With so many lakes in northern Idaho, it seems natural that the state’s open-water swimming race events draw people from all over the world.

Ironman Coeur d’Alene has been a major event in the region for the past 13 years. Ironman hopefuls compete to accomplish personal goals, beat personal records, and qualify for 1 of the 50 slots offered to compete in the World Championship Ironman competition in Kona, Hawaii. Coeur d’Alene’s vast trail network supplements the lake swim, perfectly suiting the area for such an event.

Ironman Coeur d’Alene attracts over a thousand athletes every year on the fourth Sunday in June. Last year, the race had at least 2,300 competitors representing 40 different countries. In addition to hosting these athletes, Coeur d’Alene accommodates family members and friends who come to support their triathletes. Visitors contribute to the local economy as they purchase food and hotel rooms as well as any souvenirs or other needed items. Even if the race is the main attraction, visitors come away with appreciation for Coeur d’Alene’s natural beauty and are often enticed to return year after year.

Short-Term U.S. Economic Outlook

The Commerce Department has released its third and final estimate of first-quarter GDP growth. The results were better than previously reported: U.S. GDP contracted 0.2 percent on a seasonally-adjusted basis in the first quarter of 2015—less than the previous estimate of 0.7 percent. Much of the slowdown remains attributed to labor disputes at West Coast ports that prevented the movement of exports and imports. Imports surged in March as the labor disputes ended, increasing the trade deficit. In April, however, once ports normalized, the trade deficit shrank by $9.7 billion, which is good news for second-quarter economic growth.

A group of economists polled by MarketWatch expect U.S. GDP to grow 2.8 percent in the second quarter. Economists expect GDP growth for the year to total 3 percent, which would mark the United States’ seventh consecutive year of expansion as well as the fourth-longest economic expansion since World War Two. Early indicators point to much healthier economic growth in the second quarter, which is expected given the historical idiosyncrasies of first-quarter growth. Evidence of the continued strengthening of the U.S. economy includes increases in job creation, a rebounding housing market, and continued upticks in consumer spending. 

U.S. consumer spending recorded its largest increase in nearly six years in May, growing 0.9 percent more than expected. Consumers are finally spending some of the gasoline savings that they have been realizing since the beginning of the year. Related to personal consumption expenditures, personal income rose 0.5 percent in May, which was in line with expectations. While inflation has remained low, Americans’ incomes have increased, and people are spending at increased rates.

The U.S. dollar remained strong through the beginning and middle of June, although uncertainty about a possible Greek exit from the Eurozone made the euro-dollar index volatile in the days leading up to Greece’s June 30th deadline. This date was when Greece’s $1.7 billion bailout from the International Monetary Fund was due. U.S. exports continued to register lower than expected by companies who see a large part of their business come from foreign markets.

Long-Term U.S. Economic Outlook

At the end of June, Congress voted to give President Obama fast-track authority to pursue trade pacts. The first deal that can move forward under this authority is called the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), which is a trade deal uniting the United States and 11 Pacific Rim countries. The trade pact would seek to lower tariffs, which would essentially level the playing field for many countries that do business with the United States. The largest gains, however, are likely to come with the elimination of “red tape” and other non-tariff barriers.

Without the TPP, it is likely that China would “write” the trade and investment rules for the region, which may or may not be mutually beneficial for China’s neighbors. China is not involved in the TPP talks and is seeking its own agreement with 15 countries in the region not including the United States. America continues to advocate for greater protection of intellectual property and the elimination of rules that require internet firms to install hardware, such as servers, in countries where they wish to operate. Congress must still approve a final TPP deal, but at least with the President’s new authority to engage in fast-track talks, America is able to remain part of the discussion. Discussions like these and the ability to create more free-trade agreements in the future will positively affect the U.S. economy down the road.