Effects of minimum wage increase in the Yakima Valley Pt. 2

Effects of minimum wage increase in the Yakima Valley Pt. 2.

YAKIMA, Wash.- You may stop there to get your morning cup of joe.

North Town Coffee in Yakima has been at their north Front Street location for about the last four years, but you might have noticed that your daily coffee has gotten more expensive than when you first walked in.

“All of my retirement or a great majority of my retirement went into an investment, in terms of a business. In order for me to continue to pay my bills and retire, ultimately, I have to be able to make money,” Owner Dave Tompkins said.

Tompkins said he's had to increase his prices about five percent this year because of the recent minimum wage bump in the state of Washington.

He said charging more was the only way to offset the new labor costs, but he was nervous about how his customers would respond.

“Are our customers willing to pay for that? Ultimately our customers determined how much a product is worth,” he said.

Maybe an increased wage means local people have more money to spend on things like coffee?

Tompkins said so far so good. His prices have gone up but he hasn't seen any substantial losses in customer traffic.

North Town Coffee is just one example of how businesses in the Yakima Valley are having to adjust to the change.

Jonathan Smith with the Yakima County Development Association said small business owners are the ones most affected by minimum wage going up.

He said businesses with only one or two store fronts are going to have a more difficult time absorbing the added costs compared to national chains.

“All your eggs are here in this one basket and now one of the costs that is significant for your business has increased,” Smith said.

While raising minimum wage has put more pressure on local business, it's helped employees bring more money home every week.

A recent report from the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) said Yakima County, last year, had one of the largest increases in average weekly wage at 3.2 percent.

“That 3.2 is actually ranked 8th highest in that time period. That's eighth out of the 346 largest counties in the United States,” Matthew Insco with BLS said.

Smith said the increase to minimum wage isn't the only cause for that, but it did help the average go up.

The county's average weekly wage is reported to be $735. Which is better than before, but still well below the state and national average.

“We have one of the lowest wage rates among the 340 or so counties that are the similar size or bigger,” Smith said.

The BLS report said Yakima county is ranked 333 out of the 346 when it comes to average weekly wage.

However, it could move up a few more spots in the near future with minimum wage set to go up again at the end of the year.

“If everybody increased by 10 dollars, we would see a bigger percentage increase than some,” Smith said.

Tompkins said he's already decided to raise prices again when 2019 rolls around.

Without the change he says he wouldn't be able to keep providing coffee on Front Street.

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