While 2013 was a turbulent year for Tooele County, 2014 may bring stability and possible growth for the local economy, according to state and local business leaders.
The closing of Deseret Chemical Depot, layoffs at West Desert hazardous waste sites, county government downsizing, and federal government budget reductions lead to an overall loss of jobs in the county in 2013.
“Job loss in Tooele County appears to have peaked in July 2013 and since then it has stabilized,” said Jim Robson, regional economist for the Utah Department of Workforce Services.
From July 2012 to July 2013, the number of jobs in Tooele County dropped from 15,934 to 15,400, a loss of 534 jobs or a 3.4 percent contraction.
“While we will continue to see the year-over-year numbers reflect a loss, the sectors where Tooele County lost jobs earlier in 2013 are showing that they have stabilized towards the end of the year,” noted Robson.
Although the number of jobs in the county declined in 2013, the unemployment rate dropped from 6.0 percent at the end of December 2011 to 5.4 percent by November 2013.
Robson credits the drop in Tooele County’s unemployment rate to job growth in surrounding Wasatch Front counties that has enticed more local residents to commute out of the county for work. That pattern will continue in 2014 as Salt Lake County’s employment will grow faster than Tooele County’s, Robson said.
However, the employment outlook for 2014 in Tooele County is encouraging, he added.
“This might be optimistic, but based on what we see happening now, it looks like the employment situation should stabilize in 2014 in Tooele County,” Robson said. “There could be some growth, but the question is ‘How much?’”
The new year is off to a positive start, according to Randy Sant, Tooele City’s economic development consultant.
“We have the decision makers for a company that we have been working with for six or seven months flying in next week to take a look at several sites in Tooele County,” he said.
Confidentiality agreements prevent Sant from disclosing the name of the business, but Sant said it is a company that is looking to expand by building a new facility here.
New leads and site visits like the one scheduled for next week are on the upswing, according to Sant.
“Statewide there has been a 30 percent increase in new leads,” he said. “Tooele County will remain a good potential site for new or expanding businesses because we have the land and an available labor force.”
New retail development in the county will continue to be driven by rooftops, according to Sant.
“Retailers look at rooftops and as the county grows we will see new retailers come to the county,” he said. “We can show prospective retailers that when they locate here the people will shop with them because our residents prefer to shop local than drive to Salt Lake when possible.”
The 2013 year also saw an increase in home sales and home prices in the county — a trend local real estate professionals expect will continue in 2014.
As of October 2013, year-to-date home sales in the county were up 17 percent and the median sales price of a home was up by 6.4 percent, according to statistics from the Utah Association of Realtors
“In 2014 we should see the home sales market improvement to continue,” said Chris Sloan, broker for Group 1 Real Estate of Tooele. “Home values will continue to increase, maybe not as sharply but it will continue to be a sustainable increase.”
The Tooele County real estate market currently has a six month supply of homes on the market, which Sloan describes as signifying a stable market of buyers and a sellers.
“I’m looking forward to a good year for Tooele County,” he said.