Local businesses are part of economic uptick

Some in Minot might have a hard time putting two and two together when it comes to the local and regional economy.

On one hand the news is good. Taxable sales and purchases were up just over 6% in both Minot and Ward County during the first quarter of 2019, according to the North Dakota Tax Commission. Taxable sales of $233 million in Ward County compare to $219.5 million for the same quarter in 2018.

On the other hand is what residents survey around town. Major retailers have closed, leaving large retail spaces empty. There are plenty of vacancies in shopping centers and strip malls. Entire projects on the books a few years ago are stuck in their tracks.

Yet somehow taxable sales and purchases are up despite the optics of retail in decline and despite a population that has dropped since the height of the oil boom.

There are any number of reasons this could be so. It might be global issues such as a strong national economy, low unemployment and high consumer confidence. It could be regional influences, such as record high oil production in an environment in which technology has advanced at an astounding pace in recent years. That technology, machinery, require parts and service and equipment – perhaps that is from where the increase comes. After all, the greatest growth was in and around oil country. For example, Burke County was up 79.9%, from $4.35 million to $7.4 million, and Mountrail County saw a 41% increase, from $44 million to $62 million, to name just two.

More than likely, it is a combination of factors.

Minot Daily News would like to believe that it is also because local businesses are engaging in smart competition with online retailers, which are often cited as the source of hands-on retail sales.

It’s the ease and simplicity of online shopping that makes it so appealing. Small businesses today are savvy in finding ways to compete, such as enhanced websites, online sales, purchase pickup – and by marketing and advertising their local ties, longevity and local products. Savvy business operators recognize that shifting values and habits mean that some are drawn to convenient online shopping while others are attracted to the local, the unique, the authentic.

Many local merchants offer that distinct merchandise.

MDN encourages business operators to continue evolving and innovating, and maybe the next time the economy ticks up they can look in the mirror proudly knowing that the cumulative efforts of the business community are the obvious cause.