Sweetwater business update

The City of Sweetwater was awarded a $75,000 tourism grant to renovate the train car in front of the town’s depot. City officials hope this will help draw people to the downtown area, including the local businesses.

Sweetwater City Recorder Jessica Morgan stated the businesses around Sweetwater are continuing to perform well during the current COVID-19 pandemic.

She believes part of the reason the businesses are weathering the pandemic so well is due to the citizens of the town.

“I think our local people are shopping local and supporting local businesses,” said Morgan. “I think that has helped a lot.”

One of the things she found interesting was the increase in local sales tax.

“Our sales tax is actually up from where it was this time last year,” she stated. “I figured we would see a decrease in that, but it has continued to increase – probably a 10% increase over this time last year.”

She believes there could be a few reasons for the increase in the sales tax.

“I think the stimulus checks had a little to do with it, but I also think that people are probably not going out of town to shop so they are spending their money here,” she noted. “There is not as much retail leakage as there normally would be.”

She hopes the trend of shopping local will continue after the pandemic.

“I hope they at least realize the impact that our small businesses have and continue to move that way,” she expressed.

She believes this trend should continue for the foreseeable future.

“I think our sales tax will stay stable. I don’t see anything that would cause it to dip drastically,” Morgan said. “We had a lot of businesses open last year and we expect that to continue with the RV and boat dealer, which will help get more sales tax.”

The new dealership “should be breaking ground soon” on Highway 68, according to Morgan.

“We expect something to be going into the Fred’s building, so we think those things are going to be a positive influx in our sales tax,” she noted.

The City of Sweetwater is able to help new businesses open and is also one of a few locations across Tennessee that is a certified SmartStart location to help and promote the creation of new businesses.

“A lot of our new businesses in the last year were grant funded either from us or from the state and I think that kind of help keeps them afloat during these times,” she said. “It is certainly fairly good that we have a state department of economic development that is focused and wants to concentrate on helping small businesses especially, so I think that has helped a lot of businesses survive the pandemic.”

She believes the local economy has recovered more quickly than what was initially expected.

“We had been real conservative with our revenue estimates for the current budget year once we realized the pandemic was going to affect it and small businesses,” she expressed. “Hotels and motels have been hit really hard, but even they have recovered more quickly than we thought they were going to so that is good news.”

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