Bell, Coryell and Lampasas counties experienced positive indicators for economic recovery that varied across the nation, according to a report released Monday from the National Association of Counties.
“U.S. economic growth continued last year for the 3,069 county economies, but the recovery remained uneven and fragile, according to an analysis of four economic performance indicators,” stated the report. “As a result of the fragile and uneven recovery, many counties are continuing to struggle with their budgets, meet financial obligations and provide essential public services.”
That has not been the case for Bell County, according to County Judge Jon Burrows.
“I know we are doing extremely well,” Burrows said, noting Bell County has only dipped into its “rainy day fund” once during a 10-year period.
“Not only did we not take money out of the fund balance, we added to it,” he said.
Data in the report indicated positive gains in Bell County’s economic output, as well as growth for jobs and median home prices from 2012 to 2013. The county’s unemployment rate also was down during the same period.
Coryell County showed similar success; however, its economic output growth rate declined. The rate is an indicator of how many goods and services are produced by a county’s economy.
“We need to redouble our efforts to try and encourage business to locate to our county,” said Coryell County Judge John Firth. “We have a good business climate here.”
Firth said the opening of two highways in Cove should help the economy.
According to the study, about half of medium-size county economies — those with populations between 50,000 and 500,000 — experienced shorter and shallower job recessions than the national average, more than any other group of county economies.
Coryell and Bell counties are among those with shallow job recession despite both ending the year with higher unemployment rates than the state in 2013.
“That is why economic growth is so important, not just for tax base but to support a need for jobs that clearly exists,” Firth said.
Bell and Coryell counties saw unemployment rates increase in 2007 but decline in 2011, stated the report. Job growth in the two counties started to decline in 2008.
In Bell County, it started to increase in 2010 and in 2012 in Coryell County.
Bell County never saw a decline in its economic output, stated the report. Coryell County’s output started in 2008, but started to recover in 2009. Median home prices started to decline in 2005 but began to increase in 2009.
Firth and Burrows said the counties were a little isolated from the economic downturn because of their proximity to Fort Hood.
Lampasas County, however, started its economic decline in 2005 in almost all indicators with the exception of the unemployment rate, which began to increase in 2007, according to the report.
Recovery for economic output and home rates started in 2009 in Lampasas, but the county’s job growth rate started to increase for the first time since 2007 in 2012. Unemployment started to decrease in 2011.