Wasatch County Chamber of Commerce calls 2021 a year of economic recovery
Data from the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce suggests 2021 was a year of economic recovery from the impacts of the pandemic, despite a labor shortage.
A two-year comparison of how much money Wasatch County collected in taxes shows people spent a lot more at businesses and restaurants in the Heber Valley during 2021 than they did in 2020.
“Things that we look at here in the office for indications of success there, they're all going up,” says Dallin Koecher, executive director of the Heber Valley Chamber of Commerce. “The pandemic has played an interesting role in how our economy has grown and succeeded the last few years.”
In 2021, Wasatch County collected about $2 million in sales tax, which is $300,000 more than in 2020. Restaurant tax collections for 2021 show spending at local restaurants spiked by 33% over the previous year.
The Chamber also collects data on credit card usage from Visa, which helps flesh out more about just who was behind that spending. That’s because it factors in ZIP codes.
According to that data, credit card users spent $25 million more in Wasatch County in 2021 than they did in 2020, a 45% increase.
While the Visa data shows out-of-towners spent about $80 million last year, spending by locals reached $100 million. Koecher says those numbers surprised him.
“It’s pretty significant,” he says. “I was like, ‘Can these numbers be right? This is a big jump.’ And, according to the sales tax and transient room tax, those are about accurate for what we see in our community.”
Although demand is high, businesses still face the problem of finding and retaining employees. Unemployment in Wasatch County is currently just below 2%.
That’s a major drop from the 17% unemployment rate the county experienced when layoffs and business closures reached a high point during the pandemic. By comparison, in 2009 during the Great Recession, unemployment peaked at 9%.
Koecher says that means it will be hard to fill the openings local businesses need to fill.
“It’s actually a challenge,” he says. “We have so many businesses that say, ‘Now hiring’ - you can’t throw a rock and not hit a business that’s hiring. The urgency of employers saying they need employees as fast as they can get them has maybe tapered a little bit, because I don’t hear as much as we did earlier in the fall of last year. But what’s interesting, we’ve seen some new businesses come to town - their buildings are all finished and ready to go, but they’ve had to delay openings because they’re trying to hire new people.”
Koecher asks employers and others impacted by the worker shortage to reach out to his office with feedback or suggestions for how to help businesses with hiring.
For more on the Chamber, visit gohebervalley.com.