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Sales tax revenues booming locally

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Sales tax collections in Wilson County are growing, and Lebanon continues to collect more than Mt. Juliet, but the Joint Economic and Community Development Board (JECDB) notes in its new annual report that the revenue growth is good for everyone.

The report claims nearly $39 million in local sales tax receipts for the county in 2014, or about five percent more last year than in 2013.

Sales tax collection totals for each city in 2014 were Lebanon, $18,958,697; Mt. Juliet, $14,927,227; and Watertown, $277,380. Collections in the county outside the three cities totaled $3,935,021.

JECDB Executive Director G. C. Hixson said, "Lebanon has always come in with higher revenues on sales tax than Mt. Juliet, possibly because Lebanon has a larger area. What this actually means is that more people are shopping and paying sales tax in Lebanon."

Sheri Featherston, assistant finance commissioner for the City of Lebanon, said that since both cities have the same sales tax rate of 2.25 cents on the dollar, she doesn't know why Lebanon's revenues would be higher.

But Mt. Juliet Finance Director John Rossmaier said he thinks car dealerships may cause the difference. "We have one new car dealer and Lebanon has three," he said. But Rossmaier added that the two cities don't receive any information about exact amounts paid by any individual business.

'State's second-wealthiest county'
The JECDB report, created each year to compare Wilson County with the rest of the Middle Tennessee area, shows that the county is outpacing other counties in the region in income, home sales and population growth.

"This year's annual report offers substantial evidence that Wilson County is positioned very well in Middle Tennessee and is a pacesetter in the region," Hixson said.

The report estimates the county's median household income at almost $60,000 per year, making Wilson County the second wealthiest in the state.

Plus, continued growth in the county's population makes Wilson the third fastest-growing county in Tennessee, according to the report.

New home sales up 9%
The report adds that home sales increased by nine percent last year over 2013, with 2,522 residences selling in the county and a 6.9 percent increase in the median price of homes - which sold for a median price of $232,000.

Other good news from the report includes more than 3,000 new jobs locally in manufacturing, logistics, technology and retail. Plus, 10 more new industries are either already open in Wilson County or will open in the near future, bringing in more than 1,500 additional new jobs.

UnderArmour, the largest employer to choose Wilson in 2014, will add an anticipated 993 employees, the report noted. The sports attire giant's distribution house is currently under construction near the I-40 and Beckwith Road interchange.

Other companies announcing plans for Wilson County or recently opening here include B&G Foods, Diasol, FedEx, Haemonetics, Novamet Specialty Products Corp., SO.F.TER USA, Surecan, Tecno Tiles Inc. and Wilson County Tire and Retreading.

Hixson added that expansions by existing industries are equally important when counting the creation of new jobs.

Local companies with expansion projects in 2014 included Lochinvar, L&W Engineering, Mayekawa USA, PFG Customized Distribution and Perma-Pipe, Hixson reported.

He also said the local market has shown significant increases in retail employment.

Retail expanding, too
Hixson said Tammy Stokes, the JECDB's assistant director, recruited many of the new retailers across the county.

"As we continue to grow in population and add rooftops, we are becoming more and more popular as a destination for retail businesses," said Stokes, whose main job with the JECDB is recruiting retail and office prospects.

"It's important that we have places to shop, venues for entertainment and recreation and a plethora of restaurant choices if we are to be successful in continuing to recruit new industry," Stokes said. "A community's lifestyle amenities have as much to do with attracting new industry as any other contributing factor."

Above-average graduation rate
Of course, one of those "lifestyle factors" is the county's education system. The JECDB report shows the graduation rate for the county's high schools, at 96.3 percent, is higher than the state average of 87.2 percent and also exceeds the Williamson, Rutherford, Sumner and Davidson county rates.

This is thought to be at least in part due to the county's graduation coaches, according to Attendance Supervisor Stan Moss at Wilson County Schools. Surrounding counties do not have any similar program, Moss noted.

Writer Connie Esh can be contacted at cewrites@yahoo.com.

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