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Front Page » December 15, 2005 » Business Focus » Measuring the Ups and Downs in Local Business
Published 3,270 days ago

Measuring the Ups and Downs in Local Business


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By TOM McCOURT
Sun Advocate reporter

While operations like coal mining, gas production and power generation are not reflected directly in the three measurements, they are large factors in the amount of money consumers have to spend in the area.

The history books tell the story.

Carbon and Emery counties have often been at the mercy of some simple forces in the American economy.

If the price of coal was high, and demand was high, the area prospered.

When both were down, the economy sunk.

The boom bust cycle in all mining economies is a well known phenomenon. In most areas, especially in hard rock mining cultures, once the mines played out, or demand for the ore produced ceased, large towns became phantoms.

It's a little different in coal mining towns. True, many of the coal camps of old, like Royal, Standardville and Coal City are gone. But the larger infrastructure, Price, Helper and East Carbon still exist, because mining hasn't ceased. In fact in the years since most of the coal camps disappeared, there has been an annual production of coal much larger than was ever produced in those days which are considered the height of the coal industry.

In 1950, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, Carbon county had over 40,000 residents. That was the high point of the population in the county, with the numbers of people living here going up and down over the next five decades to reach a point where now under 20,000 residents live in the area.

During the modern era, the area was never totally dependent on coal prices and demand, but even today it has a decidedly strong effect on the economy. However, things are slowly changing, but very slowly.

It's easy to look at the money made and spent in the county over past years. It's easy to measure productivity based on a set populations with set jobs that we can see in hindsight. People are often interested in hearing about the booms and bust history of the two counties, but most, of course, are more interested what is going on at the present time. And that is where the devil comes into the details.

How does one measure what is going on right now, present day, in the year of 2005? While national statistics show that the economy as a whole is improving, is business up in the local area, or is it down?

Finding the answer to that falls on a few people in the area who spend time analyzing and examining data about the local economy.

And now, with the aid of tools and information are able to take a closer to real time peak at what is going on in the two counties.

While there are many ways to evaluate a local economy, some of the best are to look at local sales and whether they are improving or not, at present business and at employment trends.

One of those tools comes from the state tax commission. All retail sales made by businesses in the area can be estimated by looking at state sales tax revenues paid into the state coffers. These payments are recorded by the kinds of businesses that pay taxes, within what is called the Standard Industrial Code which classifies them.

Once this report from the state is available it can be used to generate all kinds of reports, including one called the leakage report.

Leakage is that amount of money that is generated in an area by workers and consumers and then spent outside of that same area.

For instance almost everyone who lives in Carbon and Emery counties, at one point or another, spends some of their money along the Wasatch Front, in Grand Junction, Colo., through catalogue sales or in the newest way to buy out of an area, over the internet.

In a recent study that was done on the Carbon/Emery County area it appears the study from this year shows that overall there is less leakage to other buying venues than there was in the last study done two years ago. The figures come from the fiscal years ending June 30, 2003 and June 30, 2005. The population figures used for Carbon County was 19,205 and for Emery County was 10,492 for a total of 29,697.

Because of lower than state average income levels, sales figures for the two counties were adjusted down in the equation to 82 percent of the state average.

"The formula and some of the information in the entire process are not perfect," states Carbon County economic development director Delynn Fielding. "But even with those imperfections it gives us a good tool to work with."

One example of an area in the two counties that have increased in leakage over the past two years is building materials and garden supplies (with outside the area expenditures of $6,652,444 in 2003 as opposed to $7,417,738 in 2005).

However in most areas the counties have improved with much more money staying within the county boundaries when it is spent. For instance in 2003, total general merchandise sales in the area amounted to $18,386,210. In 2005 that figure is much higher with $28,198,487 being spent. In this category when the two counties are split apart, Carbon picks up the deficit from Emery. Emery has a negative flow of $9,654,955 in general merchandise sales while Carbon's total for 2005 was $37,853,442. Much of the deficit in Emery comes from people shopping at stores in Carbon.

But while many of the categories have improved, many are still in deep deficit numbers meaning that money is flowing out of the community, which would seem to mean that some businesses in Carbon are not doing so well.

However, recently the economic development agencies from the county have combined to buy a web based software program to combine information on business performance in Carbon.

The software was purchased initially to help new businesses get the services they need from governmental, quasi-governmental and private agencies. However to create a database for the software a survey has been going on among existing businesses to see how successful their year has been so far. At press time the survey had only questioned businesses within the Price City limits, and was beginning to be completed by those in the county as well.

While most of the information on the survey had to do with things like names of business, addresses and number of employees, it also requested information on how good business has been in the last year.

Of the 537 businesses listed only 61 said that their business is down this year from last. On the other hand, 260 of them say that their business is improving. In the two other categories, 146 said their business remains basically the same as last year and five reported that their ventures were too new to report.

Employment and employment advertising is also another sign of how well an areas economy is going. Not only has employment advertising been up in the Sun Advocate and the Emery County Progress since last summer, but the number of jobs going begging to be filled stands at a fairly high number for this time of year at Utah Workforce Services. On Tuesday there were 106 jobs in Carbon County that need to be filled and 26 in Emery. The jobs listed include entry level jobs through highly skilled positions.


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