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By STEVEN NALLEY
December 2011 saw Starkville‚Äôs highest sales tax revenues for any month on record, pushing revenues for the year as a whole slightly past the annual record set in 2010.
With $5,451,174.03 in revenue, the gain for 2011 as a whole was 2.51 percent versus 2010‚Äôs previous record of $5,317,568.11. It was also a small increase which broke the monthly record; December 2011‚Äôs revenue of $508,192.88 was only 1.80 percent higher than the previous record of $499,231.46 set in 2010.
Since 1999, Starkville‚Äôs annual sales tax revenue has increased every year on record except for 2009 when annual revenue fell .03 percent versus 2008. The gain percentage for 2011 is less than 2010‚Äôs 3.66 percent gain, and the highest gain percentage on record was in 1999 when revenue grew 10.19 percent.
The average monthly sales tax revenue for 2011 was $454,264.50, with seven months outpacing this average. Only two months of 2011 saw decreased revenue compared with 2010, with January down 12.21 percent and June down 1.63 percent. Big gains came in May and November, with May up 10.56 percent and November up 10.12 percent.
Bigger gain percentages came from the city‚Äôs 2 percent restaurant tax revenue, which also set an annual record at $1,487,353.34 in 2011. The total was 7.14 percent higher than that of 2010, and annual totals have increased every year on record dating back to 1999, including 2009.
December 2011‚Äôs restaurant tax revenue of $108,706.95 set no records, but it did mark a 12.67 percent increase over December 2010‚Äôs revenue of $96,485.74. Also higher than December 2010‚Äôs revenue was the total amount by which 2011 revenue outpaced that of 2010: $99,163.48.
Greater Starkville Development Partnership COO Jennifer Gregory said one of several factors in the revenue increases is a strategic advertising plan for the city created by the Starkville Convention and Visitors‚Äô Bureau and the Starkville Main Street Association.
‚ÄúPart of that strategic plan includes capitalizing on large tourism weekends in the community and specifically planning events in the community that promote our great variety of retailers and restaurants,‚ÄĚ Gregory said. ‚ÄúFootball season is always a huge economic boost for Starkville, but we see that even in this past December, post-football season, our retail promotion efforts really paid off. We‚Äôve also heard from several of our Main Street members that this past December was a record year for many of them.‚ÄĚ
However, Gregory said SMSA and CVB could not take all the credit because Starkville retailers are also doing much to help themselves.
‚ÄúSo many of our local retailers and small businesses are actively promoting themselves, even in tough economic times,‚ÄĚ Gregory said. ‚ÄúYou can find many small businesses on Facebook and Twitter ... such as Deep South Pout and the new Sprout. Stores like that are being innovative in how they promote themselves to their customers, especially through social media. By us partnering with these small businesses on Facebook and Twitter, we‚Äôre able to magnify their message, especially to those residing outside our community.‚ÄĚ
Gregory said one such small business was the Book Mart and Cafe, because it is succeeding despite declining trends for bookstores across the country. Book Mart co-manager Barbara Foster said Facebook has proven particularly useful for business.
‚ÄúIt‚Äôs just so easy and fast,‚ÄĚ Foster said. ‚ÄúYou just get on there and put all your specials on it. That‚Äôs a great way to advertise. Of course, I can‚Äôt say enough about the CVB. They have just done a remarkable job on their different events.‚ÄĚ