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Published on January 1, 2018 3:11AM

Last changed on January 1, 2018 8:01AM

Let the good times keep on rolling.

That’s the hope for 2018, as Lane County’s economy is predicted to chug along with the rest of the nation.

But local growth in jobs probably will not be at the same brisk and record-breaking pace seen in 2017, an economist said.

Meanwhile, the seller’s market in residential real estate should continue, but with prices climbing more slowly than last year, predicted the president of the Eugene Association of Realtors.

A record number of people held jobs in Lane County in 2017, but employers likely will add jobs at a slower rate in the coming year, said Brian Rooney, a Eugene-based economist with the Oregon Employment Department. The county’s unemployment rate for 2017 is likely to come in at less than 5 percent when final numbers are available, which would be a 27-year record low, Rooney said. However, he expects unemployment to rise slightly in 2018.

“There aren’t any major pitfalls on the horizon, but we have been experiencing very strong employment growth and unemployment rates over the past few years,” he said. “We would expect employment growth to slow to more normal levels. And it’s very unlikely the unemployment rate will be lower in 2018 than it was in 2017.”

A frenzied real estate market led to a sharp rise in prices for single-family homes in 2017. In August, the average price hit an all-time monthly record of $313,500.

Through the first 11 months of the year, the median sales price of single-family homes in much of Lane County rose 9.9 percent, to $260,000, from the comparable period in 2016.

Through November, the average single-family residential sale price rose 9.4 percent, to $288,300, from the year-earlier period.

In 2018, the seller’s market is likely to continue, though fewer homes will be sold and home prices will rise less rapidly compared to recent years, said Elliott Wood, the outgoing president of the Eugene Association of Realtors.

“Values will continue to grow in 2018, but at a more moderate pace than what we have experienced the last couple years,” he said. “The growth in our values has outpaced the national and state averages. I expect Lane County to be a little closer to those averages, and see growth around the 5-ish percent mark overall.”

All eyes on Corning

Business and civic leaders hope the new year brings encouraging news about Corning’s plans for the former Hynix plant in west Eugene. The New York-based glassmaker two months ago bought the massive shuttered facility, renewing hopes for jobs there.

But Corning has been mum about what, if anything, it will do with the million-square-foot facility. And state officials have not yet made good on their vague promise this fall that an announcement was forthcoming.

Brittany Quick-Warner, president and CEO of the Eugene Area Chamber of Commerce, predicted that food and beverage companies will grow as they work together on common goals and challenges.

“We’ll see the food and beverage sector start to shine in the coming year (similar to what) we’ve seen in the technology industry in recent years,” Quick-Warner said.

She said she’ll be watching natural foods distributor GloryBee’s progress on construction of a new production facility on 30 acres in west Eugene, and the construction of a 300,000-square-foot plant in Junction City for Canadian granola bar maker Northern Gold Foods.

Quick-Warner noted that Arcimoto is ramping up production of its three-wheeled electric vehicles in Eugene. Arimoto went public in an initial stock offering earlier this year that raised $19.5 million from investors. Arcimoto will use much of the money to open and run its Eugene factory and market its three-wheeled vehicles, which are technically classified as motorcycles.

City’s challenges

Also, the city of Eugene and a Portland developer may reveal more about plans to redevelop the Eugene Water & Electric Board’s property along the Willamette River, she said.

Eugene continues to experience problems that will continue to attract attention in 2018, such as the lack of affordable housing, Quick-Warner said.

“We need as a community to tackle the housing crisis,” Quick-Warner said. Other priorities include investing in infrastructure, continuing to revitalize downtown, and effectively addressing homelessness and public safety, she said.

“The business community is coming together around needing to tackle those community development issues,” Quick-Warner said.


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