Wednesday, February 01, 2006

We've Moved!!

Our blog address has changed! Come visit us at our new blog!

See you there!

Wednesday, January 18, 2006

Reversing the Trend - Back to the City

In the 1950s, people moved out of the cities in pursuit of the ideal suburban life. Fast forward 50 years and we are starting to do the opposite, although the motives remain similar.

Family and leisure activities are two driving forces bringing people back to the cities. It's hard to have quality family time and leisure time when you are spending 3 hours a day commuting. Enter the downtown condo.

Previously marketed as an affordable alternative to single family homes, condos are getting bigger and more luxurious in order to attract families. The hour and a half morning commute is traded for a ten minute walk down the street (15 minutes if they stop at the coffee shop). That extra time is then funneled into people's priorities.

However, with increased demand for in town condos and limited land, prices for condos are on the rise. In 2005, Miami, Florida ranked 10th highest in the country for condo prices. The average price: $443,750.

In Bellingham, we have seen a dramatic rise in condo development. We have also seen the city's attempts to be very intentional about where those condos go in order to foster community and the urban village concept. Downtown condos are great, but if they are not within walking distance to the necessary amenities, they really don't help that much with the commute and traffic problems.

New Kind of Housing for Baby Boomers

Baby boomers are starting to retire and their housing needs are changing. With an empty nest, many want to downsize to a more manageable size home, preferably where they don't have to mow the lawn!

Across the nation, but particularly in the south, there is a dramatic rise in 50+ housing developments. Sales in resort-style subdivisions (as seen in Whatcom County at Sudden Valley, Lynden's Homestead, and Birch Bay), luxury condos (Fairhaven) and mountain or beach vacation retreats are skyrocketing. Many boomers are even becoming "splitters" - a smaller primary residence and a vacation home.

This new batch of retirees is being labeled as more mobile & healthy and less frugal than previous generations. They have saved their money, received their inheritances and now they are spending it.

Pursuing hobbies and interests is an integral part of the new retired life. Many put their passions on hold due to family and work and are now making up for it. Golf, tennis, biking, hiking - they are all a part of a typical day for many retirees.

So what does all this mean for real estate?

1. Increased resort style communities with built in recreation and maintenance.
2. Increased luxury condos. All of the finishing touches that used to be found only in large homes, are now present in 2 bedroom condos.
3. Changes in designs of homes - many new homes now feature master suites on the main floor and larger kitchens that are more ergonomic.
4. Baby boomers have the money and they are spending it!

County Councilmen Propose Limiting Rural Homes

Two Whatcom County Councilmen are proposing limiting homes in rural areas in order to preserve farmlands. In spite of the County Council declining to even consider their proposals last year, council members Dan McShane and Seth Fleetwood are trying again. Here are the highlights of their proposal:
  • Change some rural zones to agricultural zones, thereby limiting homes to one per 40 acres.
  • Allowing fewer homes in current rural zones.

Fleetwood states concerns over the service demands that development in rural areas would create. He also said that rural homes also go against plans to steer development into the cities.

Another proposal is from Trillium Corp - they are proposing that 2,400 acres around Galbraith mountain be designated an urban growth study area meaning that it would be a possible expansion area for Bellingham's growth. Trillium is also petitioning to have the land changed from forestry zoning (which allows just one home per 20 acres) to allow one home per 10 acres.

County officials want to limit development in areas slated for long term growth in order to ensure that there is land to develop in the future for growth.

Anyone can propose changes to the Comprehensive Plan, but it is the County Council who decides which ones will be considered.

Proposed Block on Sudden Valley Cityhood

Whatcom County Councilman Seth Fleetwood wants to block Sudden Valley from becoming a city. In December 2001, the county council made Sudden Valley a provisional urban growth area and gave it 5 years to incorporate into a city. Fleetwood, who was not on the council in 2001, wants to rescind the urban growth area in the 2006 comprehensive plan changes.

The two main issues at stake with Sudden Valley cityhood are money and water.

If the community on the shores of Lake Whatcom becomes a city, they would start to collect taxes to pay for certain services which are now covered by community dues. Currently, the county receives the taxes paid by Sudden Valley residents. Furthermore, Sudden Valley would likely have to increase their density in order to support urban level services if they were to become a city. This would go against the 2001 county council's call for reduced density in Sudden Valley. However, as a city, Sudden Valley would not be bound to the county council's decision.

The other major issue is water. Lake Whatcom provides drinking water to 86,000 people in our area and some fear that further development in Sudden Valley would harm that drinking water source.

Whatcom County Council code allows for proposals to be brought forward and passed immediately as an "emergency" if it will resolve legal challenges (among other things). The Clean Water Alliance currently is appealing the growth area to the state Supreme Court. If Fleetwood's proposal passes, the Clean Water Alliance will likely be content and drop the case.

Lynden Real Estate Development


About: Application to develop home lots.
Lots: 11
Location: 8720 Vinup Road
Applicant: Millennium Engineering Group

About: Application to develop lots.
Lots: 5
Location: 8640 Bradley Meadows Lane
Applicants: Group Foresome & Northwest Gold

About: Application to develop multi-family lots.
Lots: 6
Location: 201 S. Seventh St.
Applicant: Seventh Heaven LLC

Comment Deadline: Wednesday January 25


A public hearing has been scheduled by the Lynden Planning Commission for the above applications.
When: 7:30pm, Thursday February 9
Where: Lynden City Hall Annex, 204 Fourth St.

More info: 354-5532

Tuesday, January 17, 2006

The Future of GP in Bellingham

Many people may be confused by the title - isn't GP already gone? The answer is no. Although their pulp mill shut down, the GP tissue manufacturing plant is still up and running. They currently have a lease agreement with the Port of Bellingham that extends to June 2007, but extentions and various options could lengthen that to as late as 2010.

Many people are quite happy that GP is still here because they make use of the land while redevelopment is being planned and they provide 240 jobs. In addition to those jobs are all the "ripple effect" jobs from various contractors and services that they use in town, and the money that the 240 employees spend.

GP is producing 3 kinds of tissue at the Bellingham plant right now, one of which is very popular at Wal-Mart.

Homes Outpace Population

In the past 5 years, Whatcom County gained more new homes than it did population (in terms of percentages). Several factors have contributed to this:

Less people living in each home - This trend has been happening for years and is particularly accelerated here due to the large number of condos being built. In the past five years, 64% of new homes in Whatcom County have been condos - an increase from 43% of total homes in 2000.

Investment Properties - Many people, particularly baby boomers, have been buying investment properties in the area. Some will reside in the home when they retire and for others it is solely an investment. An estimated 35-40% of owners in the new Harris Square condos in Fairhaven are second home or investment purchases.

Low Interest Rates - Many developers started new projects and even completed projects that had benn abandoned long ago, due to the low rates.

So is there an excess of rental housing in Bellingham? Maybe. Some property owners are saying that it is taking longer to rent some of their properties and some are even lowering the rent. But, consider this - from March 2000 to March 2005 rent went up approximately 10% while the median house price in the county rose 70%. So for some people in Bellingham, renting is still the way to go.

Ferndale Real Estate Development


About: Application to build a conference centre
Location: 1415 Sunset Ave
Size: 80,000 square feet
Developers: Emerald Bay Events & Faber Brothers Construction
Comment Deadline: 5pm, Thursday January 19
Scheduled by: Ferndale Hearing Examiner
When: 7pm, Thursday January 19
Where: Ferndale City Hall Annex, 5694 Second Ave.


About: Land use and transportation in the comprehensive Plan update.
Scheduled by: The Planning Committee
When: 7pm, Wednesday January 25
Where: Ferndale City Hall Annex, 5694 Second Ave.

More info: 384-4006 or click here.

Everson Real Estate Developments


About: Request to change land from industrial to residential use as part of it's 2005 comprehensive plan changes.
Land: 20 acres
Location: West of Mission Road
Applicant: Wilder Construction
Note: The council may consider this change later in the year.
More info: 966-3411

Blaine Real Estate Development


About: Seagrass II
Location: Semiahmoo Spit
Units: 68
Developer: Gepetto Properties LLC
Scheduled by: Blaine Planning Commission
Comment Deadline: close of the hearing
When: 7pm, Thursday February 9
Where: Blaine City Hall, 344 H St.

About: Extending a building moratorium.
Details: The moratorium is on duplexes and multi-family buildings in a medium density zone and single/duplex zones.
Scheduled by: Blaine City Council
When: 7pm, Monday January 23
Where: Blaine City Hall, 344 H St.

More info: 332-8311 or click here.

Bellingham Real Estate Developments


About: Application to designate a property as a local landmark.
Applicant: David Ebenal
Location: 12th St. & McKenzie Ave - The Waldron Building
Scheduled by: The Historic Preservation Commission
When: 7pm, Tuesday, January 24
Where: Council Chambers, Bellingham City Hall, 210 Lottie St.
More info: 676-6982


About: Proposal to develop
Location: 950 Lincoln St.
Land: 1 acre
Type: Commercial & Residential
Details: Street level commercial on first two floors, with condos above on Lincoln St, and approximately 50 more condos on the rest of the site.
When: 7pm, Tuesday, January 17
Where: 950 Lincoln St. (in the former Mongolian Restaurant)

About: Application to build two story duplexes
Location: 2413 Sunset Drive
Units: 16 (8 buildings)
Land: 1.69 acres
Developer: Northshore Corp
Comment Deadline: Thursday, January 19

About: Application for wetland & stream works
Project: Fairhaven Highlands
Location: Chuckanut Drive
Homes: 739 (proposed)
Developer: Greenbriar Northwest Associates
Comment Deadline: Wednesday, January 18

About: Application to build homes
Location: 4048 Deemer Road
Homes: 18
Land: 3.4 acres
Developer: D. Scott Wesley
Details: Application also includes variances from subdivision requirements
Comment Deadline: Wednesday, January 18

What: Request to vacate a portion of a Road
Location: Waldron Road in the Cordata development
Applicant: D.R. Horton
Approved by: Bellingham City Council

More info: 676-6985 or click here.

Bellingham Construction Update

Project: Bakerview Square
Location: West Bakerview & Eliza Avenue (near the T-Mobile calling center)
Space: 50,000 square feet
Type: retail
Tenants: There is room for 15-20
Developer: Morgan Bartlett
General Contractor: Faber Brothers
Completion: End of 2006 or early 2007
Cost: $6.5 million
Phase 2: To the east of the current project, it would include 120,000 square feet of retail space and would be developed after the first phase.

Friday, January 13, 2006

Jobs Key to Waterfront Redevelopment

Jobs are being discussed as an important aspect to the new waterfront area. Particularly, the Waterfront Futures Group would like to see traditional waterfront jobs such as commercial fishing. The current plans call for a lot of shops and restaurants, which is great - but they are low wage jobs. Rebuilding the GP site to include marine jobs will help ensure a strong economy for Bellingham.

Rain Rain Go Away!

Bellingham has now received 26 consecutive days of rain!!!! I didn't think that it was possible for the sky to hold that much water, but apparently it is. The good news is that rain down here means snow up at Mt. Baker. The problem is that it was even too much snow for them!!! They had to close and do avalanche control today. Hopefully they will reopen tomorrow.

Now for the out of towners that are looking at this and considering relocating to Bellingham, we promise it is not always like this!!!

So, here's to hoping for a little bit of sun this weekend!

Our 200th Post!

The Bellingham Blog has been up for 3.5 months and we have just hit 200 posts! It's hard to believe that we have that many already. I'm enjoying writing for this blog a lot, although I think that I'd like it better if we had a few more comments! Dialogue is what really makes blogs fun, so come on people....COMMENT!!! At least let me know that you stopped by!

Thursday, January 12, 2006

Bellingham Library Seeks Land For Expansion

The Bellingham Public Library wants to expand. Their current building was last expanded in 1983 when the population was 43,000. Bellingham's population has increased to 72,000 and our library can boast some of the highest circulation levels in the US for a community our size!

The problem? No land. The board of trustees has searched through downtown Bellingham for available land (they are seeking 65,000 square feet), but with no luck they are now turning to the public. They hope that a downtown Bellingham land owner will come forward and be willing to either sell or donate the land to the library.

Obviously, they would prefer the later as a new facility will be costly. A new library will likely require a new tax and with voters deciding on the Bellingham School District bond in March, they may not want yet another tax.

So, if you have land or know of land available in downtown Bellingham let us or the library know!

Condos approved for Birch Bay!

Terrell Creek Villas, a 90 unit condo project, has been approved by Michael Bobbink, Whatcom County Hearing Examiner. The 10.5 acre project was proposed by Pacific Land Development Company LLC and will include 2 town-house style buildings and a seven story building.

Public concern was raised about the seven story height, however Birch Bay does not have any design standards preventing it. Whatcom County officials say the plan to work on design standards this year.

Threat or Truly Trying to Help?

The following is a letter from Whatcom County Fire District No. 17 commissioners that was sent out to voters in the area. Pretty interesting - would love to hear some thoughts about this.

Board of Fire Commissioners
Whatcom County Fire District No. 17
4332 Sucia Dr.
Ferndale, WA 98248

December 30, 2005

Dear Sandy Point Shores, Heights & Neptune Beach Residents/Property Owners:

The Sandy Point Fire District #17 Fire Commissioners want to thank the voters who supported our Fire Protection #1 in November. Unfortunately it did not pass. We believe we did not effectively communicate to a majority of voters that the fire department cannot continue to serve you as an all-volunteer organization. Compliance with State regulations and our strong commitment to safety has placed overwhelming demands on our volunteer fire Chief and other key volunteers.

There are two key issues:
  • The Fire District cannot continue to operate as an all-volunteer Department. The volunteer Fire Chief and other key volunteers are no longer able to keep up the requirements to run the Department.
  • There are serious financial considerations. The Washington State Department of Ratings evaluates fire districts and assigns an insurance rating based on the quality and readiness of the district's fire department. The lower the rating, the higher the quality of the district. Our district has a 6 rating which has a positive effect on your property insurance premiums.
  • Our Fire Chief, Assistant Chief, Medical Officer and other key volunteers have agreed to continue to serve our community, as volunteers, until April 30th, 2006. Without their service, we cannot continue to safely serve you and will be forced to close both the Sandy Point Heights and Sandy Point Shores Stations.


    When the department closes, ANY response to fire or aid will be over five miles from the district. Beyond the health and safety issues of this situation, this distance will trigger a jump in our insurance rating from a 6 to a 10. Our research indicates that a 10 rating will double or even triple property insurance premiums. WE ENCOURAGE YOU TO CONTACT YOUR INSURANCE PROVIDER TO DETERMINE HOW THIS EVENT WILL AFFECT YOU. (See attached letter from Kelly & Associates.)

    As your elected Commissioners we have worked hard to keep the Fire Department operating. To that end, we will make one last attempt to pass a special levy early next year. Passage of the levy will keep our Fire Department open. We strongly encourage you to become informed on this issue. It is extremely important to the Fire District and to all property owners.

    A public meeting will be held at the beginning of the January 17, 2006 Fire Commissioner's Meeting. The meeting will be at the Sandy Point Fire Station and will begin at 7:00 p.m. After the public session, the Commissioners will go into executive session.

    If you have any questions, please contact the Fire Commissioners at the numbers and e-mail address below:
    Michael Burnett - 384-6168 -
    Anthony Cannizzaro - 384-8994 -
    Ralph Peterson - 384-6101 -
    {Signed by Michael Burnett, Anthony Cannizzaro and Ralph Peterson]

    Development Expert to Speak Against Fairhaven Highlands

    Responsible Development, a group that opposes the new Fairhaven Highlands 739 home project, has hired development expert Eben Fodor to speak on Thursday night. Fodor has reviewed the Chuckanut Drive plan and will speak about the public cost of development.

    When: 7pm, Thursday, January 12
    Where: Whatcom County Courthouse, 311 Grand Ave.

    Bellingham Subdivision Approved

    James Street Road will soon see 36 new homes. The Meadow Ridge Park project won approval from Bellingham hearing examiner Dawn Sturwold, including approval for variances from lot pipestem requirements and set variance conditions. Edegwater Park LLC are developing the 43 acre project, west of James Street between McLeod Rd. and Orchard Dr.

    $6.9 million Athletic Complex

    Bellingham's Civic Athletic Complex was awarded $6.9 million in upgrades by the Bellingham City Council. Colacurcio Brothers Construction of Blaine won the bid and will begin work next month. The complex hosts Western Washington University games as well as local high school events.

    The project has been delayed for nearly a year due to budgeting constraints. Certain aspects of the project have been reworked in order to bring down the costs.

    Bellingham to grow north

    Last week, the Bellingham Planning Commission voted and officially decided to add growth areas to the north of Bellingham.

    The new areas will average 14 homes per acre (that means .07 acre lots, or 3111 square feet). The new growth areas will include:
    • 480 acres west of Meridian and Northwest Road, up to Aldrich Road
    • 671 acres west of Meridian to Smith Road
    • 365 acres around King & Queen Mountain
    • 656 acres east of Guide Meridian from Horton Rd. to Smith Rd. for commercial and industrial use

    The city council will meet on Monday, January 23 to make the recommendation to the Whatcom County Council regarding the new growth areas. Ultimately, the additions are up to the county council.

    Wednesday, January 11, 2006

    Trouble with the Water in Kendall

    Don't worry - the water is safe to drink! But it may be going bankrupt soon! The Evergreen Water-Sewer District No. 19 which represents the Kendall area has been riddled with controversy and problems since a state audit in March criticized the lack of a formal budget and over $400,000 spent on contracts without formal approval.

    In addition, one of the commissioners recently became the district manager and another commissioner's spouse negotiated with lawyers on behalf of the district. Hmm....can we say conflict of interest?!

    On top of all this, commissioners Gordon Travis and Jutta Ahmed passed a plan that will lower water bills by $20. I like saving $20 as much as the next person, but I also like to know that the service will be around a year from now! Under the new plan, the district will lose approximately $10,000 per month! I guess they forgot to hire an accountant!

    Not enough controversy for you yet? How about this: the district was granted a $4 million loan to complete some desperately needed repairs. The commissioners are considering delaying the project, which could cause them to lose that loan. Seems to me that the $10,000 they started giving back to residents each month could work as a loan payment.

    The drama continued on December 20 at a district meeting that dissolved into shouting and insults. The commissioners (yes, the same two as before!) voted to make the crowd be silent. I guess they didn't like having opposition.

    If there are any Kendall residents out there, we would love to hear your thoughts and perspectives on this. Are we missing something?

    Tuesday, January 10, 2006

    Lynden's Growth Issues for 2006

    The traditional small town of Lynden, population 9,000, is starting to face some "city" type issues. Some of these have been going on for a while, and some are new in 2006.

    1. Lack of water - From 1999-2004 the city had a moratorium on new subdivisions due to a lack of water (the city was already overdrawing on the Nooksack River). A plan to obtain unused portions of the Nooksack River in Bellingham fell through and they are now working with the Whatcom County Public Utility District No. 1 to come up with a solution.

    2. Space - As the town grows, so does the government, resulting in the 2500 square foot office that houses the Lynden City Council office for years becoming too small. A proposed tax to pay for a new building was denied by voters last November leaving the town council searching for alternatives.

    3. Diversity - Not wanting to turn into a bedroom community for Bellingham, Lynden rezoned 104 acres west of the city from agricultural to industrial and incorporated it into the city. Their hope is to attract small industrial businesses, thereby creating tax revenue for the city and jobs for its residents.

    4. Density - Lynden still has a small town feel. Many families have lived there for generations resulting in a tight knit community. Combine that with low crime rates, high church attendance, and the "cute/quaint" feel that the town has, and it becomes a desirable place to live. In order to fit more people into the city, developers are planning higher density projects - including the Blanker family project which features 225 condos, some of those in 7 story buildings. (Lynden currently has nothing over 3 stories). Many residents do not like the idea of higher density housing because it doesn't fit with the character of the community.

    Over the next year we will be watching Lynden and how these issues unfold. We would love to hear your perspective, particularly from Lynden residents - how do you feel about the growth?

    Whatcom County Real Estate Development - Hearing

    About: Changing land from long-term to short-term planning area for Ferndale, and allowing possible urban development and annexation.
    Land: 57 acres
    Location: West side of Vista Drive
    When: 6:30pm, Thursday, January 12
    Where: Northwest Annex Conference Room, 5280 Northwest Drive

    The Planning Commission has also scheduled a work session.
    About: updates to county Parks, Recreation and Open Space Plan.
    When: 3pm, Thursday, January 12
    Where: Northwest Annex Conference Room, 5280 Northwest Drive

    More info: 676-6907 or click here.

    Sumas Real Estate Development - Comment

    Application: to build a 830 foot heavy haul road.
    Location: 601 West Front St.
    Why: As part of a kiln-drying facility.
    Applicant: Socco Inc.
    Comment Deadline: Monday, January 16

    Lynden Real Estate Development - Public Hearing

    About: 90 day extension of a moratorium on planned residential developments
    *Note: This extension is while the city of Lynden reviews its rules governing developments.
    Comment Deadline: Tuesday, January 17
    When: 7pm, Tuesday January 17
    Where: Lynden City Hall Annex, 205 Fourth St.
    More info: 354-5532

    Ferndale Real Estate Development - Comment

    About: Application to build a conference center.
    Location: 1415 Sunset Ave
    Size: 80,000 square feet
    Applicants: Emerald Bay Events & Faber Brothers Construction
    When: 7pm, Thursday, January 19
    Where: Ferndale City Hall Annex, 5694 Second Ave.
    More info: 684-4006 or click here.

    Ferndale Real Estate Development - Hearing

    About: Comprehensive Plan Update
    Scheduled by: The Planning Commission
    When: 7pm, Wednesday, January 11
    Where: Ferndale City Hall Annex, 5694 Second Ave
    More info: 384-4006 or click here.

    Everson Real Estate Development - Meeting

    About: Request to change 20 acres from industrial to residential use.
    Location: West of Mission Road
    Applicant: Wilder Construction
    When: 7:30pm, Tuesday, January 10
    Where: Everson City Hall, 111 W. Main St.
    More info: 966-3411

    Blaine Real Estate Development - Hearings

    The following hearings have been scheduled by the Blaine Planning Commission.

    About: Seagrass II development proposal
    Location: Semiahmoo Spit
    Units: 68
    Developer: Gepetto Properties LLC
    Comment Deadline: Wednesday January 25 (formally, however written comments will be accepted until the close of the hearing)
    When: 7pm, Thursday, February 9
    Where: Blaine City Hall, 344 H St.

    About: Application to build cottages
    Location: 1168 Hughes Ave
    Units: 14 single family cottages
    Developer: Stonewood Construction LLC
    When: 7pm, Thursday, January 12
    Where: Blaine City Hall, 344 H St.

    For more info call 966-3411.

    Bellingham Real Estate Development - Public Hearings

    Application: to designate the Waldron Building as a local landmark and change it's exterior.
    Location: 23th Street & McKenzie Avenue
    Applicant: David Ebenal
    Hearing Called by: The Historic Preservation Commission
    Hearing Date: 7pm, Tuesday, January 24
    Where: Council Chambers at Bellingham City Hall, 210 Lottie St.

    The following hearings were called by Dawn Sturwold, Bellingham Hearing Examiner

    About: Proposed Padden Trails Development
    Lots: 210
    Land: 115 acres
    Location: South end of 33rd St., Between I-5 and Lake Padden
    Developer: Padden Trails LLC

    About: Reconsideration of lot-coverage variance to cover 67& of a lot for mixed use building with underground parking, street level offices and residential units.
    Location: 1203 & 1211 W. Holly St.
    Developer: Next Faze LLC
    Current Lot Coverage Limit: 35%

    Hearing Details
    Time: 6pm

    Date: Wednesday, January 11
    Where: Council Chambers of Bellingham City Hall, 210 Lottie St.

    For more info call 676-6982 or click here.

    Bellingham Real Estate Development - Comments

    Application: Wetland and stream work
    Project: Fairhaven Highlands
    Location: Chuckanut Drive
    Homes: 739
    Developer: Greenbriar Northwest Associates
    Comment Deadline: Wednesday, January 18

    Application: to build homes
    Location: 4048 Deemer Road
    Homes: 18
    Land: 3.4 acres
    Extras: Requesting density bonus and variance from subdivision requirements.
    Developer: D. Scott Wesley
    Comment Deadline: Wednesday January 18

    Bellingham Construction Update

    Location: 3863 Hannegan Rd. (near Bellingham Millwork Supply)
    Project: Henifin Business Plaza
    Size: 20,000 square feet
    Use: retail, office & commercial
    Owners: Jaime & Lynne Henifin
    Site Work: Henifin Construction
    General Contractor: Impero Contracting
    Architect: Doug Landsem
    Completion: May
    Cost: $1.2 million
    Details: Will have roll up doors for warehousing convenience
    Tenants: Bellingham Millwork will take 50% of the new building.
    Phase II: 22,000 square foot building nearby sometime in the future.

    Economy Strong!!

    Whatcom County has seen growth and a very strong economy for the past two years. In 2004, 4,800 jobs were created - in 2005 this number went up to 4,900. Boasting one of the lowest unemployment rates (4.4% in October), Whatcom County has one of the strongest economies in Washington and it's drawing national notice.

    Large national retailers are considering Bellingham, particularly as it nears the 100,000 mark. The strength of the Canadian dollar is also adding greatly to our economy, but in a different way than before. While some Canadian shoppers are starting to come back, it is certainly not the frenzy that it was in the early 90s. Perhaps the emergence of online shopping has had an effect on that.

    What we are seeing is Canadian companies (who are also enjoying a strong economy right now) opening up offices in the US to expand further into the American market. Whatcom County is perfectly situated for this as it is right next to the third largest city in Canada!

    So will 2006 continue the upward swing in the economy? Some experts feel that it won't. The economy will remain strong - there are enough indicators of that (construction projects in process, new companies moving to Bellingham, current companies expanding and receiving large contracts). However, the rise in interest rates will probably slow down construction, and therefore the economy, at least a bit.