Take advantage of strong Canadian dollar

For the first time in 30 years, the Canadian loonie is worth more than the U.S. dollar.

What does that mean for us? Money in the bank, baby.

Retailers from Blaine to Bellingham are counting on Canadian customers coming in for cars, appliances, clothes — you name it.

Experts who track the exchange rate with Canada have said for years that the loonie was undervalued. During the late ‘90s and early 2000s, it hit as low as 63 cents on the U.S. dollar.

The recent dollar adjustment, which is largely due to a rise in Canadian exporting of raw materials such as iron, copper and oil, has already been felt in Whatcom County. This past August saw a 50 percent increase in car traffic over last year, and experts are expecting better retail numbers in the third quarter of 2007.

But as Canadians start experiencing the mess at the border, they might lose some steam.

Construction at the Peace Arch crossing started this fall and will continue through the end of 2009 — just before the start of the 2010 Winter Olympics in Vancouver. If construction is delayed (and who ever heard of a construction project not getting delayed?), then the first thing olympic tourists will experience before they get to the border crossing is a mess of a border crossing.

We have a few more years to worry about that, though. For now, this is a great time for businesses who are thinking about courting B.C. customers. Keep those loonies in mind, and you can take them to the bank.


— Vanessa Blackburn


The sky is not falling at Bellingham airport

And another one bites the dust.

For the second time this year, an airline has started operations at Bellingham International Airport and then announced after a few months that it will cease its flights. The first was Western Air, which lasted less than two months, and now it’s Skybus.

One might come to the conclusion that there just aren’t enough customers coming to and fro to make it worth it for the airlines. But that’s not entirely true. Skybus reported that 80 percent to 90 percent of their flights were full. So if it wasn’t their ability to fill seats, then what was it?

Simple: the price of jet fuel. Crude oil prices are up 50 percent over last year, and just in the first two weeks of October the price went up by $10 a barrel. In fact, in reaction to these increases, Alaska and Horizon Air announced their ticket prices will be going up.

Skybus, which began low-cost flights out of Bellingham in May, will cease operations on Jan. 5. This announcement probably says more about discount airlines than it does about Bellingham, however.

While Skybus and Western have come and gone as quickly as the wind, it is likely that others will try again soon. Allegiant Airlines added a scheduled flight to Mesa, Ariz., in October, and port officials have said they plan to continue to court other airlines that have expressed interest in Bellingham.

If they can continue to fill seats, it seems likely we’ll be hearing of another airline flying in before too long.


— VB


Off Beat

Rik Dalvit


Related Stories