Uptick: Economist expects continued growth in all Tyler sectors

Published on Saturday, 4 January 2014 21:42 - Written by By Dayna Worchel and Brian Pearson Staff Writers

This year looks to be a strong one for economic growth in oil and gas, higher education, technology, home sales and retail sectors in the city, local economic officials said this past week.

Tom Mullins, president and CEO of the Tyler Economic Development Council, and Waco-based economist Ray Perryman said the city and the surrounding area has seen growth in 2013 in construction, the oil and gas industry, and in health and business services.

“I expect a similar pattern next year, with manufacturing also improving,” said Perryman, who will appear in Tyler on Thursday for the 30th annual Economic Outlook event. “Tyler is a diverse economy that is experiencing modest growth — a pattern that is likely to persist.”

With interest rates ticking up toward the end of 2013 and inventory dropping below double digits for the first time since April 2008, the Tyler area saw record home sales in 2013.

Homes sales eclipsed 2012 sales by November and in December blew past 2007 as the best home-sales year ever in the Tyler area.

Through November, 3,424 homes sold in the Tyler area for the year, easily crushing the total of 3,369 homes sold in all of 2012 and falling just 175 homes shy of a record year.

Greater Tyler Area Association of Realtors officials said home sales for December have not been officially tallied, but there were more than 175 closings last month.

In November, home inventory — a figure that’s how long, based on sales rate for the year, inventory would be burned through with no more homes added to the market, dipped below 10 months for the first time in almost six years, according to figures from The Real Estate Center at Texas A&M.

Inventory skyrocketed – reaching as high as 14.9 months in May 2011, as the recent recession’s teeth bit into the local economy.

Meanwhile, the city’s sales tax collections were up 6 percent in December 2013 compared to December 2012, according to the Texas Comptroller’s office. Sales taxes through October were up 5.3 percent compared to the same period the previous year.

Mullins said Tyler has had a strong year in retail sales.

“Some of that could be because of beer and wine sales, but beyond that, I would say that consumer confidence has been higher and I see it continuing to grow in 2014,” he said.

The Village at Cumberland Park, the new shopping center being center being built at Toll 49 and South Broadway, could bring up to 2,000 more retail jobs to the area, although some of those may be part time, Mullins said.

“Even if they are part time, those jobs still help families and help kids learn to be responsible,” he said.

That 750,000-square-foot center, which will be next to the city’s new hotel and convention center, will begin opening this summer and should be built out in about three years and the jobs will be phased in gradually.

“That hotel and convention center will bring in more tourist and convention dollars,” Mullins said.

He said Tyler has about 20,000 jobs directly tied to the health care industry and another 9,000 indirectly tied to health care. The growth of health care-related jobs in Tyler is expected to increase, partly because of increased Medicaid and Medicare reimbursements tied to the federal Affordable Care Act, Mullins said.

The numbers of people who work in Tyler grew steadily in November 2013, with 97,400 people in the civilian labor force, according to Texas Workforce Commission numbers.

That translates to an employment rate of 93.9 percent in Tyler, according to the Workforce Commission. In November 2012, fewer people in Tyler were working, with 96,400 in the civilian labor force, figures show. The employment rate for Tyler then was 93.6 percent.

The figures are non-seasonally adjusted, which means they factor out certain times of the year when more people are working such as the Christmas season, Workforce Commission spokesman Mark Lavergne said.

Mullins said the oil and gas industry is expected to remain strong in 2014.

“Oil and gas represent about 10 percent to 20 percent of the economy,” he said. “It provides between 10,000 to 12,000 jobs in Tyler.”

Tyler City Manager Mark McDaniel is optimistic as well about the city’s economic growth in 2014. “We expect continued incremental improvement in the local economy in 2014 given the solid trends that have developed for most all sectors the last six months,” he said in a statement.