While economic indicators have increased notably throughout the country in recent years, Oklahoma, due in part to a slow down in the energy sector, has lagged behind when it comes to growth. That is, until now. While a state-wide recession persisted throughout much of 2016 and 2017, the rebound, while slow to start, now at least appears to be in full-swing.
Key economic indicators are starting to show the robust economic growth most of Southern Oklahoma and the rest of the state have been pining for since the drop in energy prices in 2015. And it hasn’t taken long for the rest of the state’s economy to catch up.
Recent returns in sales tax revenue have indicated that consumers are ready and willing to spend their hard-earned money, what’s more, those same indicators show that a large portion of that money is now being spent locally, or at least via options that contribute to local sales tax collections.
“Sales tax revenues were up quite a bit, actually, it was actually the highest sales tax check we’ve have received,” Ken Campbell, director of finance for the city of Ardmore, said. “But you don’t know, if you get a one-time thing, you can’t get too happy about it because it could be that someone was waiting to pay their taxes due to some agreement so they pay it all at once, it could be as simple as that, but we don’t know.”
Campbell said the one-time payments happen occasionally and appear on paper to be significant spikes, though he cautions not to read too much into the one-time events.
“We will probably receive our next sales tax check in the next week, and we hope it continues on from last month,” Campbell said. “But like I told them, one month is not something we can rely on, it could be something quirky.”
Despite the potential for an anomaly,  Campbell said a six-figure increase in 18-19 YTD revenues for July, puts the city in a strong position moving forward and builds off the strong finish of the 17-18 budget cycle that ended in June. Sales tax revenues in 17-18 were consistent with previous YTD numbers up until December 2016 before making steady improvements to finish off the 17-8 cycle, with May and June nearing or surpassing recent high water marks for returns.
“Overall, revenue has gone up, sales taxes were up the highest they’ve ever been and use taxes have been up for several months,” Campbell said.
While nearly every consumer index has shown positive movements in recent month, at least some of the increase in revenue may be linked to rising inflation. According to the usinflationcalculator.com, inflation rates are currently at a six-year high, leading to increases in the price of some goods ranging from 1.4 percent to 24.3 percent. Overall, the inflation rate increased by about .3 percent since May and .8 percent in 2018 alone.
“I think the consumers have been comfortable buying products for a while now,” Keith Nance, Nance Home Furnishing, said. “We have a lot of new houses being built that has driven a lot of our sales. But the biggest problem we have today is that our prices are skyrocketing.
Nance said the increase in prices has yet to slow the demand from consumers.
“Some items that cost $339 dollars a year ago, today are at over $400, that’s a pretty big price increase. If you plan on buying something, buy it now, go ahead and buy it. We aren’t going to have much change in the products being offered, but the prices are going up.”
Nance said the rate of increase has prompted the need for a new storage facility, currently under construction, to stock up on inventory.
“As a business, you have to buy right,” Nance said. “Just like the consumers, as a dealer, we have to buy at the opportune time otherwise our prices would end up being a little too high. We have to be competitive with the larger box stores and the internet. Most 99 percent of the time we can sell appliances to anyone cheaper than they can get it off the internet.”
Despite the increases in prices, Nance remains optimistic about the current state of the economy in Southern Oklahoma.
“Sales are up across the board, everything across the board has been up,” Nance said. “So far, 2018 is on track to probably being the biggest retail year we’ve had in 70 years.”
Mita Bates, president of the Ardmore Tourism Authority, said the agenicies’ hotel tax revenues continue to see noticeable increases, as well.
“I think we can attribute the increase in growth to several sectors,” Bates said. “We’ve added new retail options, we’ve added new restaurants and we’ve seen extremely strong activities in the hotel sector, and that contributes a significant amount of sales tax revenue.”
Bates also attributed some of the increase to recent sweeping tax cuts passed by Congress and the rebound in energy prices.
“We are beginning to see people spend that money, and we are seeing it being put back into the economy,” Bates said. “With the rebound in the energy industry in Oklahoma,  I think there is a greater confidence in the economy as a whole.”
While most areas of the economy are currently surpassing pre-Great Recession numbers, a glaring area continues to fall well short of the growth seen in other areas.
“Wages are lagging behind,” Bates said. “While everyone feels better about the economy, the impact of these tax cuts won’t be known for some time.”
Bates said that specific events like the Harley-Davidson Owner’s Group Rally, Non Pro and Open Cutting event and various summer sports tournaments held at Ardmore’s Regional Park also produce noticeable jumps in tax revenue.
“The softball and baseball tournaments are huge,” Bates said. “These are huge multi-state events that we can use for marketing.”