Cleburne’s economy continues to thrive, Economic Development Manager Grady Easdon said, despite the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic and recent shutdowns.
Easdon delivered his quarterly economic development update during Tuesday’s Cleburne City Council meeting.
“Our unemployment rate continues to drop,” Easdon said. “As per August, the most current numbers we have. Those numbers have been trending downward for the last few months and we expect the next report to show another pretty substantial drop.”
August numbers show Cleburne’s unemployment rate at 6.5 percent. That’s above Johnson County’s rate of 5.8 percent for the same period, but below Texas’ rate of 7 percent.
Sales tax revenue collections remain robust, Easdon added. The latest numbers — the October allocation represents sales tax activity from the month of August — come in 15.83 percent above the same month last year.
A resurgence of sorts brings signs encouraging for future downtown activity following the COVID-19 related shuttering of several businesses earlier this year. Upticks in downtown activity are trending toward pre-COVID-19 levels with several recurring downtown events, such as Downtown Divas, now back having been sidetracked much of the year because of the pandemic.
“Participation in those events has been high and well received,” Easdon said. “We’re seeing that just general attendance of people overall in downtown has continued to pick up.”
Active commercial development trumpets cause for celebration, Easdon said.
The city, through September, has issued 15 commercial building permits compared to 12 through the same period through September 2019. That translates into collection of $73,025 in permit fees collected year to date compared to $21,401 through the same period in 2019.
The Cleburne grapevine is abuzz already over several commercial projects nigh.
“Chick-Fil-A should be opening late this month, early next,” Easdon said. “McAlister’s Deli has a grand opening scheduled Oct. 30 and Harbor Freight Tools is scheduled to open toward the end of October in Nolan River Mall. Many of you have probably seen the dirt work going on for Aldi, that project should be going vertical in the next few weeks.”
Other projects upcoming include a 7-11, RV Depot and a Texas Best Smokehouse. The latter will be part of a large travel center to be built across the street from Cleburne Station and The Depot. In addition to a convenience store and fuel, that center will also include a Jimmy John’s Gourmet Sandwich shop, a large pound with fountains and a dog park. Council last month approved an eight-year, 100 percent property tax abatement for the project.
Meanwhile, home building remains in high gear, Easdon said.
“Lots of residential activity going on,” Easdon said. “It just keeps moving forward. We’re pretty easily going to surpass 300 [new homes] this year, which is astounding. I’m still amazed by the new roof tops going up.”
September saw issuance of 57 new single-family residential permits compared to 14 issued in September 2019. On the multi-family residential permit front, the city issued 10 new permits in September compared to zero in September 2019.
“Through September 2020 year to date, we have issued 286 new residential building permits, compared with 197 year to date through September 2019,” Easdon said.
Easdon referenced a HouseLogic statistic that Cleburne Police Chief Rob Severance brought to his attention.
According to the company’s findings, every home purchase causes about $60,000 of direct and indirect spending in the local economy and one job is created for every two homes sold.
Good news for Cleburne, Easdon said given than an abundance of new home projects have been approved or are in planning stages for Cleburne. Easdon, to illustrate his point, ran through a partial list of projects in various stages of development.
“These projects comprise 588 new residential lots excluding a multi-family project,” Easdon said. “And they do not include other new residential development projects approved earlier.”
All of which, Mayor Scott Cain suggested, point toward a cornucopia of great days in Cleburne.
“The challenge for our city, staff, builders and developers in the community is that we’re growing,” Cain said. “There’s no doubt about that. Now the challenge I want to issue to our entire community is let’s grow in such a way that we maintain our sense of character and that small-town feel.
“I think we’re going to have to do that by staying on top of the growth and not getting behind. And also having that small town feel so we don’t lose our character. It’s really important to be able to do that. I know we’re up for the challenge. It’s hard work, but it’s a worthwhile cause.
“I thank our staff but more importantly the private sector that’s driving our economy and putting Cleburne on the map as the No. 1 go to place to live, work and play.”