Employment

It doesn’t take long to find out what a great place Gig Harbor is to live, play, raise a family or retire. But how is it as a place to work or run a business?

Currently many Gig Harbor residents cross the new Narrows Bridge to work in Tacoma and surrounding areas, but as the area grows so does the interest in attracting family-wage jobs to this side of the bridge.

Two major new projects promise to do just that. In fact, the top two private sector employers in Pierce County, MultiCare Health System and Franciscan Health System (see accompanying tables), both have either just-completed or soon-to-be-completed projects in Gig Harbor.

Near uptown Gig Harbor, MultiCare recently opened a 65,000-square-foot mixed-use facility including a women’s health center and the area’s most complete facility for cancer care. In a unique partnership with Gig Harbor’s new YMCA, MultiCare also offers on-site exercise classes and a work-out room for women.

On the other side of town, is the 80-bed St. Anthony Hospital, a Franciscan Hospital, which opened in early 2009. The hospital has added as many as 450 family-wage jobs to the Gig Harbor area.

In addition to these major projects, several retail shopping areas are under development. Gig Harbor recently saw the opening of a new Costco, and the Uptown Gig Harbor retail development includes such tenants as Borders Books and Music, Chico’s, Coldwater Creek, Ben and Jerry’s and a 10-screen Galaxy Movie Theater.

Julie Tappero is the president of West Sound Workforce, a private staffing company that has been helping locals find employment on the Gig Harbor side of the bridge since 1998. She is optimistic about the local employment scene.

“We’re here to find local employment for residents,” Tappero said. “The labor market has tightened, the economy has strengthened, and the opening of the new bridge is putting pressure on wages to rise. The second bridge has made commuting bearable again, meaning that local businesses must offer higher wages to retain workers who might otherwise be wooed away by opportunities on the other side of the water. I think this is a wonderful opportunity for local businesses and residents alike.”

In addition, the business community is stepping up efforts to encourage and support local businesses through the Gig Harbor Peninsula Chamber of Commerce and the newly formed Gig Harbor Historic Waterfront Association.

Tappero, who also serves as the co-chairman of the Economic Development Committee for the Chamber of Commerce, said there are several factors that make Gig Harbor a great place to do business. Quality of life, great public schools, and a “very willing and able workforce” that also happens to be highly educated all make for an atmosphere conducive to business and growth.

In addition, she cited the lower commercial rents and the absence of what she termed “extra” taxes, such as a city B&O tax, as pluses.

But Gig Harbor is already home to what she said is a “fabulous business community,” one that is supportive of schools and the community at large.

For example, she said, when Franciscan Health System first came to Gig Harbor to talk about the new hospital, they were impressed with how receptive and positive the community was. That didn’t surprise Tappero.

 

“I think the business community here is as good as any,” she said. “I don’t know why anyone wouldn’t want to be a part of it.”

 

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