2020 is another year at the helm for Houston County Commission Chairman Tommy Stalnaker. With his decades of experience working for, and now leading the Houston County Commissioners, the Chairman says this is a year marked by adaptation.
“I think people had to adjust. I mean that may sound simple and all, but use the restaurants for example. They had to adjust. They had to adjust the way they serve the people and still have to adjust,” Stalnaker said.
Stalnaker, who’s led the County Commission for a decade, said 2020 did cause an economic slowdown in Houston County, but it was brief.
April was the only month the County saw a reduction in sales tax revenue, which Stalnaker said is his key indicator of the area’s economic viability. He added the County is otherwise exceeding 2019 levels when it comes to sales tax revenue.
At the same time, Stalnaker added they’re continuing to see growth in home building and sales, commercial building, and grocery services.
“People in this area are coming out more and doing more and buying,” Stalnaker said.
Relying on adjustments might sound like a simple answer for 2020’s complex problems, but the Chairman said in this environment, the right adjustment is the difference between business survival and less fortunate alternatives.
“Everybody is not in good positions, again, even with the adjustments some have made, it’s tough on them. I understand that. Some of them are not doing that well. But, the adjustments that they make to be able to survive is the thing.”
“Adjust your hours, you’re going to have to adjust your operations, you’re going to have to adjust what you’re marketing, how you’re marketing, and things like that. And I think the ones that do that are going to be the ones that survive,” Stalnaker continued.
There is good news, Chairman Stalnaker said he thinks a majority, if not all, the County’s businesses will survive the current situation.
For example, Stalnaker said he’s heard from the furniture sector they’re doing well. It’s thanks to a combination of people staying at home, realizing needs particularly with appliances, and market-driven competitive pricing, according to the Chairman’s viewpoint.
However, one benefit Middle Georgia and Houston County has does not exist everywhere. Robins Air Force Base.
“Robins’ is the engine. That’s the heart,” Stalnaker added simply.
The tenured County leader said he’s grateful for the Base, its men and women, and the steady hand driving the local economy. It leads to more home-buying, service industry business, and local spending, according to Stalnaker.
“The most rapid growth is from 96, south right now,” Stalnaker said.
He also said there’s good news for potential employees looking for work.
“I think there’s plenty of employment opportunities right now, you would think it would be the reverse.”
There are opportunities at retail and service industry locations across the County, according to the Chairman.
From a government standpoint Houston County takes pride in never shutting down, even during the spring. Stalnaker said the County operated by appointment, but never closed crucial services like business licenses, permits, and taxes.
Overall, Chairman Stalnaker said he is confident the County will weather the current storm.
“Patience. Patience, I think that’s going to be the key to survival. You’re going to have to be patient, you can’t panic. Be careful on the decisions that you make,” Stalnaker said.