REPORT: Auto sales driving double-digit gains in White County

UPPER CUMBERLAND – The Upper Cumberland had a “mediocre” state sales tax collection report in October, save for White County, which marked one of the largest increases in the 14-county region for the month.

Henry Bowman, an analyst with the Upper Cumberland Development District (UCDD), who compiles the local data, said a 28.7 percent gain there is likely attributed to an increase in automotive sales. While White County’s quarterly and annual state sales tax numbers are also strong, at 22.7 and 10.1 percent, respectively, local sales tax numbers are not.

“It was only up 6 percent. I’ve never seen a discrepancy that large before,” Bowman said. “What that tells me – and this is strictly an educated guess – is that they’re selling a lot of cars down there. Because local tax is capped, when you see a discrepancy like that, you’ve got to think there’s been a lot of expensive one-piece items: cars and boats and airplanes, things like that.”

White County had a strong month, but it’s also outpacing the rest of the region quarterly, with a 22.7 percent increase in collections. Annual numbers are also strong; there’s been a gain of 10.1 percent over the latest 12 months, the fifth best increase behind Van Buren (16.5), Clay (14.3), Cannon (11.3) and Overton (10.9).

Overall, the state sales tax collections grew 6.5 percent in the UC in October, the second consecutive month where numbers were up by 6.0 percent or more. But the region failed to keep pace with the state, where collections improved 7.7 percent.

“Anytime we don’t do as well as the state as a whole it’s not good,” Bowman said. “It’s kind of a mediocre report, really. Putnam County (up 4.5 percent) isn’t as vigorous, and that makes me wonder if people are staying home (to shop) more than they used to.

“But some of the other counties look pretty good,” Bowman added. “Cumberland (9.1 percent) is pretty aggressive. They’ve got good numbers straight across; monthly, quarterly and annual data, and their local tax is following a similar pattern. They seem to be doing very well.”

Several smaller counties in the UC had double-digit fluctuations, including Van Buren (51.5), Jackson (26.1) and Cannon (10.6). That’s typical, Bowman said.

Rounding out the region were Fentress (9.5), Macon (6.2), Clay (4.0), Overton (3.2), DeKalb (2.9), Pickett (1.5) and Warren (0.1). Only one county saw a decrease in October. Smith was down 0.4 percent.

Collections, which are considered just one measure of economic activity, are based on state sales taxes; local option taxes are excluded. Sales data lags by one month; for example, October numbers reflect September activity.


Counties October Year prior Percent change
Cannon $373,349 $337,483 10.6
Clay $273,271 $262,872 4.0
Cumberland $4,202,331 $3,853,486 9.1
DeKalb $883,113 $858,640 2.9
Fentress $822,471 $751,435 9.5
Jackson $220,346 $174,683 26.1
Macon $1,032,963 $973,021 6.2
Overton $889,633 $862,023 3.2
Pickett $219,372 $216,218 1.5
Putnam $8,169,317 $7,818,655 4.5
Smith $897,373 $900,575 -0.4
Van Buren $124,566 $82,238 51.5
Warren $2,153,561 $2,150,987 0.1
White $1,321,931 $1,027,305 28.7
UCDD $21,583,597 $20,269,621 6.5
TN $684,195,000 $635,126,000 7.7

Source: Compiled by the Upper Cumberland Development District from data published by the Tennessee Department of Revenue.


Liz Engel is the editor of the Upper Cumberland Business Journal. She can be reached at

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