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News / Business / Clark County Business

Clark County projects it will add 73,500 jobs from 2025-2045

Forecast part of comprehensive growth plan

By Shari Phiel, Columbian staff writer
Published: August 9, 2023, 7:38pm

Clark County is expected to add 73,500 jobs between 2025 and 2045, according to a new employment projection approved Tuesday by the Clark County Council.

The projection, which is part of an update of Clark County’s comprehensive growth plan, puts the county’s gross nonfarm jobs at 269,000 by 2045, which also results in a 1-to-1 jobs-to-households ratio, with the same number of jobs as households.

The council previously reviewed the employment projections provided by Scott Bailey, regional economist from the Washington State Employment Security Department, during an Aug. 1 public hearing.

An earlier projection considered by the council showed a net increase of 88,100 jobs over that same 20-year period. Chair Karen Bowerman asked how the new lower employment projections might affect a council review of vacant buildable lands on Aug. 30.

“The demand for land would change,” said Jose Alvarez, a planner with the Community Development Department. “Since the previous projection was for a higher number of jobs, we’re roughly estimating a need for 1,000 fewer acres, based on this updated projection.”

Alvarez said land use related to job growth would be about 55 percent industrial and 45 percent commercial. He said that would be discussed further during the Aug. 30 vacant buildable lands meeting.

At last week’s hearing, Bailey said his employment projections were based on population numbers and the 1.4 percent annual growth rate adopted by the county council in May as part of the comprehensive growth plan update.

Although the Growth Management Act does not require local governments to plan for any particular number of jobs, identifying lands available for jobs is important for determining the size of urban growth boundaries, Bailey said.

Councilor Glen Yung suggested the county work with the Columbia River Economic Development Council to do a more thorough inventory of lands available, “rather than picking an arbitrary number based on a calculation for what we think we need.”

“In looking forward, it’s important to look back,” Councilor Sue Marshall said. “I’m wondering how we’ve done in terms of land conversions for commercial and industrial land in the last 10 years. Have we lost it to residential, have we gained in some ways, how did we fare?”

Oliver Orjiako, director of Community Development, said those questions would also be a better fit for the vacant buildable lands meeting. He said planning assumptions, such as jobs per acre or density, will also need to be discussed with the council, but the employment projection needs to be adopted first.

Councilor Gary Medvigy said he was ready to adopt the resolution but had questions after listening to the discussion. Medvigy said he wanted to know how development regulations related to the county’s rail line would affect the jobs-per-acre standard and asked for that to be discussed at another meeting.

“If we approve our development regulations, how much land becomes available for industrial growth?” Medvigy asked.

Marshall said she supported the 1-to-1 jobs to households ratio, but said “it’s an aggressive goal … We haven’t met it, but we’re inching in that direction.” She said the more people can live and work in Clark County the better it will be for everyone.

On the web

To watch the full meeting, go to https://shorturl.at/aJNOS.