Park City Chamber/Bureau predicts healthy economy for 2008 | ParkRecord.com

Park City Chamber/Bureau predicts healthy economy for 2008

Kelly Evertsen, Of the Record Staff

Park City’s economy may be benefiting from the strength of the Euro.

That’s what Bill Malone, executive director of the Park City Chamber/Bureau, reports. He says international ski pass sales are up 20 percent this year, compared to 16 percent last year.

"The dollar tends to decline," Malone said at the Chamber/Bureau’s Economic Forecast Luncheon on Wednesday. "But it’s certainly boding well for international guests to spend time in Park City."

The Park City Chamber/Bureau held its annual economic forecast luncheon at the Yarrow Hotel on Wednesday. There, Malone and keynote speaker James Wood from the Bureau of Economic and Business Research at the University of Utah spoke about the current state of the economy in Summit County and some projections for the upcoming year.

While Malone addressed such issues as a decline in visitors in Park City at the beginning of the year due to a lack of snow, he said business in Park City is picking up at the resorts. He also made positive projections for job growth, ski days, real estate gross sales and retail sales in Park City and Summit County in 2008.

Malone predicts Park City area visitor nights will increase from 3,357,000 in 2006 to 3,500,000 visitors this year.

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"I think we’ll set an all-time record on [visitor nights]," Malone said.

Real estate sales doing well in Park City

Malone said he expects a rise in the volume of real estate sales in Park City. He reported that Park City’s biggest year for gross real estate sales was in 2005, when Park City generated $1.835 billion in the real estate market. He expects to see an increase in real estate sales to $1.6 billion this year, compared to $1.336 billion last year.

Utah’s economy and job growth leads nation

Regarding the current state of the economy in Summit County, Utah and the nation,

Wood says, despite problems in the housing market sector, "other markets are doing fantastically well."

Overall, Summit County has a unique economic structure compared to other counties in the state, he said.

Wood also mentioned the importance of importing and exporting businesses to state economies, and said the ski industry does that for Utah.

"A state can’t grow with out import businesses," Wood said. "The ski industry plays a role in that. Park City and Summit County are a part of that."

Wood mentioned the impressive job growth in Summit County and Utah. Utah leads the nation for job growth and Wood said Summit County has seen a lot of that.

"[Job] growth has been impressive here in Summit County," he said. "[Summit County] is participating in higher levels than other counties in the state."

Wood reported that leisure, retail, government, construction, professional and business are the top employment sectors ranked by job shares in the county, since the ski industry plays a large role in the economy.

"One-third of all jobs in Summit County are in leisure," Wood said, "and retail is a little heavier than Salt Lake County."

Thirty-five percent of jobs in Summit County are in the leisure sector, compared to eight percent of in Salt Lake County, Wood reports.

Wood said of all the jobs in leisure, the top two subsectors are in food services and recreation. Because these jobs are considered to be "low wage sectors," Wood said "they are heavily weighted toward immigrants and Hispanics."

Wood also spoke about the increase in retail sales in Summit County last year.

He reports that eating and drinking retail sales in Summit County increased from $73.3 million in 2000 to $105.8 million in 2007, a 44.3 percent increase. Building and garden sales increased from $31.5 million in 2000 to $72.7 million in 2007, a 130.8 percent increase.

More moving to Utah and Summit County

Wood also mentioned that Utah is ranked fourth in the nation for employment change and population change. Utah’s population increased by 74.5 percent from 1980 to 2006, he said.

"Utah is a high growth state," Wood said. "We’re ranked fourth in employment growth [and] that’s historic. You can look back to the 1950s and [see] a similar pattern."

Wood said Utah’s population growth does not rely on net in-migration, but is mostly natural, because of Utah’s high birth rate. However, he said, Utah is seeing higher numbers of in-migration and he expects to see that increase during the next few years.

"Last year, in-migration [was] almost 50 percent of [natural] growth," Wood said. "Typically, it is 30 percent of [natural] growth. So it’s a good year for in-migration [in Utah]."

Regarding the possibility of a recession, Wood said it’s "really up to Utah." He assured Summit County citizens that a recession is not something to be concerned about yet.

Recession not yet a concern and housing market remains healthy

"We don’t have a definition for a recession," he said. "A recession is defined by five people at the [United States Bureau of Economics]. They decide when we had a recession and came out of it."

He said out of the four major economic expansions in the United States, the expansion is 1978 is the most similar to now.

Wood said, because of Utah’s high employment rate and growth, besides inflation in housing prices, "we’re a high growth region and a high growth state."

As to the weakening housing market in Utah, Wood said, while many Utahns believe housing prices are going to decrease in the next few years, there is really no way to know for certain, because an increase in homes does not necessarily mean a decline in the prices of homes.

"Utah still leads the country in housing price increases," he said. "It’s a pretty rare event to see home prices go down in Utah."

While foreclosures are a problem nationwide, Wood believes "we are doing very well in low foreclosure rates [in Utah]," and assured Utahns that the housing market could be a lot worse compared to other states.

Wood focused primarily on the positive aspects of Utah’s economy and made positive projections for the upcoming year.

Malone ended the meeting on a positive note, repeating to Chamber members and businesses that he expects Park City’s economy to do well in 2008.

"We’re pretty optimistic in terms of this year," Malone said.

For more information about the Park City Chamber/Bureau, visit http://www.parkcityinfo.com . For more information about the Bureau of Economic and Business Research, visit http://www.bebr.utah.edu.

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