Friday, January 14, 2011

Pace of Ketchum’s economic growth quickens

November local-option tax boost doubles that of October

Express Staff Writer

November dropped not only showers of white but also showers of green onto the northern Wood River Valley.

Ketchum businesses filled their registers with 22 percent more dollars in November than the same month of the previous year, a rate of improvement unmatched by any month in the past five years. The average month during the past five years actually resulted in 7 percent less activity than the previous year.

However, Ketchum businesses have been on an unprecedented streak since July, the first month to show any growth since the recession hit in 2008. The town's businesses made 1 percent more money in July than they did in July 2009. That grew to a 9 percent increase in August and September, and an 11 percent increase in October. November doubled October's rate of improvement.

This monthly quantifying of Ketchum's economy is done by analyzing local-option tax collections. November's collections have just been reported. LOT—commonly called the "tourist tax"—is charged monthly and applies to the resort town's main industries, making it a simple gauge for reading the economy. Ketchum charges a 2 percent sales tax on lodging and by-the-glass liquor sales, and a 1 percent tax on retail sales and building materials.

The city collected $88,500 in LOT for November, compared to $72,500 a year prior.

According to LOT collections, the city's economy hit rock bottom in March 2009, when businesses made a third less than they did in March 2008. Almost every month since then has steadily headed in the upward direction.

Ketchum's 2010 LOT totals $1.3 million through November, matching 2009. However, 2009 was not a prosperous year and nowhere near the norm. The normal year—calculated by using LOT back to 1998 and inflating amounts to match the dollar's current value—brought in $1.9 million from January through November. The total for 2010 is $600,000 short, representing a 31 percent shortfall.

Ketchum tallies its LOT collections in five sectors: retail, hotel rooms, short-term condominium rentals, liquor-by-the-glass sales and building-material sales. Retail, hotels and condos had an impressive month in November, bringing in 31 to 37 percent more dollars than a year ago. Liquor sales were flat and building-material sales were down by nearly 7 percent.

Trevon Milliard:

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