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City issues growth report

In a preliminary review of roughly seven years of economic data for The Dalles, indicators shows the city is seeing “moderate growth” in the local economy. The total labor force working in The Dalles increased by 1.54 percent over the period covered in the report.

In a preliminary review of roughly seven years of economic data for The Dalles, indicators shows the city is seeing “moderate growth” in the local economy. The total labor force working in The Dalles increased by 1.54 percent over the period covered in the report. Photo by Jesse Burkhardt.

Housing hearing

On Oct. 27, a consultant for The Dalles will be presenting data and taking public comments on the city’s preliminary Housing and Buildable Land Needs Assessment.

The contractor, Johnson Economics, a market analysis and economic modeling firm based in Portland, will make the presentation in the council chambers at The Dalles City Hall, 313 Court Street.

The hearing begins at 5:30 p.m., and the public is invited to provide input on the preliminary findings.

“This is a great opportunity for the city of The Dalles to hear from constituents who care about housing opportunities for current and future residents,” said Joel Madsen.

He is executive director of Mid-Columbia Housing Authority and Columbia Cascade Housing Corporation.

The city of The Dalles has issued a preliminary economic growth report that found most people who work here commute, and most commuters travel as far as 50 miles.

It found a 1.54 percent increase in jobs over seven years, what the report described as “moderate growth,” and found that median household income has dropped over the same period, from $42,420 in 2009 to $41,639 in 2015.

Another key finding was that 16.4 percent of the city’s population lived in poverty in 2014, down from the 18.5 percent in poverty in 2012.

Among other key findings were significant declines in retail; professional, scientific and technical services; and art, entertainment & recreation. In some cases, the declines were sharp.

“The retail trade sector declined as a percentage of total employment from 18.2 percent to 16.5 percent over the analysis period,” stated the report. “The total job loss in these three sectors over the analysis period was 164.”

On the other hand, three sectors experienced large employment gains: Manufacturing added 167 jobs since 2009, up 24 percent over a six-year period. The information sector added 110 jobs since 2009, a 141 percent increase through 2014. Another sector – which combines the categories of administration and support, waste management and remediation – has added 84 jobs since 2009. In all, 361 jobs were added in these sectors between 2009 and 2014.

The report, prepared by Daniel Hunter, the city’s human resources director, is designed to help guide a strategic plan aimed at improving the community’s economy.

“The intent of the report is to provide the city council with economic trend data and identify areas for improvement,” he said. “This will allow us to focus our efforts in the right areas.”

The data was compiled by members of the city’s Core Economic Improvement Team, which includes representatives from The Port of The Dalles and The Dalles Main Street, along with Mayor Steve Lawrence, City Manager Julie Krueger, and other city officials.

The report will be sent to The Dalles City Council once final housing and buildable-land data is obtained, Hunter said.

“When the transportation, housing and parking studies are complete, we want to take a look at updating our comprehensive plan, which may include reviewing the city’s vision statement,” Lawrence said.

The report will have several key goals. “Clearly, the emphasis is and will be in further invigorating downtown and getting second-story living quarters in some of the buildings so that more people live, work and enjoy our downtown,” Lawrence said.

Hunter was surprised by the data showing most workers here lived elsewhere.

In 2015, the labor force in The Dalles was reported to be 7,181. Of those, 4,208 were living outside The Dalles.

With 58 percent of workers living outside the city limits, “This indicates there is something keeping workers from living in The Dalles,” the report noted. “Although rent and home prices are well within the acceptable range given the median income of The Dalles, availability and choices are limited. Given the limited available land to develop, it is unlikely housing costs will stay moderate for much longer.”

Overall, The Dalles saw growth in population, school enrollment, employment, and assessed property value, as well as increases in rents and median home selling prices.

School enrollment remained consistent relative to the total population growth, and the report noted that better schools can directly lead to more people wanting to live in The Dalles.

“As school performance and graduation rates improve, more families that work in The Dalles will want to live here, send their children to school here and be active in the community,” the summary stated. “The sectors gaining employment in The Dalles is encouraging ... Steps should be taken to increase manufacturing and information technology employers locating in The Dalles.

These employers generally provide higher wages and improved revenue to schools, which contributes to our continued growth.”

The report identified three key areas that the community needs to work on to boost the city’s economic outlook: increase the amount of available land for residential development, including multi-family; assist the school district with plans to improve school facilities; and making The Dalles a destination by capturing more of the travelers on I-84.

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