The economy in Paris appears strong at mid-year, based on the latest survey of economic activity conducted by the Paris Express.
The newspaper surveys the economy twice a year, in June and December. The survey is conducted by examining data — such as the unemployment rate and sales tax collection — and by interviewing business people.
The county’s jobless rate this year has remained low. In May, the jobless rate was 3.4 percent, according to the state’s Department of Workforce Services. May is the latest month for which county statistics are available. The April jobless rate was 3 percent, a record low for the county.
Sales tax receipts point to a strong economy, as well. According to County Treasurer Mickey Oates, the county has collected $590,725.41 in the first six months of the year, compared to $582,216.89 through the first six months of last year. The county collected a 1 percent general sales tax, which is split between the county and incorporated communities.
Sales tax receipts are considered a sign of economic activity.
Most business people interviewed had good things to say about the economy. The exception came from vehicle dealers who are experiencing what one described as a “dip” in sales.
“The first six months of the year haven’t been as good as last year,” said Van Rogers, general manager at Rogers Chevrolet. “But, with gas prices at a 12-year low, I do think people are going to say I do believe I can now afford to go out and buy a car.”
Joe Schluterman, owner of Paris Ford, is also seeing a slowdown.
“Business has been okay,” Schluterman said. “Our service department is doing very well. It’s not 2015 or 2016, but those were exceptional years.”
Schluterman added that customers he’s talking to remain optimistic about the economy.
“You can’t keep going up forever,” Schluterman said. “You’re going to have dips. We’re in a little bit of a dip but things are okay.”
Rodney Brewer, manager of the Walmart store in Paris, said things have been good at the store in the first six months of the year. Walmart is the largest retailer in Paris.
“I feel like customers are more optimistic,” Brewer said. “I think there’s more certainty about the economy than in the past.”
John Paul Wells, of Wells Furniture in Paris, also reported seeing more optimism from customers.
“People are feeling good,” Wells said. “The first six months have been good for us. It could be better, but it’s good.”
Jarrod Yarnell, president and CEO of First National Bank at Paris, the largest bank in the area, said the bank has seen growth in all of its markets this year.
“We’re seeing a willingness from people to spend money,” Yarnell said. “In Paris, you’re seeing renewed growth. Homes are going up. People are doing home improvements. That area has been strong. Our loan demand for those kinds of things is strong. Levels of buying, building and purchasing are strong. We saw that last year and it’s continuing. People are feeling good. They’re optimistic and ready to make those purchases they’ve been putting off.”
Tonya Baumgartner, executive director of the Paris Area Chamber of Commerce, said new businesses are opening in Paris, continuing a trend from 2016.
“Off the top of my head, I can think of eight new businesses that opened in Paris last year and more are going to open soon,” she said. “I’m actually looking for a building right now for a man who wants to open a business in Paris.”
But, Baumgartner added that’s only part of it.
“We’ve got people opening businesses and we need to keep them open,” she said. “That means we have to support them by shopping locally.