Clallam County occupies a long and narrow area in the most northwestern corner of Washington state. Encompassing part of the Olympic Peninsula, the county includes 1,738 square miles of mostly forested and mountainous land. Clallam County is full of natural wonders and many tourists and locals visit the Olympic National Park which attracted over 3.25 million visitors in 2019.
Clallam County encompasses 1,738 square miles of heavily forested land and mountain ranges economically supporting the county through the timber industry, tourism and local visitors to our diversified parks, including the Olympic National Park , and 200 miles of coastline that have reflected the natural abundance of our county as well as supporting the residents through fishing and maritime industries. The labor market continues to develop and benefit from the regions natural resources.
Around 1851, the first white settlers staked their claims in the area. Clallam County was created in 1854 from bordering Jefferson County. The county’s name is derived from the Klallam or S’Klallam people who continue to play a significant role in the county. In 1890, Port Angeles was named the county seat. Sequim and Forks are the other two incorporated cities in the county.
Logging was the primary industry, and benefitted greatly when railroads made it possible to reach further and further into the great conifer stands. Hydroelectric power from the Elwha River dam spurred the first large sawmill in the area. The “Big Mill” was the largest employer in the county for the next 25 years. World War I fueled the need for spruce, which was vital to building the first airplanes. In the 1920s, pulp production took off in Port Angeles, providing the growing need for newsprint and cellulose.
After World War II, growth continued in timber and agriculture. Commercial and sport fishing activities became increasingly important. In the 1960s, Clallam County tribes reclaimed traditions and reasserted tribal rights to shares of the fish harvests. The Jamestown S’Klallam tribe won federal recognition in 1981, and received trust land at Blyn on Sequim Bay, which now houses a tribal center and casino.
The service sector has been experiencing growth over the past decade. In 2019 it accounted for over 88 percent of all nonfarm employment. The county houses two prisons, a hospital and school district, which are top employers. The city of Forks continues to be a tourist attraction after the Twilight movies put it on the map.
Other new industries have moved into the county in the past decade. Advanced composites manufacturing has been established in and around the Port Angeles area, providing manufactured parts to the aerospace and marine industries. Advanced Composites recycling is also continuing with the new Composites Recycling Technology Center developments.
A recent development is the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone (ECOZ), which consists of a diverse group of geographical census tracts intended to make the Olympic Coast more attractive to investors. Working together, ECOZ is catalyzing economic development in rural areas by engaging with communities and connecting the best opportunities with private capital.
This Opportunity Zone is a unique collaboration of five Tribal Nations, four cities, two counties (Clallam and Jefferson) and two port authorities that spans 14 federally designated Opportunity Zone census tracts. Together, the partners of the Emerald Coast Opportunity Zone are building a deal “engine” of community driven projects that both present good investments but also create good jobs, construct affordable and high-end housing, and support innovative entrepreneurs.
The 14 Opportunity Zone census tracts were designated under the federal 2017 Tax Cuts and Jobs Act. This federal law gives tax incentives to investors who invest their unrealized capital gains in qualified businesses and real estate located in Opportunity Zones through:
- Temporary deferral of capital gains taxes until 2026
- Tax reduction on capital gains (at 5 and 7 years)
- Elimination of taxes on gains from OZ investments (if held for 10 years)
In summary, over the past 20 years, the economy in Clallam County has experienced slow but steady growth. This economic growth has been shaped by a vibrant port district in the county’s major coastal city of Port Angeles. New in-migration is also on the rise as many retirees are attracted to Sequim’s “sunbelt” climate.
(Courtesy of Jim Vleming, regional economist ESD.)