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Wednesday, 24 October 2012 00:00

Manufacturing leads Haywood out of recession

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For the second year in a row, area research economist Tom Tveidt delivered his state of Haywood County’s economy address — a rare look at the county’s individual resources and statistics.

Typically, economic data is collected for the region as a whole or into a metropolitan statistical area, meaning Haywood County is grouped with surrounding counties. That skews the final numbers or conclusions about its economy.

Waynesville-based Old Town Bank, however, sponsors a Haywood-centric study by Tveidt, who lives in Haywood County and who leads SYNEVA Economics, an Asheville-based firm that consults throughout the country.

“Most people don’t really know what is going on in their local economy,” said Tveidt, who presented his findings at a community meeting last week at the Maggie Valley Country Club.

The first question Tveidt asked the room of about 60 attendees was: Are we growing?

By a show of hands, only about half the room acknowledged that they thought Haywood County’s economy was growing. Tveidt’s statistics, however, were more conclusive.

Haywood County has added 218 jobs since 2010, which is equal to 1.3 percent growth, and is expected to continue growing in 2013.

“That is not a drop in the water,” Tveidt said.

That doesn’t mean that the county has recovered though. During the recession, Haywood County lost 1,341 jobs. But, it does reflect a turnaround after a period of decline.

On average during the last 40 years, Haywood County has added 106 jobs annually.

“We are not growing dramatically,” said Tveidt. “We have never grown dramatically.”

The top sectors of job creations during the last fiscal year were manufacturing with 387 jobs, administrative services with 130, restaurants and lodging with 99 and retail with 50.

“We are getting more and more specialized in manufacturing,” Tveidt said.

Meanwhile, the biggest loser was construction, which dropped 147 jobs. Professional and technical services and the school system lost 138 and 38 jobs, respectively.

Throughout Tveidt’s presentation, he emphasized that Haywood County has seen the most growth in the area of manufacturing, which runs contrary to the typical assumption that the county’s all about tourism.

Manufacturing jobs in the county also tend to be higher paying than average. In 2001, professional and technical service jobs (engineering, accounting, etc.) had the highest wages in the county, but the number of jobs available in that since, declined during the recession, and manufacturing has taken that title.

In fact, manufacturing jobs have been returning to the U.S. for the last few years, Tveidt said.

The average weekly wages in Haywood County have increased by $133 a week since 2001, slower than state and national averages, which both increased by $245 or more a week.

But, part of that is just the nature of the available local jobs, Tveidt said.

“There is no such thing as a good or a bad industry,” Tveidt said, adding that some just pay more than others.

Two-thirds or the way through the presentation, Tveidt shifted from the economy as a whole to the housing market, which is still struggling.

Until 2007, Haywood County averaged 18 foreclosures a month — a number that jumped to 32 a month during the recession. Now, the county sees about 28 each month.

“There are still plenty of foreclosures coming in,” a fact that won’t change soon, Tveidt said.

On a positive note, home sales have gone up for the last six quarters, turning a corner during the fourth quarter of 2010.

“Our housing problem is over. It will just take a while to get back to where we were,” Tveidt said with a pause. “We probably won’t be back to where we were,” he added, clarifying that the housing market will not rise to the height it reached prior to the burst of the housing bubble in the foreseeable future.

At the end of his presentation, Tveidt highlighted one final fact — small businesses are still around.

“They are not being gobbled up,” Tveidt said.

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