Labor shortages, inflation, supply disruptions and rising fuel prices are all contributing to the disruption of Humboldt County’s economy two and a half years into the COVID-19 pandemic.
The 2020 report from the US Bureau of Economic Analysis, the most recent, found Humboldt County’s gross domestic product fell 4.1%, more than the rest of the country, which fell 2.8%. County Economic Development Director Scott Adair told the Times-Standard that while the numbers are currently unaudited, contact with local business owners shows the damage caused by the epidemic and, more recently, the cost of gas continues to “destroy the entire economy in Humboldt County.”
“Continued investment in housing, health care, childcare and broadband will help solve these problems,” Adair said in a statement.
Business owners and workers alike have been hit by a series of attacks since the shutdown of public security forces at the end of 2019, followed by the outbreak of the COVID-19 pandemic this spring, and now the war in Ukraine, which has taken a toll. global economy.
The outbreak of the epidemic also caused unemployment to increase as businesses were ordered to close. Although the unemployment rate dropped, the Great Recession soon followed, and many people lost their jobs.
Christian Hill, a spokesman for Providence in Humboldt County, said the challenges are not unique to Humboldt County and that health systems across the country are facing financial and financial challenges.
“With reimbursements from insurers and other expenses not keeping pace with rising costs, health systems across the country have posted significant losses,” Hill said in a statement. “The stress of health care shortages, rising prices and the global recession continues to affect us all.”
Attracting and retaining workers is a challenge because communities are struggling to provide housing and jobs for their workers, Adair said. Local organizations are also having to go outside the region to get large contracts because of the lack of that specialized expertise, which is moving dollars out of the community, he said.
Meanwhile, some people are finding remote work opportunities with well-paid foreign employers. Personal income in Humboldt County is about 70% of the state average and 84% of the national average, Adair said.
Many organizations, such as Mad River Community Hospital, have given their employees more opportunities and a higher cost of living, but those benefits have been overshadowed by the rapid rise in annual inflation, which reached 9.1% this week, the highest in 40 years.
“However,” Adair said, “it’s not all doom and gloom.”
Many opportunities are coming to Humboldt County as economic development continues, from the Nordic Aquafarms fish farm to Project Echo, the development of the largest undersea fiber transmission line, which will connect Humboldt County to Singapore and Jakarta.
“And the new CalPoly name alone is expected to have a positive impact on our community,” Adair said. “Although the exact figures have not yet been confirmed, some examples show that polytechnic universities can generate millions of dollars in the communities they live in.”
If the district plays its cards right and works to find ways to bridge the gap, Adair said it can not only deal with the challenges it faces today but also thrive.
“We can take many opportunities to fill those pipelines and we can increase the prosperity and quality of life in our community for all people for generations to come,” Adair said.
The Department of Economic Development in the state is asking for the views of the people in the area on development and ways to develop the economy. Members can submit comments online at humboldtrising.com.
Sonia Waraich can be reached at 707-441-0504.