Sales tax collections in Jonesboro and Craighead County continue record pace

by George Jared ([email protected]) 306 views 

Residents and visitors continue to spend money at a healthy pace in the heart of Northeast Arkansas. Craighead County and Jonesboro set records for sales tax receipt collections in 2016, and it might be topped by 2017 if trends hold.

Craighead County collected $1.704 million in sales and use tax in July, a 6.25% ($104,000) increase from the same month in 2016, according to the Craighead County Treasurer’s Office. To date the county has hauled in $11.677 million in sales and use taxes, about 5.2% more than was collected through the first seven months of 2016, and it more than a 15% increase from sales tax collections in 2014.

Jonesboro collected $1.523 million during July, a 5.8% uptick from the previous July. For the year, Jonesboro has collected $10.422 million, a 2.92% ($295,319) increase from the last year.

Civic leaders, economists, and others have competing theories as to why Northeast Arkansas has experienced consistent economic growth during the last four decades. The region’s diverse jobs base – agriculture, food processing, health and medical, Arkansas State University, professional services – have had an insulating effect, but economic gains are also tied to population growth.

Since the early 1970s, Jonesboro has consistently grown by about 3% each year, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. As of 2016 the city has about 76,000 residents. Jonesboro was the fifth largest city in Arkansas based on population in the 2010 census. The city is the second largest in terms of geographic size, only trailing Little Rock.

Unemployment numbers have been historically low. The metro set all-time building permit value records in 2016, and sales tax collections remain robust, but there are still economic concerns in the city. The median income in the city is $41,688, nearly 33% below the national average. About 24% of the city’s residents live at or below the national poverty line.

An effort to create thousands of higher paying jobs in the area is underway. Jonesboro Unlimited, a private partnership development organization has raised about $3.7 million to fund its economic development program, Momentum Jonesboro. At least 77 area businesses have or will contribute to the plan.

Five business sectors will be targeted in the coming years: Agriculture, advanced manufacturing, logistics, healthcare, and professional services such as engineering, IT, and accounting.

Agriculture and related businesses are a natural fit for Jonesboro. The area is dominated by rice, soybean, and cotton farms. Food processing has become a significant industry sector in the city, and officials hope to expand on that base.

One area they will target in the manufacturing sector is pharmaceutical production. Most pharmaceuticals manufacture in the Northeast, but many companies are searching for new places to make their products. The city has low utility rates that could entice these industries to move to Arkansas or encourage others to expand.

The goal is to attract 2,500 direct jobs, and 2,600 indirect jobs to the region, and create jobs that pay at least $42,000 per year.