Job growth, commercial development, housing, and Oregon State University all look to be well-positioned for growth and expansion in 2014, according to experts speaking at the lunch forum.
The panel was comprised of OSU President Ed Ray, Skip Rung of Onami, representing the City of Corvallis Economic Development Commission, and real estate executive Ronda Wymore of the Willamette Valley Multiple Listing Service. Regional Economist Pat O'Connor provided an overview of the state and regional economy.
Ray, an economist himself, predicted national growth of 2-3 percent in 2014, and noted the many positives surrounding OSU, such as on-going technology transfer programs and job creation from start-ups hatched out of the university. He predicted OSU's Corvallis campus eventually would accommodate 28,000 students, with another 5,000 online, and an additional 3,000 to 5,000 at the new Bend campus.
OSU received additional endowment dollars last year and saw the opening of a new Beaver Store, across from Reser Stadium. A new School of Business building is currently under way and will be completed this year. OSU purchased University Plaza, on the corner of 15th and Western in 2013, but Ray did not say what they intend to do with the property.
Ray said OSU is a formidable economic engine in the state and region, with more than a $2 billion annual economic impact, 18,000 employees in Benton and Linn counties, $250 million annually in student spending statewide, and $125 million in new construction slated in 2014 alone.
Chamber Executive Director Kevin Dwyer teamed with Wymore to provide a synopsis of the Corvallis real estate market. The overall retail vacancy rate in 2013 was between 11-12 percent, said Dwyer, quoting a report from Commercial Associates.
However, a number of new stores, and new developments now in the pipeline, will create a brighter picture for 2014, noted Dwyer. New stores such as Wal-Mart, Natural Grocers, Buffalo Wild Wings, Panda and Jimmy John's located outlets in Corvallis last year on Ninth Street - making its the hottest retail location in the area.
Real estate observers agreed that the relatively "cheap money" still available in the market will allow existing retail centers to be upgraded and fine-tuned, and others perhaps to be purchased. Commercial Associates' Gary Pond said he expects the 30,000 square foot former Albertson's space on Circle and King Blvd. to be leased soon.
The Office and Industrial market in Corvallis are also doing well, with a vacancy rate of 7-8 percent. The biggest spaces available are located in the Hewlett-Packard campus, with roughly 250,000 square feet of the site's 1.75 million square feet available for lease. The former CH2M Hill complex on Walnut Blvd. , a 60,000 square foot facility remains empty.
A number of 60,000 square foot warehouse buildings at the Corvallis Airport are also for lease, but real estate observers, such as Pond, say potential tenants tend to want to buy rather than lease. Downtown Corvallis office space is doing well, with some OSU leases, plus NW Physical Therapy and an AT&T store occupying formery vacant space next to Panera Bread on Van Buren.
In addition, three projects - one already in the works - could change the face of downtown, Dwyer said. Water Street Market, a three-story apartment complex, with ground floor retail, is being built and developed by Tom Gerding Builders LLC, with an expected summer opening. A new hotel, with a still to be named operator, is planned for the empty lot south of the Post Office, and the Benton County Historical Museum is planning a new, modern facility on an empty lot on Second Street, just south of the Old World Deli. The hotel could possibly start construction this year, with an opening in mid-to-late 2015.
Wymore of the Williamette Valley MLS reported that residential real estate sales in Benton County last year were up nearly 4 percent, with an average home price of $281,000, while city of Corvallis sales jumped 4.6 percent in 2013, with the average home price at nearly $300,000.
Every residential real estate agency in Benton and Linn counties had record or near record sales in 2013, Dwyer added.
O'Connor, meanwhile, predicted state employment in 2014 to shoot up by 2.1 percent, slightly up from last year's 1.9 percent increase, and projected national employers to rise by 1.7 percent , slightly less optimistic than OSU President Ray's forecast.
"We (Oregon) got hit hard during the recession, but we tend to grow faster than the nation coming out," O'Connor said.
For more on the economy, check out: http://www.gazettetimes.com/news/local/local-economy-s-strengths-potential-highlighted-by-panel/article_19ed4fb0-78b4-11e3-8f1c-001a4bcf887a.html
And, from Corvallis Tidbits, http://www.christonium.com/corvallistidbits/chamber-of-commerce-luncheon-focus-on-the-oregon-economy