Duane Hagadone spent last week surveying business leaders in the city he helped build and came to this conclusion Wednesday: Things don’t look so good for 1996.
It was not the first time Hagadone has come in front of the public and showered gloom on the local economy.
Here’s why the economy could take a dive this year, Hagadone reasoned:
Little commercial construction in the pipeline. Though 1995 showed nearly $60 million in commercial construction and $178 million in overall construction, real estate professionals told Hagadone there’s not much in the works as far as new retail and office buildings are concerned.
Big job losses in Kootenai County. Shutdowns of the Louisiana-Pacific sawmill, the Coeur d’Alene Greyhound Park and Keystone Lighting in Hayden have squelched the job growth Kootenai County has seen each year this decade.
Hagadone urged the nearly 600 members of the Coeur d’Alene Board of Realtors to support Jobs Plus Inc., the economic development arm of Kootenai County, to help replace the lost jobs.
A pall of negative press over such things as the Mark Fuhrman incident and the Ruby Ridge standoff. This compares with much more favorable press the region received a few years ago over the area’s quality of life and golf tournaments held at Hagadone’s fancy course.
A disturbing drop-off in visitor requests for information through the Coeur d’Alene Chamber of Commerce.
In November 1992, Hagadone said, 900 people asked for packets of information on Coeur d’Alene. This November, only 91 did.
“When you look at all the construction of retail and office space we’ve seen, you have to ask just how much more of this can a community our size support?” said Hagadone, who owns The Coeur d’Alene Resort, golf course, a marina on Lake Coeur d’Alene, several apartment buildings and a mini-media empire of newspapers and radio stations.
Hagadone polled 100 local businesses randomly and asked their owners if they expected a strong 1996. About two-thirds did, Hagadone reported, but the pessimistic third was the highest total this decade.
Despite the 1995 Kootenai County real estate market nearly matching the record highs of 1994, retail sales in the area fell off their double-digit growth rate. The tourism industry recorded one its worst years in a long time.
“And I don’t expect the tourism business to get much better this year,” Hagadone said. Hundreds of hotel rooms added in recent years have diluted the tourism dollar significantly, he said.
All told, the county could see double-digit drops in construction spending. That translates into perhaps several thousand jobs lost, with most of the pain coming in the second half of the year, Hagadone predicted.
Bob Potter, Jobs Plus president, agreed with Hagadone’s assessment of the need to improve the local economy. Hagadone made mention of the area’s effort to land the Westin Hotels and Resorts service center, of which the area remains on the short list for.
Economic recruiting used to be much easier for Potter early in the decade. Taxes across the board in Kootenai County were lower than competing areas, making Kootenai County a haven for tax-weary California companies looking for relief.
“Now all of those tax advantages seem have turned to the opposite, and work against us,” Hagadone said. “Now it seems all we have is our quality of life.”
Hagadone lashed out at what he called the strong negative backlash to new development. Proposed projects on Blackwell Island and Cougar Bay were shot down by anti-growth forces.
“It seems that anyone and everyone who wants to try and do anything faces incredible opposition,” said Hagadone, whose latest idea of bringing hydroplane racing back to Lake Coeur d’Alene has met lukewarm reception.
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