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Taxable sales stats show bad news is relative


Posted 7/07/15 (Tue)

By Cecile Krimm and Nicky Ouellet
The latest taxable sales and purchases stats aren’t as bad as they might have been -- in fact, they make statistics from 10 years ago look dreadful.
State Tax Commissioner Ryan Rauschenberger put out first quarter 2015 stats last week, showing a slight increase over the first quarter of 2014.
“With declining oil prices in the first quarter of this year, we expected to see negative economic impact including a decrease in North Dakota’s taxable sales and purchases,” stated Rauschenberger. “An increase of 2.26 percent is a good sign.”  
The news was not so good for towns like Tioga, Wildrose, Lignite and Noonan -- all of which saw declines above 25 percent.
Other area towns, like Crosby, Bowbells and Powers Lake saw declines under 10 percent.
Companies directly linked to the oil and gas boom and it’s  subsequent slowdown have seen the impact on their sales.
James Radke, CFO of Horizon Resources, said sales quantities at the Ray Cenex are down about 8 percent. The Wildrose Cenex, which is further off the beaten path, is down 40 percent.
Despite the downswing in sales, as well a cheaper prices at the pump, the company’s base in agriculture has largely supported its struggling energy division.
“We have a lot more diversity so we’re able to weather the storm a little better,” said Radke.
Wesley Johnson, president of Tioga Machine Shop, estimated his business has dropped close to 50 percent compared to last year.
“Our work really went down the toilet,” he said. “It’s slowed way, way down.”
While Johnson has managed to hold on to all of his employees, many are helping the company float through the slow period by taking vacation days and unpaid time off.
Johnson doesn’t expect business to improve until after the new year.
“We’re just kind of holding our own and seeing what’s going to happen.”
At Tioga’s grocery store, however, it’s business as usual.
“Since opening we’ve been pretty consistent,” said Cheryl Jacobson, assistant store director for Cash Wise. “With all the people leaving from the boom it really hasn’t affected us too much.”
Regardless of how acutely -- or not -- any single business is suffering from the present downturn, the area’s economy continues to operate at a level many times ahead of where it was five years ago and light-years beyond where it was 10 years ago.
A review of first quarter statistics back to 2006 show 2013 as the high water mark for taxable sales and purchases in Crosby, while Tioga enjoyed a two-year peak from 2012-13.
Crosby’s current first quarter taxable sales and purchases of  $5.4 million are only a little more than $1 million off the 2013 high  of $6.5 million -- but it’s still $2.3 million higher than first quarter 2011.
Likewise, Tioga’s first quarter 2014 stat, at $166 million, may be $70 million less than the highs seen in first quarter 2012 and 2013, but it’s $64 million more than was recorded in first quarter 2011.
Statistics for the pre-boom year of 2006, however, show  just how much the area has changed in 10 years.
Crosby recorded just $1.3  million in taxable sales and purchases in the first quarter that year, while Tioga recorded just $7 million. 
That means, whatever the declines this quarter, Crosby’s first quarter taxable sales and purchases are four times greater today, while Tioga’s have increased 23-fold.

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