MCALLEN, RGV – Communities in the Rio Grande Valley are doing very well for sales tax revenues, as compared to other parts of the Texas-Mexico border and the state as a whole.

The numbers are collated each month by the Texas Comptroller’s Office. The September report, which analyses sales tax revenues for July, show Hidalgo County up 10.21 percent, as compared to the same month a year ago, and Cameron County up 9.95 percent over July 2017.

Matt Ruszczak

Year to date, with nine months of the reporting period in, Cameron County is up 6.16 percent, while Hidalgo County is up 6.48 percent. 

“The numbers are really, really, good,” said Matt Ruszczak, executive director of Rio South Texas Economic Council.

Ruszczak crunches the numbers each month, with his analysis appearing regularly in the Rio Grande Guardian, RGV Public Radio 88 FM, and KURV News Talk 710.

In his review of Cameron County, Ruszczak said: 

“If you do a comparison between July 2017 and July 2018, Cameron County as a whole is up 9.55 percent, so almost double-digit growth. South Padre Island was up 5.4 percent, Port Isabel was up 15.18 percent, and, the big mover, in the month of July in Cameron County was Brownsville, up 19.14 percent. A very strong rebound from the almost four percent dip Brownsville saw in June.”

In his review of Hidalgo County, Ruszczak said: 

“Not to be outdone, Hidalgo County performed even better, they broke double digit mark, growing 10.21 percent. There, the growth was spread around several communities. Weslaco was up 13.71 percent, Pharr was up 12.44 percent, Edinburg was up 9.92 percent, Mission was up 7.70 percent. We had a very good, positive, number out of Mercedes, up 5.58 percent, and McAllen was almost up by double digits, 9.49 percent growth.”

Looking at Cameron and Hidalgo counties together and how they compared with other border communities, Ruszczak said:

“We have very good numbers across the board. If you combine Cameron and Hidalgo counties, the region was up 9.98 percent. A very strong performance. When you compare it to the state, the state as a whole was up 8.95 percent, so, we outgrew the state in the month of July. We also compare favorably to our border communities. Webb County was up 3.07 percent, Eagle Pass was up 2.423 percent, Del Rio was up 3.88 percent, and El Paso was up 9.76 percent. So, we are the strongest growing region on the border.”

Ruszczak said there were only two negatives in the Valley. “San Benito was down very slightly, down 1.56 percent, and Harlingen, down extremely slightly, 0.35 percent. So, essentially flat. Those are the only two red numbers on my entire sheet.”

Ruszczak added the sales tax revenue numbers are all the more impressive because the Peso was down in July compared to July 2017. The weaker the value of the Peso, the less Mexican shoppers are inclined to visit the Valley to buy merchandise.

“We saw positive growth in Mercedes, even though the Peso was weaker this year compared to last year. Last July it was 17.4 to 18.3. This year we are 18.5 to 19.3. In the past we have seen, when the Peso is down our sales tax numbers dwindle a little bit, particularly the communities that are very focused on Mexican shoppers, Mercedes, with its outlet mall, being the stand out there.”

Asked why the economy is improving, Ruszczak said it made sense to look at the price of oil.

“Overall, there are very strong economic conditions and definitely the oil and gas situation is helpful here. If you compare the West Texas Intermediate Price Level, this July to July 2017, the difference is really big. In 2017 we were hovering between 44 and 50 dollars a barrel. Now, we are talking 68 to 74 dollars a barrel, in July. That is a huge jump that will have an economic impact across the entire economy and help drive some of these numbers.”

Asked for wrap-up remarks, Ruszczak said:

“All in all, a very positive report. It speaks to the robustness of the local economy, the local consumer. We hope this continues to carry us forward. As the Peso, hopefully, improves in the future, we may get an additional boost there. So, overall, the outlook is quite positive. We compare very well to the rest of the border, we compare very well to the rest of the state. And, on their own, the numbers are very solid.”

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