $15 million in property taxes of the overall property taxes in the County,  11% of property taxes for County Road Fund, 15% of the Ferndale Schools, and 21% of the Blaine Schools.  The large tax contributions of these industries effectively reduce taxes for everyone else.
  • The businesses in the region donated more than $1 million to local charitable organizations in 2018. This, at a time when local non-profits are in need of support in order to serve the growing poverty rates.
  • Jobs within the Cherry Point zone represent 3.75% of the County’s employment, but support (directly or indirectly) 11.2% of the overall jobs in the County and 17% of all wages.
  • Cherry Point industrial area jobs pay an average of $110,690 per year, 243% more than the average County wage of $45,491.

Here is the link to the Cherry Point Economic Impact Study

(Dr. Hart Hodges and James McCafferty direct the Center for Economic and Business Research at WWU. Dr. William B. Beyers is a geography/economics researcher at the UW and a principal architect of the economic input-output model used by the State of Washington.)

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