Verde Valley February sales tax report good news

Old Town having a positive influence in Cottonwood

VERDE VALLEY - The Arizona Department of Revenue's February sales tax report is good news throughout the Verde Valley. All communities in the Verde Valley show increases in retail sales tax and total sales tax for all tax categories over the same month one year ago.

All communities except Camp Verde show increases in total sales tax revenue year-to-date. And in Camp Verde, that category was down only $14,599 to $1,138,952 from $1,153,551 in 2011.

In Cottonwood, retail sales tax collections went up to $536,843 in February 2012 from $515,844 for the same month last year.

Casey Rooney, president and CEO of the Economic Development Council in Cottonwood agrees that the sales tax numbers support what he sees happening in Cottonwood.

"I attribute this to Old Town," Rooney said. "When the economy started crashing, Old Town started going up. We're on the right track."

Rooney said he conducted a non-scientific survey with Lindsey Higginson, managing partner of Pillsbury Wine Company in Old Town. They went up and down Main Street in Old Town talking with business people. They were gathering information on the number of employees, the hours worked and the salaries. Then they compared some of the numbers with those in 2009, 2011 and projected for 2013.

He said they added it all up, and the numbers are interesting.

"When you look at 2009, there were approximately 120 employees in Old Town," Rooney said.

That number went up in 2011 to approximately 190 employees, and when projected to 2013, the number of Old Town employees jumps again. "I'm expecting about 240," Rooney said. "If we keep going as we are now."

"I know my numbers are very conservative," he said.

When those employee figures are applied to estimated income, the picture becomes even brighter. Rooney said he used a conservative equation to estimate the Old Town Cottonwood employee income analysis.

Rooney figures that employee salaries in Old Town during 2009 would have been about $2.5 million. "In 2011, we almost doubled the payroll," he said.

His conservative estimate for 2011 income in Old Town jumped to a little more than $4.7 million.

He said the explanation is fairly simple. Cottonwood has become a tourist community, and it wasn't a tourist community before the boom started in Old Town.

He said promotions have been going on to promote not only the area but also the idea of shopping locally.

When it comes to promoting a tourist destination like Old Town Cottonwood, Rooney said the winning combination is food, antiques, wine, and boutique-style businesses like the Verde Valley Olive Oil Traders and a few other new retail locations in Old Town.

"We are going to evolve into more of a hospitality type economy," Rooney said.

He said the Old Town area draws people with good discretionary income.

"When people buy wine, the average purchase is about $80," he said.

Rooney thinks that when the Old Town Jail renovation is further along, it will drive more traffic into Old Town.

"The next big push needs to be in the City Hall area," he said.

Camp Verde also saw an increase in retail sales tax revenue in February. That category climbed from $55,160 in Feb. 2011 to $60,067 in 2012.

Clarkdale doesn't rely as heavily on retail sales tax as other Verde Valley communities do. Even so, the retail category in Clarkdale went up to $4,397 in February from $3,332 for the same month last year.

Jerome also saw a nice jump in retail sales tax revenue in February from $11,163 last year to $23,375 for this year.

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