New reports show growth in Baton Rouge, state economies

Thursday, December 27, 2012 - 10:09pm

Local business leaders got a pair of Christmas presents Thursday: two new reports that show both the local and state economies are thriving.

October 2012 sales tax data from East Baton Rouge Parish show a six percent increase in spending parish-wide. Excluding auto sales, which are generally so volatile as to be excluded from economic analysis, the parish collected $12,954,775 in taxes during the month.

That increase in tax revenue mirrors the year-long trend.

While the nation slowly recovers from the recession, Louisiana is speeding toward a recovery. According to Louisiana Economic Development, the rate of job creation here is 30 percent faster than the rest of the South, and 50 percent faster than the country as a whole.

"That job number over the last year, 40,100 jobs, really a terrific number," said LED Secretary Stephen Moret. "That's actually our long-term, almost exactly our long-term growth target, which is 40,000 net new jobs per year."

"When Governor Jindal took office, almost the same time the national recession started, January 2008, there's only six states in the country that actually have more jobs today than they had in January 2008. We're one of those six.

"It's a very good year from that perspective. We'd certainly like to see the U.S. growing at a faster rate than it's been growing, because that would help Louisiana, as well."

Moret said tax cuts enacted in the last few years have made Louisiana a more attractive place for companies to move and expand.

"Earlier this year, the Tax Foundation, a non-partisan, national foundation in Washington DC, came out with its latest rankings," he said. "It actually showed that Louisiana today has the second lowest business tax burden for a new firm in the country of any state, including both state and local taxes. On average, second-lowest in the country; tenth-lowest in the country for mature firms. So we've gone from being a very uncompetitive state from a business tax burden perspective, to being one of the most competitive states in the country."

Louisiana's unemployment rate is 5.8 percent, whereas the national rate is 7.8 percent. Moret credits the difference to the types of companies that have traditionally called Louisiana home.

"We have less durable goods manufacturing, less financial services industry than most other states," he said. "Those were two of the industry sectors that were most heavily hit during the downturn."

Site Selection magazine called Baton Rouge the best city of its size for creation and expansion of corporate facilities. But the numbers have been good for businesses that are already here.

The sales tax receipts mean shoppers spent $647 million in East Baton Rouge Parish in October, bringing the running total to $6.57 billion for the year.

Most of the month's gains came from stores outside the city of Baton Rouge.

Tax collections inside the city's limits increased 2.95 percent, while collections from the rest of the parish increased 9.77 percent.

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