County's economy bullish in last half of 2003
Bruce Alsobrook | News-Telegram Editor

July 3, 2004 -- The economy was definitely bullish in the last half of 2003 in dairy-rich Hopkins County, where all industries saw total revenue growth of almost 7.5 percent.

Even the retail sector, which faltered in the third quarter of the year, roared back with a 5.7 percent gain in the last three months of 2003, according to the latest report from the state comptroller's office.

The "State Sales and Use Tax Analysis Report" issued by the Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts tracks total revenue for all business and industries in the county, as well as the retail trade.

The report for the fourth quarter of 2003 lists a total of 1,069 reporting outlets in the county, down from 1,111 during the same time in 2002. For all industries, gross sales of $247.3 million were recorded during the final months of 2003, up 6 percent from the previous year.

That translates to about $7,100 more revenue per business, per month.

The latest report also shows retail sales in the county during the final three months of the year at $108.4 million. That was a 5.7 percent increase from the $102.56 million in the fourth quarter of 2002.

The report also indicates there were 574 reporting retail outlets in the county at the end of 2003, compared to 592 in the final months of 2002.

The report also noted gross sales for all industries were on the climb in the third quarter of 2003. Total sales in the county for July, August and September were at $174.9 million, up 8.9 percent from the third quarter of 2002.

Retail sales in the same period in 2003 declined slight. Retail revenues were at $82.28 million, down 2.4 percent from the third quarter of 2002.

While the dairy industry is not as healthy in Hopkins County as it once was, the numbers are an indicator of just how important milk production and prices can be to the local economy, as the gains coincide with a rise in the price paid to dairy farmers.

The Class III price, for example, spent the first half of 2003 at or below $10 per hundredweight. But in July, the price began a rapid rise, climbing to a peak of about $14.50 by October and finishing the year at just over $11.50 per hundred pounds of milk.

The first quarter of 2004 promises even bigger numbers. In February, the Class III price began another steep climb that has now hit $20.50, about double the amount seen in the past two years.

Prices are starting to decline, however. The July Class I price announced on June 18 fell $3.18 to $17.95. Nevertheless, the price is still nearly double the June 2003 price of $9.77 and the 2002 price of $10.62.

With about 160 dairies pumping out just under 10 percent of all the milk produced in Texas, the higher prices could be a major boon to the county's economy.

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