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Dev. Auth. reports strong first quarter for Dawson
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The Development Authority of Dawson County (DADC) released information last week that points to a very strong local economy during the first quarter of 2017. The data included sales tax revenue information and unemployment figures.

The unemployment rate for March was 4 percent.

"This is the lowest level since before the recession started back in 2007," said Charlie Auvermann, executive director of the development authority. "Unemployment has continued to go down every month since the beginning of 2017."

Auvermann pointed to the strong need for workers in both the retail and construction sectors as the main drivers pushing down unemployment.

"With all of the new businesses opening in Dawson County and both commercial and residential construction returning, the number of job openings has exploded," Auvermann said. "There is work available for those that are seeking jobs locally."

Dawson County has been recognized by many residents in the northern Ga. 400 corridor as their key shopping destination. A review by the authority suggested that residents from Hall, Forsyth, Lumpkin, Pickens and Cherokee counties are frequenting the new stores and restaurants that have opened in the county.

The result is an increase in sales tax revenue paid to the county, the school system and the city, Auvermann said.

"Basic sales tax revenue , LOST and SPLOST, is up almost 9 percent for the first quarter of 2017," Auvermann said. "Typically, the first quarter of every year is our slowest time because it is right after the holidays but these numbers suggest we are a very vibrant economy."

LOST stands for Local Option Sales Tax and SPLOST stands for Special Purpose Local Option Sales Tax. These are two key revenue generating methods for the county.

A portion of these taxes are provided to the City of Dawsonville, and the school system collects a sales tax through the ELOST, or the Educational Local Option Sales Tax system. These are one cent sales taxes added at the time of purchase.

The authority has conducted studies in the past which point to the fact that most of the SPLOST and ELOST taxes that are collected are paid for by shoppers that do not live in Dawson County, according to Auvermann. At the same time, all the new stores mean that local citizens no longer must drive to Hall and Forsyth Counties to buy items, ensuring their taxes remain local.

March LOST/SPLOST collections were up 8.35 percent over the same time in 2016. The combined collection was $1.14 million in March, the highest since 2009 and the second highest in the last decade.

February saw an increase of 8.4 percent and January was 9.47 percent over last year.
The total LOST/SPLOST tax collections for the first three months of 2017 were just over $3.05 million. The City of Dawsonville received 15 percent of the SPLOST portion of the taxes collected. The school ELOST collections are reported separately thus not included in these figures.

The March unemployment level at 4 percent is the lowest the authority has recorded since December 2007. The lowest unemployment level Dawson County has recorded in modern times was 1.9 percent in December 1996. The highest level of unemployment was at the height of the recession when it reached 11.4 percent in February 2010.

Dawson County stands up very well compared to its much larger neighbors. In March 2017 Forsyth County unemployment was at 3.8 percent while Hall County was tied with Dawson at 4 percent.

"These LOST and SPLOST increases are important for our county," Auvermann said. "The LOST funds help pay county salaries, keep the lights on and pay for a host of services provided to our citizens. The SPLOST funds help build roads, bridges and new buildings.These increases positively impact every Sherriff's deputy, emergency responder and librarian, not to mention every child playing in our excellent park system."

According to the development authority, continued strong economic performance should be expected in the coming months as more stores and businesses open in Dawson County.