Strong showing: Region's sales, personal income in 2005 rise over previous year

Sunday, February 19, 2006

Southeast Missouri's economy appears strong, buoyed by a healthy increase in retail sales last year, more jobs and a rise in personal income.

"By and large, I think our economy right now, especially in Cape Girardeau, looks very, very strong," said Dr. Bruce Domazlicky, a Southeast Missouri State University economist and the director of the Center for Economic and Business Research.

Retail sales grew by nearly 7 percent in the third quarter of last year, said Domazlicky, who keeps tabs on the region's economic indicators.

"For the whole year, we probably had at least a 6 percent increase over the previous year," he said.

All the numbers show "robust spending" in the region, and growing sales reflect a boost in personal income, Domazlicky said.

For the region, personal income stands at more than $22 billion. Two counties recently hit the $1 billion mark: Scott and Butler. Domazlicky estimates that Cape Girardeau County passed the $2 billion mark in 2005, an increase of 1.5 percent based on second-quarter figures.

"Income growth leads to higher retail sales, more revenue for local governments and a generally healthy economy," he said.

Employment growth in the region was up by about half a percent in 2005 compared to 2004, Domazlicky said.

In the third quarter of 2005 -- the latest figures reported by the business center -- Cape Girardeau County had total employment of 36,723 people. Employment in Bollinger County was 5,652; in Scott County, 19,270; and in Perry County, 9,876.

Local increases in home building also showed a healthy economy, Domazlicky said. The number of building permits in the city of Cape Girardeau climbed nearly 50 percent in 2005 over the previous year, he said.

While there has been a slight downturn nationally the last few months in residential construction, Domazlicky doesn't read much into that. "Housing markets are notoriously local in nature," he said.

Similarly, job losses have occurred at the national level in some manufacturing industries such as the auto industry, Domazlicky said, but that downturn hasn't extended to Southeast Missouri manufacturers.

Cape Girardeau County, for example, is home to the sprawling Procter & Gamble paper products plant. "Procter & Gamble manufactures things people need every day," he said.

John Mehner, president of the Cape Girardeau Chamber of Commerce, said the Cape Girardeau area benefits from a diverse economy with everything from retail to service to manufacturing jobs.

The area doesn't depend on a single industry, and its manufacturing for the most part isn't tied to the health of the auto industry. One exception is Dana Corp., which makes heavy-duty parts for automakers.

New restaurants and stores help draw more consumers to the area, Mehner said. "That helps solidify our position as a regional hub."

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