Petal: Sales tax for January up $16K

By HASKEL BURNS,

The city of Petal started off the year on a good note in terms of sales tax, with the month of January bringing in approximately $205,000 in tax – an increase of about $16,000 from the $189,000 in sales tax from the same time last year.

“We’ve just seen a steady increase consistently over the last nine or ten years,” Mayor Hal Marx said. “It seems like we see a continuous increase year over year.

“I think it’s conducive to having more to offer in Petal, for people to stay in Petal to shop, and we obviously work with the (Petal Area) Chamber of Commerce to promote Shop Petal First. I think people realize that as things move farther out to Highway 98 in Hattiesburg, it makes sense to stay in Petal and shop, rather than try to drive all the way out there. So I think it represents people staying here and spending their money here.”

Valerie Wilson, executive director of the Petal Area Chamber of Commerce, said the sales tax increase can be attributed, in part, to the fact that many residents no longer feel that multiple business and restaurants means competition for each other.

“I think we’re not getting to the point where we have enough options for people to shop, that they would rather stay here and shop our multiple options right here in town – whether boutiques or restaurants – rather than drive across the river,” she said. “Competition is good when it gives people enough choices.

“When they don’t have a choice, they will find some place else, so that’s part of it. We’re reaching that point where we can offer people options.”

Wilson said the Shop Petal First and Keep Your Dollars at Home initiatives also are starting to take hold with Petal residents.

“We’re so proud of that, because as we’ve said before, you don’t go to WalMart and ask them to take an ad out in your high school band program, because they aren’t going to do it,” she said. “We go to our local people; they’re the ones who support us locally, and I think now we’re realizing we have to support them in return.

“It’s wonderful, and I hope it continues. We’re starting a summer Shop Petal First campaign that will be similar to the one we host in November, where we will have a Shop Petal First Saturday in June, July and August that we also hope will keep our people shopping locally.”