Grand Island’s economy saw a huge boost in May as it had the best ever net taxable sales of $98,386,000 for that month, according to recent figures from the Nebraska Department of Revenue.
That was a 34.5% increase from May 2020 when the local economy was struggling with the pandemic. The May 2020 net taxable sales for Grand Island totaled $73,149,539.
May is the third straight month in which net taxable sales have been at record highs in Grand Island.
Hastings recorded $36.504 million taxable sales in May, up from $31.648 million in May 2020 (a 15.3% increase). Kearney saw a 22.4% increase from May 2020 ($60.752 million) to May 2021 ($74.330 million.)
Cindy Johnson, president of the Grand Island Chamber of Commerce, said May net taxable sales were the highest since at least 2006, when they began collecting data. Grand Island’s economy first hit $1 billion or more of net taxable sales in 2013.
“While online retail sales likely played some role in this record sales month, it is likely that the general economy re-opening and pent-up demand for products were the primary cause of the increase,” Johnson said.
More than 90% of net taxable sales in Hall County comes from Grand Island. When adding net taxable sales outside of Grand Island, Hall County net taxable sales was at slightly more than $102,000,000.
When throwing out the pandemic-stricken economy of 2020 from the May net taxable sales, May net taxable sales from 2019 through 2016 averaged $86.5 million.
Grand Island’s net taxable sales started out the year with January totaling $77.6 million and February at $78 million. But then in March, some pent-up economic energy emerged from the pandemic-stricken economy with a record $101.127 million in net taxable sales. April had a total of $99.285 million and May’s $98.386 continues the trend.
March 2020 was when the pandemic begun its impact on the Grand Island’s economy. Prior to 2020, Grand Island’s net taxable sales were averaging more than $1 billion annually. Last year, it fell to $992.487 million. If current trends continue through the rest of the year, Grand Island could see its best net taxable sales year ever.
Johnson said Americans stepped up their retail spending, offering a boost to the economic recovery, amid concerns about accelerating inflation. She said households receiving income under the Child Tax Credit Program places retail sales in a good position for July-December.
“Economists believe the economy overall could achieve growth of at least 9% this year and 7% for the year — an acceleration from the 6.4% pace in the first quarter and the fastest growth since 1984,” she said. (The economy contracted 3.5% in 2020, its worst performance in 74 years).
On average, retail and the service industry contribute more than 70% of Grand Island’s net taxable sales.
With the opening up of society that was mostly encouraged to stay put during the pandemic to get the virus under control, revenue from Grand Island’s lodging tax and its food and beverage tax was down as events that draw visitors were either canceled or pared down due to the pandemic.
In May, the lodging tax brought in $92,577, compared to $20,957 in May 2020. In Buffalo County, the lodging tax was $107,137, compared to $34,731 in May 2020. In Adams County, it was $22,099, compared to $6,506 in May 2020.
The pandemic also curtailed people’s ability to enjoy a meal outside of their homes for the most part. Many restaurants were closed for a while and when they reopened they were only allowed a certain number of customers to meet pandemic health requirements. Drive-through and restaurant deliveries have been a popular alternative for dining out.
Now that the restrictions have been lifted, during June, Grand Island’s food and beverage tax revenue was $238,615, compared to June 2020 when it was $172,011. That is a 38.72% increase. For the year, $1.847 million in food and beverage taxes have been collected, compared to $1.638 million in 2020. That is a 12.76% increase.
May was also another good month for motor vehicle sales in Hall County at $16.429 million, compared to $4.236 million in May 2020. That is a 287% increase. Motor vehicle sales were the first economic indicator to show improvement coming out of the pandemic. Strong sales also reflect against the background of the scarcity of new and used cars and the higher prices being paid for motor vehicle transportation because of that scarcity.
Johnson said the net taxable sales figures do not include motor vehicle sales.
“Motor vehicles are almost walking off the vehicle lots as quickly as they arrive,” she said.
Strong motor vehicle sales were also experienced in Buffalo and Adams counties during May. Buffalo County had motor vehicle sales of $13.741 million, compared to $1.543 million in May 2020 (an 795% increase). Adams County recorded motor vehicle sales of $9.207 million in May, compared to $2.443 million in May 2020 (a 276% increase).