Summit County economy gradually improving |

Summit County economy gradually improving

Angelique McNaughtonThe Park Record

Throughout 2014, Summit County’s economic climate has gradually improved, providing more businesses and jobs.

"It’s reflective of an improved national economy, a strong state economy and an improved local economy," says Summit County Economic Development Director Jeff Jones.

The county’s overall population increased in 2014 and the unemployment rate decreased as more jobs were added in various industries, mirroring national and statewide trends.

High-tech businesses and finance payrolls are fueling the expansions throughout the county and other metropolitan areas in the state, Jones said.

"Economic development is really everybody’s business, not just those who are designated in the field," Jones said. "Improved development means more choices on where to shop and more opportunities with regards to potential employment, which affects everyone."

Summit County’s population increased from 38,674 residents in 2013 to the current estimate for 2014, 39,323, with 25,974 people residing on the West Side of the county, according to reports provided by the economic department from Economic Modeling Specialists International, or EMSI, and the U.S. Census Bureau.

More than 1,500 jobs were added in 2014, dropping the unemployment rate from 3.2 percent to 2.8 percent, with the average income increasing to $41, 222, the report stated. EMSI calculates the job data based on the county’s business patterns.

"Normally what you look for are places that are creating primary jobs and when I use that term, I’m talking about importing a good and exporting it outside of the local region," Jones said. "Our tourism does that. We import money and skiers and we export our natural resources. We’re importing money to the area at a faster rate than the dollars in the local community are received. That’s where we see new investment take place."

The county is continually improving on that front, Jones said, getting better year after year about locally producing a product so that the dollars are going directly back into the economy.

In 2013, the real estate industry accounted for approximately 25 percent of the county’s gross regional product, he said.

"Real estate and construction is a reactive industry to your primary growth drivers," Jones said. "As long as we continue to import money, goods and services, then you’ll see those sectors continue to improve."

In the six months that Jones has occupied his position, he’s begun to establish focus areas for the further development of the county. He said he will focus on entrepreneurship and attracting new businesses, while expanding the county’s current businesses and improving the retention rate.

Projects on the horizon for 2015 are the High Star Ranch expansion, designation of new county fairgrounds, and a historic township development plan in Echo surrounding the reservoir.

Jones said he is optimistic about the coming year and thinks 2015 will follow the economic trends of 2013 and 2014.

"I think we will continue to add jobs and that certain sectors of the economy, like office space, will be at a premium in the area and we may end up having shortages of office space if things continue to grow as they have," Jones said. "I feel very good about the year ahead."