Economy has mixed news

Published 2:10 pm Wednesday, March 4, 2009

Bainbridge leaders have seen some signs the city is weathering a slumping global economy, although unemployment continues to rise.

Bainbridge’s municipal government received a clean bill of financial health from its auditors at Tuesday night’s City Council meeting, although the report bore mixed news.

The percentage of the unemployed workforce living in Bainbridge has rose from 5.7 a year ago to 8 percent at present. Decatur County’s unemployment rate stands at 10.3 percent, and Georgia’s at 8.6 percent.

Despite the loss in jobs, the business climate in Bainbridge is still steady, considering the national trend, Hobby said.

While the city’s share of sales tax between October 2007-2008 totaled $4.1 million, about equal to the previous year, since last October the city’s sales tax collections are down by about 6 percent, Hobby said.

“The rate of decline has slowed some,” he said. “They were down by about 8 percent a few months ago.”

One good sign was the auditors’ finding that the city’s central business district—roughly its downtown area—is 89 percent occupied.

Franchise taxes, money the city receives as a portion of the total amount local customers pay to companies like Mediacom and AT&T, are also holding steady, accounting for about $864,000 in revenue last year, up by about $63,000.

Revenue from the city’s hotel/motel taxes increased from about $113,000 to $117,000, suggesting that people continued to visit Bainbridge during most of 2008.

Hobby said local government leaders are taking some steps to restore the local economy back to good health. Bainbridge has invested in upgrading the Commodore Decatur Industrial Park and city leaders are supporting the idea of constructing a new speculative building at the industrial park off U.S. 27 North, he said.