With only 3.8 percent unemployment in December, Sulphur Springs and Hopkins County face a good news/bad news situation. Economic Development Director Roger Feagley presented his State of the Economy Report to the Sulphur Springs City Council Tuesday Night. He pointed to the employment rate as an indicator of the stability of jobs in the area. Although the numbers are not exact, Feagley said people whose benefits have expired, who are unemployed by choice, or who are not seeking a job are not counted in the employment numbers.
The good news is that people are employed. The bad news is that industries seeking to relocate are looking for available employees. Feagley stated that even though the people of Hopkins County are employed, the fact that surrounding counties have a higher unemployment rate is an aide to attracting industry.
Feagley said the work of the EDC is to create primary employment to produce products for purchase in areas outside of Hopkins County. Pointing out that that brings to the city and county new money to purchase homes, spend in retail and live the American Dream, he said that jobs circulate money as well. For the past 10 years, Hopkins County employment rates have been lower than state, national and even regional competitors. Feagley said people in Hopkins County seek jobs immediately when they do not have one as opposed to waiting.
Even when the economy is down Sulphur Springs offers work that is constant, according to the EDC Director. Feagley noted that manufacturing here is focused on basic needs-centered-jobs such as food. He also noted that locally owned industry with a commitment to local life and the culture of the community creates stability for jobs.
According to numbers available, from 2005 to 2014, the EDC has brought to the city and county $87.7 million in Capital investment, 402 new jobs, and $12.5 million in new payroll. Sales tax received since 2005 is $16.2 million. Property tax has seen $2.2 million added.
Yet, there are also unmeasurable contributions such as the community college campus, water lines to industry that benefits homes along the line, providing more professional jobs, and increasing average salaries. Feagley stated this also is a positive for increased sales tax.
In response to a question from the council, Feagley pointed out that the building at Sulphur Springs High School that has housed the community college campus will be turned over to the local school district in June. June will conclude a 20-year contract between the EDC, PJC, and SSISD.