Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Metro Retailers Drain Rural Area Sales

Newspaper article THE JOURNAL RECORD

Metro Retailers Drain Rural Area Sales

Article excerpt

Oklahoma's metro areas can boast dramatic growth in taxable sales for the first two months of 1997 but perhaps at the expense of rural neighbors.

Gains in the Oklahoma City and Tulsa regions dominated state trends. In the Oklahoma City metro area, taxable sales averaged a 6.1 percent gain and Tulsa metro area sales grew by 7.5 percent.

Statewide totals for January and February, however, averaged just 5.4 percent in growth. "Once you subtract Oklahoma City and Tulsa, it doesn't leave much to go around," said Robert C. Dauffenbach, director of the Center for Economic and Management Research at the University of Oklahoma. And while it may not be the death of Mom and Pop's five and dime, the market is indeed finite. "It's already happened with malls," said Joseph Johnson, director of the University of Central Oklahoma's Center for Urban Economic and Business Analysis. Johnson points to urban retailers, such as those in Oklahoma City's Bricktown, which lure consumers -- and their pocketbooks -- out of rural areas. "It's a little awkward. What's good for Oklahoma City may not be good for Lawton." Metro area numbers mark significant improvement over December's taxable sales. Oklahoma City's totals in December were 1.9 percent lower than the previous year's, and Tulsa's results were 2 percent lower than a year earlier. Though the 6.8 percent gain for both metro areas in January and February is laudable, the growth rate for the counties not included in a metropolitan statistical area was only 3 percent. These regions, on average, are about par with the national rate of inflation -- near the 2.9 percent mark. For Wayne Davis, mayor of McLoud, which experienced a whopping 44.6 increase in taxable sales in February, Main Street in Smallville is alive and well. "We expect to be growing," Davis said. "We've steadily encouraged people to come into McLoud and it's working." McLoud -- about 25 miles east of Oklahoma City -- is gearing up for a $16 million private female correctional facility due to open next year. …

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