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Pend Oreille County, WA


Population: 13,066

Poverty Rate: 16.6%

Median Age: 50.2

Number of Employees: 4,401

Median Household Income: $49,184


Background information:

  • Historically, Pend Oreille County has had a cyclical economy dependent on the extraction of the abundant natural resources of the area, such as timber and minerals. The County unemployment rate is consistently among the highest in the State, and per capita income levels well below the state average. An important part of the background for this plan is the rapid economic change that is affecting attractive rural areas throughout the West. Traditional extractive industries are no longer the principal source of income in places like Pend Oreille County. Agriculture, forestry, and mining sectors of the local economy accounted for no more than 2% of total wages paid in the County and no more than 1.2% of total employees in 2000 (Washington State Databook). However, in the manufacturing sector at least 280 full-time jobs are dependent upon raw wood supplies, either in the form of logs or wood chips. 


  • Approximately one-third of employed county residents commute out-of-county to work

    • The County imports the professional, sales, processing, clerical, and packaging and material handling sectors of the economy. The County is higher than the state average in transfer payments received. Over one-third of county residents who are wage earners, commute out of county for work. 


  • In 1993 welfare directly provided a little over two percent of all personal income in the U.S., but nearly eight percent of all personal income in Pend Oreille County. Welfare was actually an “export” industry in the County, drawing enough dollars from state and federal sources to directly and indirectly supported nearly 12% of all local incomes in 1993. Today the situation is changing-the welfare program has been reformed-and the economy is in transition from a strong reliance on the extraction of natural resources to a more diverse economy


Economic Trends:

An indication of growth is Pend Oreille County residential building permit figures. Table 3.8, below, shows the residential building permits issued, a figure that combines on-site construction and manufactured homes. The table shows some fluctuation in building permit activity, though fairly consistent from 1992 through 1999.


Land availability and suitability:

Industrial site availability is affected by the high rate of public land ownership in Pend Oreille County. Approximately 60% of the land in the county is located within the Colville and Panhandle National Forests, and approximately 5% of the land is owned by the State or County Government. An additional 28% of the land is privately owned Agricultural Open Space, or Designated/Classified Timber. The remainder of the land is comprised mostly of incorporated areas, and private rural parcels and residences. Other sites are potentially available for such development, but require a significant amount of preparation before the sites can be available as commercial or light industrial locations. The non-availability of basic infrastructure services to these sites is the most significant factor holding back their development. 


Recent Economic Development Activities:

  • The Public Utility District completed an operational fiber optic network in February 2001; 


  • The Empowerment Zone/Enterprise Community (EZ/EC) program is a U.S. Department of Agriculture Rural Development program that provides training and funding for community-directed advancement and economic development for a ten year period. The EZ/EC program provides seed money for locally directed projects that are sustainable, build jobs, and help to build and maintain community partnerships. The Five Star goals address the following issues: housing, education and training, employment opportunities, coordinated leadership, health care, and public safety


Natural Resource Industries are a key component of economic development in the County. The Growth Management Act’s goal for Natural Resources is: “Natural resource industries. Maintain and enhance natural resource-based industries, including productive timber, agricultural, and fisheries industries. Encourage the conservation of productive forest lands and productive agricultural lands, and discourage incompatible uses.”


Where funding is available, the Growth Management Act requires the development of an economic development element that establishes local goals, policies, objectives, and provisions for economic growth and vitality and a high quality of life. The element shall include: (a) A summary of the local economy such as population, employment, payroll, sectors, businesses, sales, and other information as appropriate; (b) a summary of the strengths and weaknesses of the local economy defined as the commercial and industrial sectors and supporting factors such as land use, transportation, utilities, education, work force, housing, and natural/cultural resources; and (c) an identification of policies, programs, and projects to foster economic growth and development and to address future needs. 


3.3 Economic Development Goals  


Economic Development Goal #1: Promote coordination of leadership from within our communities and within our entire county.


Economic Development Goal #2: Support education and training opportunities to equip Pend Oreille County residents to participate in the workforce 


Economic Development Goal #3: Encourage employment opportunities, the retention and expansion of existing businesses, and new business development 


Economic Development Goal #4: Promote the coordination of infrastructure development that will enhance our quality of life and attract business investment.


3.4 Economic Development Policies 


In support of the Economic Development Goals, Pend Oreille County will implement the following Economic Development Policies: 


Economic Development Policy #1: Pend Oreille County shall develop land use regulations that support and encourage economic development.


Economic Development Policy #2: The Pend Oreille County Capital Facilities Plan should include appropriate infrastructure to serve commercial and industrial lands. 


Economic Development Policy #3: The Pend Oreille County Economic Development Council should maintain a current list of industrial sites. 


Economic Development Policy #4: Pend Oreille County should encourage and participate in coordinated efforts to promote tourism on a countywide basis. 


Economic Development Policy #5: Pend Oreille County should promote and encourage basic and continuing education, on the job training, and vocational training programs that will prepare residents to fill existing and future jobs. 

Economic Development Policy #6: Pend Oreille County should support efforts to conduct a feasibility study of establishing a marina with a fueling facility on the Pend Oreille River.

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