NORTH BEND — "Slow and steady," is how Oregon Employment Department Regional Economist Annette Shelton-Tiderman described the overall outlook of the Coos County economy.
The 25th annual Chamber Economic Outlook Forum was held Friday morning at the Mill Casino.
"We've done pretty steady employment growth over the last couple of years,” Shelton-Tiderman said. “We're projected to go slow, steady; it's a good time for the business community, ample opportunity and there's discussion about bold ideas we can develop. Recovery from recession comes slower to rural areas."
She said Coos County has seen the lowest unemployment rate in the past 25 years at 13.8 percent. The county has lost about 2,700 jobs since 2006 and employment has regained about half of the jobs lost since pre-recession levels. Manufacturing jobs are where Southwest Oregon is hurting the worst due to the lack of applicants possessing adequate job skills. The county has seen a loss of about one third of its workforce in construction jobs.
""It's coming back," Shelton-Tiderman said.
The area has seen 174 new businesses from 2014-2017, she said. One in four jobs are government jobs. Education and health care make up the lion's share of employment in Coos Bay. The population numbers remain flat.
Coos Bay and North Bend city administrators Rodger Craddock and Terrence O'Connor gave a presentation about new projects and investments that have come to each city or will be coming. Some examples of new projects are new housing in North Bend, the Western Oregon Advanced Health facility in Coos Bay, the North Bend Medical Center Expansion, the Department of Health and Human Services building, the new Edward Jones building in Coos Bay, Big Lots in North Bend, Coos Head Foods new store downtown and the completion of various urban renewal projects like the Dolphin Theatre, the Liberty Theatre and the Chip Terminal which turns timber into wood chips used for heating in Japan.
Some of the new projects that are coming are the Natural Grocers Supermarket, the new health and science Facility at Southwestern Oregon Community College, the complete renovation of Fred Meyer, Coos Bay Village Business Park at the waterfront and the North Bend waterfront development.
Another speaker touting Coos County's future was Jordan Cove Senior Project Adviser Bob Braddock.
"We will do a lot in our project that will make the community better," said Braddock.
Braddock spoke of the proposed Natural Gas Liquefaction and Export Facility Terminal to be constructed at the North Spit and the Pacific Connector pipeline which will transport natural gas 229 miles from the nearest LNG facility in Malin. The facility is projected to process 7 million metric tons of liquefied natural gas for shipment to Asia where it will be used for electricity and nuclear power facilities.
Braddock said LNG is predicting a permit issue for the facility by Sept. 2018 and they also expect its certification in 2018. The final investment decision for the facility is projected to be made in 2019 and commencement of delivery is expected 53 months from the FID.
The facility's terminal construction is anticipated to provide 2,000 jobs at its peak with an average of 1,000 jobs. The pipeline construction is projected to take approximately 24 months and bring 4,000 jobs at its peak and 1,000 jobs on average. About 215 permanent jobs will be created with employee wages of $75,000 on average plus benefits.
John Mitchell, a former chief economist and west regional economist for US Bank gave the forum's keynote address. He said the economy is its 102nd month of upturn. From mid 2009-2017, the economy has seen an average 4 percent growth.
"That's not a place where we've been very often," Mitchell told the audience. Mitchell said there has been a broad-based growth in income. He said the next year should bring some interesting changes. There will be a new tax system established, with two vacancies on the Fed Board will bring a "new Fed" with appointments to those seats making new monetary decisions. "We don't know how the new FED will act," he said.
"There is a record number of jobs nationwide," he said. "The most in U.S. history."
However, the job market will not evolve at a quick pace.
"We will continue to see slow, steady growth in employment and there will be a constant shortage in the labor force," Mitchell said. "And it'll likely continue."