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Wilson economy steadier than most

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Hixson also noted that Wilson County has been chosen by a couple of new companies for expansion and relocation. Electrical manufacturer Leviton’s distribution center and CoreTech’s research and development park are both well on the way to becoming Wilson County businesses, with Leviton actually starting to hire for a spring opening.

Cracker Barrel Old Country Store, which was founded in Lebanon, is also growing.

“I'm unable to discuss Wilson County specifically, even just for trends, since we always discuss these things for the company as a whole,” said Cracker Barrel Spokesperson Julie Davis. “But I can tell you that systemwide Cracker Barrel Old Country Store has increased the number of employees since last year.”

Another indicator that Wilson County is pretty stable could be school enrollment which has remained almost the same since Wilson County Schools opened in August, going from 14,720 in September to 14,711 in December, said Philip Barnes, director of Attendance.

“We usually have a gradual drop in attendance throughout the school year as some student turn 18 and stop attending, but then each fall the numbers climb again,” he said.

This year, if anything, the numbers have gone down less than usual.

While it is true that sales tax revenues are down in Lebanon, the rest of the county is in much better shape.

Lebanon Financial Commissioner Russell Lee said the city sales tax revenues are about 7 percent lower as of the first of December than the same time last year, but Wilson County Finance Director Ron Gilbert said that county sales tax revenues are only running .79 percent (or less than 1 percent) behind last year for the same period.

“The total hasn’t grown, but it’s better than we expected,” Gilbert said.

“Things aren’t going to turn around instantly,” Lee said. “It didn’t go in the tank instantly. It’s not going to turn around instantly.”

And John Rossmaier who oversees the sales tax collections for the City of Mt Juliet, said collections there are actually up a bit from last year.

Rossmaier also reported that more new businesses opened in Mt. Juliet in 2008 than closed. He said 174 new businesses opened and 116 closed, and while he acknowledged that wasn’t good news for the ones that closed, it was a positive trend for the community as a whole.

Both Lee and Gilbert said that property tax collections were going well. Lee said Lebanon’s collections appeared to be about the same as last year and Gilbert said the county property tax collections were actually 24 percent ahead of last year.

Other possible opportunities may actually be caused by the national downturn. As also reported in today’s edition of The Wilson Post, the county school system and county and city roads may get a boost from a proposed federal stimulus package.

The Wilson County Board of Education is applying to have the new Lebanon High School funded by the stimulus and 13 road projects in Wilson are on a Nashville Area Metropolitan Planning Organization list to pursue similar funding. Staff Writer Connie Esh may be contacted at cewrites@wilsonpost.com.

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