Oak Harbor is the 17th wealthiest small city in the nation, according to a recently-released Bloomberg analysis of 500 “Affluent Micro Areas.”
That would seem to fly in the face of other studies and surveys that say the city has below-average per-capita income and below-average property values.
The state Department of Ecology considers Oak Harbor “economically disadvantaged” when it comes to grant funding.
The “Oak Harbor micro area” identified in the Bloomberg Index covers all of Island County, including unincorporated areas and municipalities. Statistically, Oak Harbor has the least wealth of any area of the county and brings down the average.
Oak Harbor is usually regarded as the poorer but more developed stepsister when compared to other Whidbey municipalities. Coupeville and Langley have higher incomes, swankier homes and older residents, according to U.S. Census data and City-Data.com.
The Bloomberg index is based on four equally weighted metrics: median household income, the percentage of households with at least $200,000 in income, median home value and the percentage of homes worth $1 million or more.
According to the ranking, the Oak Harbor statistical area is ranked right up there with Hudson, N.Y (15th) and just a few points below Durango, Colo. (12th).
The top five small cities include four western ski resorts and Cape Cod’s Martha’s Vineyard.
Oak Harbor is the only city in Washington state that breaks the top 20.
Oak Harbor Chamber of Commerce Executive Director Christine Cribb failed to return calls for comment on the Bloomberg report as of Friday.
The Bloomberg index shows that the county as a whole is doing well. The Oak Harbor statistical area — in other words, Island County and its municipalities — has a median home value of $290,900 and 2.5 percent of people live in homes valued at $1 million or more. A total of 3.5 percent of households earn more than $200,000.
The U.S. Census’ Amer-ican Community Survey has estimates for median income in inflation-adjusted dollars; the numbers differ depending on what years the survey covers.
The 2013 version of the survey is the source of the data cited by the Bloomberg index.
The estimated median household income for the Oak Harbor “metropolitan /micropolitan statistical area” is $58,815, the Bloomberg index reports.
The data for just the “principle city” of Oak Harbor shows an estimated median household income of $46,621.
Only select areas in the nation fit the criteria of Bloomberg’s study. It looked at 500 U.S. “micropolitan” areas that contain an “urban core” of about 10,000 to 50,000 in population. Oak Harbor has a population of about 22,500.
Summit Park, Utah is the top wealthiest small city identified by Bloomberg. There, one in six homes is valued at $1 million or more; the median household income is $91,773. It’s located about 20 miles east of Salt Lake City and provides quick access for jet setters to ski slopes at Deer Valley and Park City Mountain resort.
While Oak Harbor has jets, there’s not a whole lot of jet setters dropping big bucks on Pioneer Way.
According to the U.S. Census Bureau, Oak Harbor’s estimated per capita income for 2015 was $23,438 and median household was $46,621. For the same time period in Washington state, per capita income was $31,762 and median household income was $61,062.
Oak Harbor City Administrator Doug Merriman recently said the city’s below-average income and below-average home values are two factors that keep the city from having the best-possible bond rating.
About 39 percent of Oak Harbor students are eligible for free or reduced meals, according to schools Superintendent Lance Gibbon. That’s actually better than statewide statistics showing about 44 percent of K-12 students eligible for the free and reduced government lunch program.
Gibbon noted that Oak Harbor has the highest number of students regionally receiving the meal benefit compared to Anacortes (27.6 percent), Coupeville (31.1 percent) and South Whidbey (25.9 percent).
Gibbon, pointing out he’s not an economics expert, said different conclusions arise from different studies.
“I think conclusions depend entirely on what data you want to look at,” he said.
The state Department of Ecology considers Oak Harbor as “economically disadvantaged,” which means it can be eligible for reduced local matches for grants. The department, which also relies on census information, states that the city’s per capita income is $22,846.
Coupeville’s estimated per capita income in 2015 was $30,370, up from $18,720 in 2000, its median home value is $295,027, and median age 54.6 years, according to the U.S. Census.
Langley’s median income is $33,058; it was $24,940 in 2000. Langley’s median house or condo value is $430,437 and median age is 59.6 years.
Median household in-come, the share of households making $200,000 or more each year, median home value and the share of homes worth at least $1 million were calculated and ranked in the Bloomberg study.
Each metric was weighed equally and scored on a scale of 0-100 to derive the total index. Oak Harbor’s score: 94.25.
• Read more: https://www.bloomberg.com/news/articles/2017-03-29/america-s-mountain-west-tops-bloomberg-small-town-wealth-index