Wasatch County Continues Economic Growth Through COVID-19 Recovery
Businesses in Wasatch County will remember 2020 as a difficult year — Dallin Koecher, the director of the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce, says some are still playing catch-up.
But he also said overall economic growth has been impressive following the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic.
According to Koecher, the local economy is still recovering from the lockdowns of April 2020 when many businesses had to shut their doors.
Increases in sales-tax revenue over both of the past two years have contributed to the recovery. In 2019, the county collected $1.3 million in sales tax. In 2020, despite the pandemic, it was $1.64 million, and through April of 2021, it was up by 35% compared to the same months in 2020.
Koecher says this growth is seen in the cities and towns themselves, as well as the county overall.
“That was a pretty nice increase for them, about a $300,000 increase for Wasatch County, and I know that the cities have also spoken and said they have reflected that same type of growth,” Koecher said.
Also, according to a study of consumer spending by the Mountainland Association of Governments, consumer spending finished 20% higher than it started in the county.
“It dipped in April when we had that major shutdown, but then we have surged back up,” Koecher said. “So, our consumer spending through the end of the year was up almost 20%, whereas Utah and some other counties were still seeing a drop in consumer spending. So, I can’t tell you exactly what people are buying here that’s so valuable, but people are spending some money here locally.”
Another way Koecher’s office is following spending is by purchasing credit card data from Visa.
There were more than 722,000 total Visa card-swipes in the county in 2019, and just under 700,000 in 2020. However, the total revenue of those swipes in 2020 was almost $63 million, whereas it was about $60.6 million the year before. The shoppers from out of state were most commonly from California, Colorado and Arizona.
Data from 2021 was not available at the time of this report.
Koecher says the numbers indicate fewer people visited the area, but residents made more expensive purchases.
He says he believes people have spent heavily on recreation equipment recently, such as bikes and all-terrain vehicles.
Hotel visitation was down in 2020 when compared to 2019. Among nine hotels in the county that contain about 1,000 rooms, overall occupancy dropped from 54% in 2019 to 40% in 2020.
Koecher says this year, occupancy is at about 45% so far, which puts it on pace to possibly surpass 2019 and 2020.
In Wasatch County, visitation is highest around the winter months, peaking in April. It also rises during the summer.