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First Federal chief says economy rebounding, but could be better

September 17th, 2013 - 5:42am

(Port Angeles) -- The chief executive of the largest, local bank on the peninsula said the economy is improving, but it could be a lot better.

First Federal's CEO and president Larry Hueth spoke to the Port Angeles Regional Chamber of Commerce yesterday. He was asked to address the question: "Is Clallam County better off this year than last year."

"Yes, we are better off. There are pockets of strength. The stock market has returned to pre-recessionary levels we are seeing the gross domestic product is above recessionary levels. So, the economy is putting out more goods and services than it was during the great recession," said Hueth.

Hueth said unemployment levels in the area are still too high. He said there are a number of reasons.

"The discussion today in the room was: There are jobs available here, but what were seeing within the industry is a challenge attracting and retaining those individuals," said Hueth.

Hueth said there are jobs out there, but not enough people are looking for them, or applying for them.

"The labor participation rate is down. The discussion today was really about do individuals have the skill sets to transfer from one industry to the other," said Hueth. "The example I use was a banker may not have the skills necessary in to work at the hospital, and acquiring those skills takes time and effort and training. We believe that is part of what's going on in our economy."

But Hueth said Port Angeles has some major attractions for growth, including an excellent deep-water port, a good airport, and newly-added feature, a city-wide wireless network.

"It (broadband access)is an important factor for a company looking to locate here," said Hueth. "It is also an important factor for individuals. A friend of mine is a lawyer who doesn't actually work out of law firm in Washington but in another state. He chose to live here because of the quality of life and the ability to interact via the fiber optic network here."

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