Outlook good for Bellevue economy

Strong development activity and moderate job growth will fuel Bellevue’s economy over the next several years. That was the prediction delivered to the City Council Monday by City Budget Manager Jonathan Swift, who said Bellevue’s economic outlook is generally positive, but increased inflation and a slowing of the housing market could dampen growth.

Strong development activity and moderate job growth will fuel Bellevue’s economy over the next several years.

That was the prediction delivered to the City Council Monday by City Budget Manager Jonathan Swift, who said Bellevue’s economic outlook is generally positive, but increased inflation and a slowing of the housing market could dampen growth.

Swift delivered his forecast as part of the Finance Department’s Early Outlook Forecast, which focuses on how the city’s economy is expected to perform over the next six years.

Swift said growth in employment and personal income have kept the region’s economy relatively healthy even as rising gasoline, food and other prices, and a weakening housing market, have adversely impacted the national economy.

Swift also noted that long-term, the city’s existing financial resources will not be sufficient to address the multitude of service and capital needs identified through the city’s Long Range Financial Planning initiative now underway.

Started in 2007, the initiative’s goal is to identify major population, demographic, urbanization and other trends expected to impact the city’s financial resources over the next 20 years, and create a financially sustainable model that will allow necessary investments to occur. The initiative is expected to be a major topic during the city’s regular budget review process later this year.

Among the major points included in Swift’s outlook were:

Bellevue’s high level of development activity is expected to last through much of the 2009-2010 biennium;

The city’s employment growth and development activity is contributing to increased population density in the Central Business District. By 2010, the downtown residential population is expected to grow to 10,000 people, up from 6,200 in 2007;

Increased inflation and a further slowing of the housing market could hamper the city’s projected growth cycle. While home prices have remained relatively strong despite the downturn, housing sales and housing permits regionally have dropped off considerably.

Swift said while the region grew at nearly twice the rate of the nation in 2007, economists expect growth in 2009 to mirror the national outlook of slower growth before accelerating moderately in 2010.

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