POPLAR BLUFF, Mo. -- Not only is Butler County at a crossroads of state and federal highways, it is, according to a recently-finished study, at a crossroads of opportunity.
That's the name of the retail study which surveyed the retail, manufacturing, health care, recreation and education statistics of Butler County and the eight-county trade area. The eight counties include Butler, Reynolds, Wayne, Stoddard, Carter, Ripley, and Dunklin in Missouri and Clay County, Ark.
The 23-page report was done by Landside Resources, Inc. of St. Louis at a cost of $6,000. The Chamber of Commerce, and government of Poplar Bluff and Butler County divided the cost. It took about six months to compile, and uses 1997 figures.
"The last one we had done was in 1994-95 and it used 1992 figures," Dust said.
The figures are outdated, Dust acknowledged, but paired with other information the chamber uses for economic development, he said it is an effective tool for attracting business to the area.
So far, Dust said, between 25 and 30 copies of the report have been sent to businesses, which have requested them.
Center of commerce
According to the report, Butler County and Poplar Bluff are the center of an eight-county trade area that has 161,178 people living in 5,195 households. The trade area does an estimated $1.4 billion in total retail sales, and Butler County is responsible for $509 million -- or 36 percent -- of that.
There are an estimated 71,000 jobs in the eight-county trade area; 32 percent of them are in Butler County. Employment in Butler County accounts for more than $30 million in wages for residents living outside Butler County. Between 1990 and 1998, non-farm employment grew 19 percent in the trade area, and 26 percent in Butler County.
Butler County retailers lead in market shares in sporting goods and music sales, clothing and accessories, and miscellaneous retailing.
Despite an obvious lack of shopping opportunities and empty storefronts throughout Poplar Bluff, retail sales have increased from slightly more than $300 million in 1992 to a projected $500 million in 2000.
"The figures are based on sales tax receipts," Dust explained, "and cars sales are included in that." The market share for auto and auto part sales is only 36 percent in the trade area, but their sale brings in more tax receipts.
The report predicts that the population of the trade area will grow from 161,178 in 2001 to 162,997 by 2006, with Butler County accounting for 38 percent of that growth. The number of households is expected to increase by 1,154 during that time; of this increase, 28 percent are expected to be in Butler County. The median age population is expected to increase from 38 to 43 by the year 2012.
Median household income in Butler County is 20 percent greater than the median income of the remaining trade area counties; average household income is 25 percent greater.
Butler County ranks in the middle of sales on a regional basis. Leading in sales is Springfield with 1997 figures of $3,171,783, followed by Cape Girardeau with $959,463; Jonesboro, Ark., $854,297; Jefferson City, $746,052; Branson, $442,588; Farmington, $440,101; Poplar Bluff, $425,647; Rolla, $375,771; Sikeston, $355,103; West Plains, $351,722; Paragould, Ark., $2263,241 and Pocahontas, Ark., $96,057.
"Butler County clearly stands out as an excellent retail performer when compared with other regional trading centers and also state and national averages," the report states. "While income levels are lower than other areas and poverty levels are somewhat higher than other areas, Butler County compares well with the other trading centers when its rural character and distance from major urban centers are taken into consideration."