by Lee Hogan
Posted 7/2/2014 10:38 am
Updated 3 weeks ago
The group pushing for the legalization of alcohol sales in three Arkansas counties commissioned an economic impact study that estimated those counties would have seen a combined $87.2 million in retail alcohol sales in 2013.
The study, conducted by the University of Arkansas' Center for Business and Economic Research and produced for Our Community, Our Dollars, showed a wet Saline County would have seen $34.2 million in alcohol sales, a wet Faulkner County would have seen $28.2 million and a wet Craighead County would have seen $24.8 million.
The alcohol sales would have generated $247,650 in Craighead County and $141,372 in Faulkner County in county sales tax revenues. No information was provided for Saline County, which does not have a county sales tax.
Estimated sales in 2013 would have created $260,033 in Craighead, $282,744 in Faulkner and $373,573 in Saline in city sales tax revenues. Property tax revenues would have been $47,518 in Craighead, $59,290 in Faulkner and $58,822 in Saline.
More: To view the entire study, click here (PDF).
If the three counties became wet, each could see more than $10 million in sales tax revenue on an annual basis. According to the study, Saline County could see $12.5 million, Faulkner County could see $11.3 million and Craighead could see $10.5 million.
"Legal retail alcohol sales are a signal of a contemporary economic development environment," Kathy Deck, author of the study and director of the Center for Business and Economic Research, said in a news release. "While quantifying the value of that perception is difficult, it's entirely possible to estimate sales effects, tax collections and other economic impacts of becoming a wet county. Allowing the retail sales of alcohol would create new tax revenue and jobs for these counties and help support local schools, police and other key city services."
To complete the study, population information was drawn from U.S. Census data in 2010, and applicable retail alcohol sales from other wet areas in the state were considered. The study used 2013 data to estimate the actual sales of liquor, wine and beer to residents of the three counties and to project what the effects of those sales would have been if residents had been able to make the purchases in their home counties.
The study presented sales impacts, which represents a guide to the likely magnetite of ongoing annual impacts if the counties became wet, and a construction impacts, which represents a cumulative one-time impact that would accrue from construction of new retail stores.
Jay Allen, president of Our Community, Our Dollars, said converting Craighead, Faulkner and Saline counties to wet areas "could have real and significant economic benefits" for the counties.
"This study quantifies those potential benefits, while also scientifically quantifying why liquor interests in neighboring counties are working so hard and spending so much money to keep this issue off the ballot in November. They stand to lose millions in sales."
Our Community, Our Dollars began petition drives in the three counties in May to have the issue of retail alcohol sales voted on in November. To have the issue on the ballot, signatures of 38 percent of registered voters in each county are needed.
That translates to 25,000 in Saline County, 24,800 in Faulkner County and 20,000 in Craighead County.
As of Tuesday, Natalie Ghidoitti, a spokesperson for the group, said more than 75 percent of the required signatures have been gathered in each county. County initiatives have until July 7 to gather signatures and submit them to the Arkansas Secretary of State.
Our Community, Our Dollars has been funded by retailers like Wal-Mart and Kum & Go. In it's first financial report filed with the Arkansas Ethics Commission in May, the group showed $625,000 in contributions — $600,000 from Wal-Mart and $25,000 from Kum & Go.
Allen, the group's president, is a former Wal-Mart executive. The group's treasure, Polly Martin, is the president of the Arkansas Grocers & Retail Merchants.