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Fairmont witnessed economic gains in 2019

FAIRMONT — By this time last year, Linsey Preuss, Fairmont economic development coordinator, had compiled the 2018 economic development report for the city, presented it to the City Council and then made the circuit of service clubs to spread the positive news about the city’s growth.

But this year, with the coronavirus pandemic cancelling all gatherings, there were no public presentations of the 2019 economic report, a narrative with some pretty impressive numbers.

Perhaps the most staggering section of the report deals with business development. In 2019, Fairmont issued 71 commercial building permits valued at $28.4 million, compared to 40 permits worth $4.7 million in 2018. About half of last year’s amount was for a $14.3 million addition at CHS, a permit that will be leveraged into a $100 million investment after machinery and equipment are added.

The residential sector also saw laudable change.

“One of the things that I found interesting last year was that Fairmont saw an increase of over 8 1/2 percent in home value,” Preuss said. “Home values are a great economic indicator. They rise and fall based on the high-paying jobs that our industries are expanding. That’s very encouraging, and it benefits the entire community.”

Accompanying the growth in home values, the median household income in Fairmont increased by 6 percent, another indicator of upward economic movement. Home sales in 2019 hit 167, compared with just 108 sales in 2012. About half being of the homes sold in Fairmont in 2019 were over the $100,000 mark.

“One of the cool things with residential was the city, school and county all came together to do a multi-family housing tax abatement program. They all realized that there’s a need, and they all decided they needed to incentivize builders to construct new multi-family housing units,” Preuss said.

With a vacancy rate of about 2 percent, finding rental housing in Fairmont proves to be a challenge when attracting a workforce. The proposed program would aim to spur development of more housing options, with the abatement for 10 years of real estate tax increases resulting from new multi-family housing structures.

Preuss says she has gotten a few inquiries about the program.

“I would say there are a number of potential projects out there right now, but with the way things are with COVID, there’s a little more uncertainty,” she said. “I don’t know that it will kill the projects, but it has definitely delayed a few things.”

And there’s always concern about tomorrow.

“It’s difficult to see what the recovery from COVID-19 is going to look like, but I’m optimistic because of the diversity in our local economy. I think we’re going to bounce back pretty quickly,” Preuss said.

“We have great diversity, especially with our manufacturing businesses. We have food manufacturing, value-added ag, metal fabrication. It’s just very diverse, and that is helpful when it comes to challenges like this one.

“I’m very positive about the future,” she said.

The 2019 Fairmont economic development report is viewable on the Fairmont Economic Development Authority’s website — www.fedamn.com — under the “about us” tab.

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