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Commercial Growth Doesn’t Pay Off for Oconee

Photo Credit: Lee Becker

Epps Bridge Centre, the new shopping center in Oconee County.

Oconee County has experienced only modest growth in the revenue it receives from sales tax in the last decade and a half, even with significant expansion of its commercial inventory, changes in the county’s alcohol laws and the opening of new restaurants.

The growth in sales tax revenue in Oconee County, in fact, is not so different from the growth experienced by Athens-Clarke County, which has lost some retail outlets to Oconee County and lost its exclusivity in selling alcohol in restaurants.

The growth in sales tax revenue in Oconee County also is similar to the growth in neighboring Barrow County.

Oconee County did see a year of especially strong growth in sales tax revenue in 2014, following the opening of Epps Bridge Centre, but that increase followed a year of nearly zero growth and was mirrored by strong growth in Athens-Clarke County and Barrow County.

The rate of growth Oconee County experienced from 2013 to 2014, when Epps Bridge Centre opened, was not sustained the following year.

The data suggest that at least some of the sales in new outlets in Oconee County have come at the expense of existing stores in the county and that Oconee County’s fortunes are tightly linked to those of the surrounding counties.

That conclusion is an important one as county leadership invests taxpayer dollars building infrastructure in an effort to lure even more retail outlets to the county.

For more, visit Oconee County Observations.