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MSU Team Helps Quantify Area’s ‘Economic Leakage’

Rachel Carter presented detailed economic figures for the Water Valley trade area at a meeting at the courthouse last Tuesday, Oct. 14. – Photo by Jack Gurner

By Jack Gurner

WATER VALLEY – The average family income in the local trade area is expected to grow faster than the state average.
That is one promising trend predicted by Rachel Carter, an economist with the Mississippi State University Extension Service Center for Government and Community Development.
Carter and several other members of the Center’s staff presented recent figures gleaned from the State Department of Revenue and a number of other sources at a meeting in the Water Valley Courthouse last Tuesday, Oct. 14. A similar meeting had been held the night before at the courthouse in Coffeeville.
Between bites of Mississippi State ice cream, a small group of attendees were informed of economic trends for the area put together with the use of sophisticated Esrey computer software by the center’s staff. But, not all of the trends were as promising as the family income growth.
Carter explained that the Water Valley trade area extends for about five to ten miles from the city and includes about 8,400 people. Retail sales figures for the area are $36.7 million. However, Carter noted that potential sales for the area based on income and other factors is over $80 million, according to the trade area model.
“Obviously you are not reaching you spending potential in your trade area,” said Carter.
She emphasized that the figures don’t necessarily mean that new businesses are needed to fill the gap. “Maybe the businesses in that sector could do some marketing and encourage people to shop here if they provided those goods and services,” she added.
Carter pointed to figures that show that Water Valley is doing well in the food and beverage area. “You are actually pulling in people from  outside the trade area.”
Where Water Valley is experiencing “economic leakage” is in basic electronics and appliances; motor vehicles; some in food and beverage; clothing and accessories; general merchandise; and food service and drinking places. “According to Esrey, you’ve got room for growth,” Carter said, giving an example of $25 million leaving the trade area just in general merchandise.
She said that the money is going to Oxford, Batesville, Grenada and beyond.
Retail areas where money is being brought in include lawn and garden supplies and furniture.
One area that is harder to track is recreation sales because the Department of Revenue says we have none at all, according to Carter. “But, people in the area are spending over $700,000 on tickets to something.”
“They’re spending money on hunting and fishing equipment and docking fees for boats and planes. You’ve got a lot of people who are buying books from Amazon…online ordering. There are a lot of people who are spending money on recreational choices,” she said, including over $200,000 for reading material.
Carter said that she liked to conclude her presentation by asking the community to “think about what is important to us if we are going to make some changes for growth. And, to think about one thing you would like to preserve here in Water Valley and hold on to.”

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