From the completion of a new library and performing arts center, school board office and relocated Evans Middle School, it would seem that the government's bricks and mortar will be the biggest signs of progress for 2006.
But lest we spend too much time applauding the entirely appropriate use of our tax money, it is important to remember that Columbia County's economy is fueled by public-sector dollars.
Thus, a boisterous 2005 is making way for what can only be a booming 2006.
As 2005 began, the county was eagerly awaiting the opening of the Mullins Crossing shopping center, headlined by Target and Kohl's. As 2005 closed those stores have been joined by Culpepper Lumber Co. and many other smaller retailers.
Now, in 2006, other stores are coming to Mullins, a major sporting goods retailer is under construction across the street, and other retailers are coming.
Rather than curse the traffic and fear such development, homeowners in what once was strictly a bedroom community should keep in mind that a healthy community brings in a larger share of tax dollars from commercial and industrial taxpayers. Columbia County has relied on too many bedrooms for its revenue.
As a result, things like that new library have required a substantial burden on homeowners - and the more homeowners there are, the greater the impact on such cultural infrastructure as libraries. It's a ongoing, upward spiral of demand drawing from a limited supply.
Commercial taxpayers fill that gap, especially in generating sales tax revenue that is used for large-scale building projects. County officials report a steep rise in sales tax revenue in 2005, which is good news; in years past, a high percentage of county residents' spending went outside the county. Keeping those dollars at home helps boost the county's economy.
The coming year also may be one in which substantially more dollars are brought into the county from outside, too. This will be the year in which the county, using funds from the visitor-driven hotel-motel tax, takes over sole responsibility for marketing Columbia County to tourists.
All of this adds up to what could be the biggest economic boom ever in our community. It won't come because of taxes being spent on Columbia County government projects, but because of consumers spending their hard-earned money in Columbia County businesses.
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