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Pierce County economy to grow faster this year

Port of Tacoma

A team of economists at the University of Puget Sound say strength in military spending and port traffic will help lift Pierce County’s economy this year.

Bruce Mann and Douglas Goodman have produced annual forecasts for Pierce County’s economy for the past 25 years. So they’ve seen lots of ups and downs. Now they agree that Pierce County – home to Joint Base Lewis-McChord – is on the upswing.

Mann says even if Congress cuts defense spending, the base is likely to be protected.

"In fact, with the turn of U.S. foreign policy toward the Pacific, we think, if anything, the importance of Joint Base Lewis-McChord and generally facilities in the Pacific Northwest are going to be even stronger," Mann said.

Increasing traffic at the Port of Tacoma is another reason for optimism. Last year, the port won a big coup when it persuaded a consortium of shipping companies to leave the Port of Seattle.

But there are risks. Mann says it’s hard to know whether this will be the year when Congress cuts entitlement spending.

"Certainly, the Republicans are talking strongly about looking at the whole set of entitlement programs, and in Pierce County things like veterans' benefit, Social Security payments, Medicare and Medicaid are significant sources of income," Mann said.

In the absence of big cuts like that, Mann and Goodman predict the county’s economy will grow faster this year than last year and add about 5,000 jobs.

In July 2017, Ashley Gross became KNKX's youth and education reporter after years of covering the business and labor beat. She joined the station in May 2012 and previously worked five years at WBEZ in Chicago, where she reported on business and the economy. Her work telling the human side of the mortgage crisis garnered awards from the Illinois Associated Press and the Chicago Headline Club. She's also reported for the Alaska Public Radio Network in Anchorage and for Bloomberg News in San Francisco.