Photo: Whatcom Community College courtyard. Photo provided courtesy of the Whatcom Community College.
The industries of Whatcom County are so well-diversified that there is room for just about any new business or new extension of an existing business to open. The largest single industry as of 2014 was government, which encompasses more than one might think. The government industry includes city and county administrations, as well as public education like Western Washington University, Whatcom Community College, Bellingham Technical College, and each primary school. With three of the five largest employers in the county, government employed about 17.8 percent of the county’s full-time workers in 2014.
Photo: Dr. Sloane Winkes examines baby. Photo provided courtesy of the Family Care Network.
Health care takes the next largest piece of the employment pie, thanks in part to the largest single employer in the county, PeaceHealth St. Joseph Medical Center. Interfaith Community Health Center, Family Care Network, private practices, alternative medicine and assisted living facilities are among the others that offer healthcare options. The health and social assistance industry accounted for approximately 13.5 percent of the workforce in 2014.
Another important industry in Whatcom County is retail, which employed 13.2 percent of the full-time workforce in 2014. Retail is booming in the area, thanks in part to the influx of Canadian shoppers. Bellis Fair Mall alone employs 2,300 full-time and 700 part-time employees annually.
Manufacturing companies have found successful homes in the county, where large pieces of land for new plants are available. The BP Cherry Point Refinery accounts for nearly 800 employees Zodiak Airline Cabin Interiors employs 600 and Cascade DAFO, which is a domestic and international manufacturer of pediatric custom and pre-fabricated foot & ankle braces accounts for 275. In all, manufacturing accounted for 10.83 percent of the workforce.
Information technologies accounts for approximately 1,200 jobs in the county. 420 of those employees work for Faithlife, a publisher of bible study software and one of Bellingham’s largest private employers. Faithlife’s owner Bob Pritchett is credited with breathing economic vitality into downtown Bellingham. In locating Faithlife’s offices in downtown Bellingham, those employees are shopping, dining and using downtown business services which continue to strengthen the downtown economy.
The construction continues to be strong in Whatcom County. Ongoing projects include Barkley Village, Bellingham International Airport, several new hotels, and additions at the Silver Reef Hotel Casino Spa have kept the construction industry busy for the past few years. And as the Bellingham Waterfront District redevelopment beginning soon, construction will play a big part in shaping downtown Bellingham and the county in the coming years.
Of course, agriculture/forestry /fishing are traditional industries in the county with fertile farms
Photo: Farm Fresh by Lauren McClanahan. Photo provided courtesy of the City of Bellingham
in the north end of the county, forests to the east and the sea to the west. Harvesting berries, logs and fish have been industry staples in the county for hundreds of years.
Other industries like finance and insurance, arts and entertainment, and real estate are also successful thanks to the county’s popularity among young professionals, families and retired individuals keeping the area well-populated enough to sustain these industries.
Whatcom County is open for business! If you’re interested in opening a business or relocating your business to Whatcom County, call the Bellingham Regional Chamber of Commerce and we’ll be happy to provide you with resources and referrals to help you get started.