Economic impact report on Cherry Point industries highlights contributions of manufacturing industry

A March 2019 report by The Center for Economic and Business Research Western Washington University documents the economic impacts of Cherry Point on Whatcom County. At least as important, it sheds light on the significance of manufacturing industry in anchoring regional economies, an issue of statewide importance.

For example,

  •  The Cherry Point Industrial Zone is home to at least 3,320 jobs, roughly 3.75 percent of all jobs in the County.

  • The jobs in Cherry Point have an average wage of $110,690. The majority of these jobs are at the refineries, which have significantly higher wages than other industries within Whatcom County.

  • The average job at Cherry Point pays 243% more than the average job in Whatcom County.

  • The average wage in Whatcom County was $45,491 in 2017. Without the Cherry Point Industrial Zone, the average wage in the county falls to $43,024 (5.4 percent decrease). The overall average would fall further if the jobs elsewhere in the county that depend on businesses in Cherry Point were removed along with the jobs at Cherry Point.

  • The median home price in Whatcom County in 2017 was $345,900, requiring an annual household income of $51,575.26.

  • While only 3.5 percent of all jobs in the county are in the Cherry Point district, the region either directly or indirectly supports 11.2 percent of all the jobs in the county and 0.3 percent of all jobs in the state… 

  • Wages paid in Cherry Point accounted for 9 percent of all wages paid in the county. The activity at Cherry Point either directly or indirectly supports 17 percent of the wages paid in the county.

  • The businesses in Cherry Point paid more than $370 million in state and local taxes and $15 million in property taxes in 2017.

  • Businesses in the region donated more than $1 million to charitable organizations in 2018.

The study was commissioned by the Whatcom Business Alliance and released at a March 19 meeting of the WBA. The group said the meeting

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.

The report clearly documents the positive economic contributions of the industry. We recommend it.

Similar effects are reported in the Washington Research Council report on the Economic Contribution of Washington State’s Petroleum Refining Industry in 2017 and its three-part series on manufacturing (Rebalancing Priorities:The Case for Manufacturing Jobs Part I; Manufacturing Jobs Part II: Education and Workforce Development Strategies to Close the Skills Gap; and Manufacturing Jobs Part III: A Costly and Uncertain Regulatory Burden Harms Competitiveness).