After several years of flat lining sales, small signs of increased consumer demand are breaking through in the local economic winter.
Rockdale County Tax Commissioner Dan Ray recently released figures that he says are positive indicators.
In the last year, the number of car titles processed picked up 18 percent over 2010, even though the population has remained level.
“Car sales are a leading economic indicator and are a good omen for the future if is sustained, which I believe it will be,” said Ray.
The first week of 2012 also saw a jump of about 30 percent in titles processed compared to the first week last year.
“Car title work growth is an excellent sign for the economy,” said Ray.
“There is a great amount of pent-up car demand because people have been delaying the purchase of a new car the past several years due to the poor economy. For whatever reason, I believe we are starting to see people go ahead and replace their aging automobiles.”
However, the signs vary from county to county.
In Newton County, car titles picked up a more modest 6 percent over 2010 with the population remaining about level. The number of titles processed in 2011 went back up to 2008 levels, after it had fallen 12 percent in 2009.
In Henry County, car titles picked up about 2.7 percent in 2011 – a better sign than when it dropped about 6.5 percent in 2008. However, in Henry County’s case, the population continued to grow, even during the recession, by about 10 percent from 2007 to 2010, according to U.S. Census estimates.
Car dealers on the ground see the numbers in a slightly different way.
Mike Burdette, the owner of Mike’s Kar Shop Inc. on Iris Drive, said he’s seen sales go up by a little, but not anything out of the seasonal norm.
“The past couple years you couldn’t get any worse, so you had to get better,” said Burdette, who’s been in the car sales business for 28 years.
“Coming back around to just being normal, it seems great,” he said philosophically. “We’ve gone through such an extended period of it being bad, everyone’s like, it’s great.”
Tim Cartledge, general manager of Ginn Motors, echoed that observation. “We’ve personally not seen that… It’s flat. It hasn’t gone down.” The sales have been flat for the last two and a half years, he said. Within the year, spring is typically the season sales pick up.
In Rockdale, Ray also points to the higher percentage of tax collections and the lower number of liens that the county has had to place on properties for unpaid taxes.
The Rockdale County Tax Commissioner’s office saw collections (within the year of the tax bill issued) of 95 percent in 2011 – the best rate it’s seen in 13 years.
The percentage of properties that had tax liens dropped from a 10 year high of 10 percent in 2009 to about 5.7 percent in 2011.
Newton County’s tax collections also picked up significantly in 2011 to 90 percent. It was about 84 percent in 2010. The last time it reached 90 percent collection within the tax year was 2005.
The governor’s office reported mixed revenue results for December 2011 but did report that net sales and use taxes picked up about 4.2 percent over last December.
For more information or to see the reports, to www.rockdalenews.com