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McDuffie tops state in retail sales stat

It's boasting time.

For the third year in a row, McDuffie County has finished in the top two in statewide pull factor -- a statistic that indicates the percentage of a county's retail sales that come from non-residents.

In 2000 and 2001, McDuffie County came in behind only Crisp County out of all Georgia counties in pull factor. In the recently announced 2002 numbers, McDuffie is tied for first with Crisp.

Augusta State University Business Professor and Thomson resident Joseph Greene said that the county's high pull factor is indicative of its status as a hub community.

"Some communities are called an economic magnet hub, and Thomson is one because a magnet means it's a core for economic growth and development, and it attracts, or pulls in, surrounding, less affluent communities like Warren County, Jefferson County, and Lincoln County," he said.

Pull factor is determined by comparing counties' individual per capita retail sales with the statewide average. For 2002, McDuffie had a pull factor of 1.79. In 2000 it was 1.90 and 2.03 in 2001.

For McDuffie County, pull factor is especially important given its three local one-cent sales taxes. This means that relative to the local population, a greater percentage of non-McDuffie County residents are paying for McDuffie County infrastructure improvements than any other county.

Barry Hall, President of the SPM Group, an Atlanta-based consulting firm, said that pull factor is often used by communities to help determine its "daytime population," a term that refers to the number of non-residents who use a community's infrastructure -- such as roads or even the water and sewer systems.

"Local governments have to provide these services, even though these aren't residents. They still have to provide infrastructure to accommodate this daytime population, and that's what the pull factor is primarily used for that I'm aware of," said Mr. Hall.

Thomson City Administrator Bob Flanders said a reason that McDuffie has such a high pull factor is because retail customers sometimes purchase services at places besides or in addition to Wal-Mart.

"When you've got the Wal-Mart Supercenter out there, that is a major attractor," he said. "Then that allows you to have spin-off with your other restaurants and stores. It keeps on helping us out from that standpoint."

Prof. Greene agreed with Mr. Flanders, saying that while it's true a county must provide basic services to non-residents who don't pay any ad valorem taxes, there are considerable sales tax dollars that they generate to help make up the difference.

"When you've got the daytime traffic, they use your services -- they eat in your restaurants, they purchase gas from your local retailers, and sometimes they'll even engage the services of repair persons to work on a car or something. Daytimers certainly contribute to the local economy."

Prof. Greene also said that down the road, increased retail activity may lead to a larger local industrial base.

"If you can attract, as a magnet, retailers to come into the community, theoretically in the long-term, it will lead to and improve infrastructure, including the education base for the school system. When you get a more educated population, guess where industry wants to locate?"

Web posted on Wednesday, February 4, 2004

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