Amarillo, TX –Amarillo continues to enjoy a strong financial position among Texas and U.S. cities – a position attributed to several factors outlined by City Manager Jarrett Atkinson during Tuesday’s meeting of the Amarillo City Commission. Among those factors was Amarillo’s position as a regional retail hub, not only serving neighboring Panhandle cities, but parts of surrounding states and cities extending to the south, as well.
That strong, regional retail activity has helped boost the City’s sales tax collection, which boasted back-to-back record years with collections at $48,016,592 in 2012, up from $45,619,081 in 2011. Plus, figures released Wednesday by the state comptroller’s office show Amarillo’s sales tax collections are up 7.77 percent, year-to-date.
Another factor contributing to Amarillo’s viable economy is a low unemployment rate of 4.3 percent as of November. That puts Amarillo well below the state’s rate of 6.2 percent, and the national rate of 7.8%. Last year also marked significant local job growth, a trend Atkinson expects to continue this year.
“I don’t know that you’ll find another city in Texas with numbers like ours,” Atkinson says. “We have enviable financial and economic stability.”
In his report, Atkinson went on to note that the City of Amarillo’s total ad valorem rate of .32009 cents is the lowest amongst 19 peer cities. Plus, Amarillo has a Standard & Poor 1AAA rating for General Obligation Debt and a 1AAA rating for Water & Sewer Debt. Amarillo is one of only 28 Cities in the United States with both ratings and one of only five cities in Texas with both.
According to the report submitted by S&P Ratings Direct in November 2012, “The rating reflects the city’s regional retail, medical and service center; stable and diversifying economic base, steady property tax base growth; consistently strong financial performance and position; moderate overall debt burden; and adequate income levels, offset, in part, by a lower cost of living and low tax rate.”
In addition to having a diversified local and regional employment base, Amarillo is recognized as a regional educational center. It is home to Amarillo College, West Texas A&M University, Wayland Baptist University, a Texas A&M Experiment Station, USDA’s Agricultural Research Service, Texas A&M Veterinary Diagnostic Laboratory and the Texas Tech University Engineering Master’s Degree Program.
Amarillo also serves as a regional medical center. BSA Hospital, Northwest Texas Healthcare System, Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center and Texas Tech University School of Pharmacy not only provide quality healthcare to the region, but are also key employers.
Atkinson’s presentation also touted Amarillo’s quality of life. Recent recognitions where Amarillo received high marks include:
· 17th Best Performing U.S. Small City out of 179 metro areas (Milken Survey)
· #134 out of 366 MSA’s in the Policom Survey
· Amarillo Residential Real Estate market –7th Spot on the Top 10 “Markets to Watch”
· Recipient of Bill & Melinda Gates – Partners for Postsecondary Success Grant
During the report, Mayor Paul Harpole attributed the forward thought of the community, dating back to 1989, when a commitment was made to economic development. He said that’s a commitment that the community has stood by to this day.
Commissioner Jim Simms also attributed the strong economic numbers to the City’s staff, particularly Assistant City Manager Dean Frigo who oversees the City’s finances.
“He’s an absolute genius in municipal finance,” Simms says. “It’s not the five of us that come and go here, it’s the staff that makes this happens. The numbers prove themselves and I want to give credit where credit is due.”