Data Shows Sales Up in Hinds County

Jackson, Miss. - It's often said that Madison and Rankin counties have outperformed Hinds County in the last few years in not only gaining new business but also the population needed to help those firms thrive.

But sales data from the Mississippi Department of Revenue indicates Hinds is more than holding its own against its neighbors.

From July through October, Hinds saw net sales across all industries grow slightly to $2.07 billion from $2.06 billion in the same stretch in 2013. Madison County saw its net sales drop from $1.1 billion to $782 million in that timeframe, while Rankin County's dipped from $1.4 billion to $1.2 billion, according to the Department of Revenue.

Madison and Rankin counties in recent years have seen an explosion of new jobs and some high-profile relocations of major businesses once based in Jackson, such as Puckett Machinery moving to Flowood and Butler Snow law firm heading to Ridgeland. But Jackson has gained momentum, especially in the last year or so, with Interstate 55 in the north part of the city as the epicenter.

"There's been a lot of new construction. The District at Eastover is (happening). Whole Foods has come in. You have new stores opening at Highland Village," says Blake Wallace, executive director of the Hinds County Economic Development Authority.

Maison Weiss department store is reaping the benefit of all the activity. It's part of Highland Village, which has welcomed three new tenants this year and will add J. McLaughlin's first Mississippi store next year. The shopping center itself is being renovated. It's also near Whole Foods Market, which opened in early 2014. Maison Weiss owner Ken Szilasi says he can't recall a better sales year for his store, which opened in 1975,than this one.

"The economy is strong. The stock market is near an all-time high. The vibe is good," says Szilasi, who hired four new staffers this year, the first time he's been able to do that in a number of years. Gas prices that have dipped below $2.50 per gallon in many parts of the metro area and that have avoided the dramatic spikes of years past have brought more shoppers out for the crucial holiday retail season, Wallace added.

But whatever sales trends are occurring in Hinds, Madison and Rankin counties may not be as simple as what the net-sales figures indicate.

Department of Revenue spokeswoman Kathy Waterbury says the agency is now using software that can more specifically separate sales where sales tax was levied versus sales during the state's sales-tax holidays or sales to nonprofits authorized to receive sales-tax exemptions. Sales data tallied before this year didn't clearly delineate between sales when sales tax was collected and when it wasn't, she said.

Tim Coursey, executive director of the Madison County Economic Development Authority, said he was surprised the state data shows a decrease in Madison County sales, saying what he sees and hears from area businesses doesn't indicate any sales downturn, "in fact, quite the opposite." Rankin County, meanwhile, continues to enjoy its years-long status of having the lowest unemployment rate of any Mississippi county, meaning residents there likely have more money to spend on goods and services than in other counties.

However, statewide net-sales data shows a marked decline, falling to $17 billion this July-October compared to $25 billion in July-October 2013, a trend perhaps reflective of, among other things, several major casino closings in Tunica County and Biloxi.

Contact Jeff Ayres at (601) 961-7050 or jeff.ayres@jackson.gannett.com. Follow @jeffayres71 on Twitter.

 

(reposted from www.clarionledger.com)