News

Economic forecast for 2004: Sunny

By PAT JENKINS

Editor

The Port of Tacoma and John L. Scott Real Estate expect 2004 to be good for them economically, giving hope to the whole Puget Sound region for a similar outcome.

That was the message port and Scott leaders gave an audience of Federal Way business and community leaders Jan. 21 at Federal Way Chamber of Commerce’s annual economic forecast breakfast.

Andrea Riniker, the port’s executive director since 1997, and J. Lennox Scott, chairman of the three-state real estate company, reported record gains for their organizations in 2003. Less than one month into 2004, the outlook overall remains rosy, they said.

The port is a major employer and economic engine regionally, and home sales through John L. Scott are an economic indicator.

International trade, in which the port has a large role, is fuel for optimism, Riniker said.

Giants such as Boeing and Federal Way-based Weyerhaeuser aren’t the only players internationally, she added. “It’s also hundreds of smaller companies.”

Riniker said the Puget Sound area can expect 4 percent growth annually in international trade. The port alone handled $25 billion in global business last year, when the port broke several of its records for cargo passing through it. Container shipments rank Tacoma fifth among ports in North America and in the top 20 worldwide.

More major distribution centers of large companies are coming to the region, she said, including a 1.5 million-square-feet facility for Target stores. It will be in Lacey because of better transportation and because King County is short of available land, she said.

John L. Scott had record levels of homebuyers in all price ranges last year (transactions were a combined $9.3 billion in Washington, Oregon and Idaho). Seven percent fewer sales are expected in 2004, but J. Lennox Scott said it could still be the second-best year ever for the company founded by his grandfather in 1931.

Scott said this will be a “quick-action year,” meaning people will buy homes before low interest rates start going up in response to improving economic indicators.

He sounded a negative note regarding condominiums. They can help fill a need for affordable homes, but not enough are being built because condo owners’ “nuisance lawsuits” over structural defects are preventing some builders from getting insurance, Scott said. He said the Legislature should pass a proposed law that would steer owner-builder disputes into negotiations instead of legal action.

Editor Pat Jenkins: 925-5565, editor@fedwaymirror.com

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