PHARR, RGV – Hidalgo County had a great month for retail sales in August, new statistics from the Texas Comptroller’s Office show. 

The sales tax revenues generated from retail sales across the county were up 11.2 percent in August, compared to the same month last year. The cities of McAllen, Mission, Pharr, Edinburg and Weslaco all did well.

“August was a very strong month for our region. There were some very strong numbers,” said Matt Ruszczak, executive director of Rio South Texas Economic Council.

Every month, Ruszczak crunches the numbers on sales tax revenues. Here is his analysis for August, 2018:

“Comparing August 2018 with August 2017, there are a couple of important drivers for the local economy. No. 1 is the oil price, which drives the Texas economy as a whole. Oil was much stronger in 2018 versus 2017. In 2017 oil was running 46 to 49.6 dollars a barrel. In 2018 we are talking about 65 to 70.3 dollars a barrel. A significant increase,” Ruszczak said.

The other important driver in the Valley economy is the value of the peso against the dollar. The stronger the peso, the more buying power visitors from Mexico have when they cross to shop and dine out.

“The peso, interestingly enough, was weaker in 2018 than 2017. In 2017 the peso was between 17.6 and 18.0 and now in 2018 the peso hovered between 18.6 and 19.2,” Ruszczak explained.

“How does that translate into numbers? In our surrounding communities, if we look to the west, Webb County, which is Laredo, they were actually down 3.72 percent. If we look at Nueces County, which is Corpus Christi, it was up 21.6 percent. The reason for that is Hurricane Harvey visited Texas in August last year and so, obviously, coastal communities were impacted.”

Looking at the numbers for Cameron County, Ruszczak noted:

“Cameron County as a whole was flat for August 2018, compared to August 2017. It was only up 0.65 percent. But, within Cameron County you had some pretty strong performers. The two strongest performers were South Padre Island, up 14.03 percent and Port Isabel up 9.99 percent. That harks back to Hurricane Harvey. Last year, they got a negative impact from the storm potentially tracking their direction. This year they got to recover that.”

There are also a couple of weaker performers in Cameron County. 

“Brownsville was down 1.47 percent and Harlingen was down 1.11 percent. Last year, those two communities performed quite well. This year, there is probably more of a plateauing rather than a decline in the sense of something negative happening,” Ruszczak opined.

Looking that the numbers in Hidalgo, Ruszczak noted:

“Hidalgo County had a very strong month, up 11.2 percent. A fantastic number. The winners were the Edinburg, up 9.85 percent, Mission, up 10.2 percent, Pharr, up 13.8 percent, Weslaco up 12.9 percent, and the largest retail community in the region, McAllen, up 12.73 percent. Those numbers drive Hidalgo County forward.”

If you add Hidalgo and Cameron counties together, for the month of August 2018, the region was up 7.5 percent. 

“For the year to date number, the last ten months, the region as a whole is up 6.48 percent,” Ruszczak said.

“Overall, the outlook is very good. Last year, when we had these conversations, we saw Cameron County as the growing market and Hidalgo County was more of a steady market. The roles have now reversed. Cameron County is more steady and it is Hidalgo County that is driving the growth. But, for the region as a whole, still a very positive outcome.”

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