MCALLEN, RGV – The Rio Grande Valley had a good year for sales tax revenue collections, with all the major communities showing increases on the numbers posted a year ago. 

Matt Ruszczak, executive director of the Rio South Texas Economic Council, explained that the end-of-year report issued by the Texas Comptroller’s Office shows sales tax revenue numbers from November 2017 to October 2018.

“Year-end reports are always exciting. This year, some of our communities were up slightly, some were up significantly, but every community was up. This is a good direction to be headed into,” Ruszczak said.

Ruszczak pointed out that every single community that was reported in Cameron and Hidalgo counties was up for the year. 

“Cameron County was up 6.11 percent, a very respectable performance. It was up around the six percent range last year. They are continuing on a positive trend. Hidalgo County was up 8.87 percent, very strong growth compared to last year. Hidalgo was relatively flat last year. So, this is definitely a strong rebound.”

Looking at the larger communities in Cameron County, Ruszczak said South Padre Island was up 4.85 percent, San Benito was up 1.65 percent, Port Isabel was up 6.22 percent, Harlingen was up 5.35 percent, and Brownsville was up 6.78 percent. 

“This is very positive. Cameron County can feel very good about its performance,” Ruszczak said.

Looking at the larger communities in Hidalgo County, Ruszczak said Weslaco was up 7.13 percent, Mission was up 6.58 percent, Edinburg was up 8.88 percent, Pharr was up 11.09 percent, McAllen was up 9.45 percent, and Mercedes was up 2.09 percent.

“Hidalgo County saw very strong growth,” Ruszczak said.

Combined the sales tax revenue figures for Cameron and Hidalgo counties, for the Nov. 2017 to Oct. 2018 period was up 7.96 percent. “This is in line with the average for the state of Texas, which was 8.12 percent.”

Looking at other border counties, Ruszczak said Maverick County was up 6.88 percent, Val Verde County was up 3.40 percent, El Paso County was up 5.38 percent, and Webb County was up 4.60 percent.

“So, if you look at the Texas-Mexico border, Hidalgo County was the top performer, and Cameron County was third. We can make the argument that we are the strongest growing region on the border,” Ruszczak said.

An interesting note about the year-end sales tax revenue figures for Texas, Ruszczak said, was that in percentage terms, rural areas did well. 

“We outperformed all the major communities. San Antonio was up 6.48 percent, Houston was up 7.58 percent, Austin was up 7.28 percent, Dallas was up 3.65 percent,  and Fort Worth was up 6.30 percent,” Ruszczak reported.

“Obviously, their volumes are much larger but if we look at trend lines and percentage growth, we compare favorably with our neighbors on the border and the major metropolitan areas in the state. That is a good sign for our economy.”

It was put to Ruszczak that the Valley’s numbers are even more impressive, given the perception in the national media it has to fight about being a dangerous place to live and work. Ruszczak responded:

“Many factors influence these numbers. There are always challenges out there. Our local economy continues to be very robust, the local consumer continues spending and that drives in part of these numbers. Our relationship with our neighbors to the south continues to be very positive. Despite what might be discussed on national TV we (the Valley and Mexico) continue to work together and we continue to do business together. The Mexican consumer continues to be a very positive and important factor for our region and helps to bolster our numbers.”

Ruszczak concluded his analysis with this observation: “Last year was very challenging, this year looks very positive. Hopefully we have turned a corner. 

“We are strengthening our relationship with Mexico, commerce continues to flow in both directions. The local consumer and our neighbors to the south have money in their pockets and they continue to spend it in our region.

“So, overall, it was a strong year. We finished it particularly strongly, the last few months of reports were very positive.”

Editor’s Note: The main image accompanying the above story shows the Rio Grande Valley Premium Outlets in Mercedes, Texas.