Waco residents will soon see a monthly snapshot of the city’s economic status as measured by a Texas economist who specializes in tracking local business activity.
Beginning Aug. 26, the Tribune-Herald will publish the Greater Waco Economic Index in partnership with the First National Bank of Central Texas.
The index also will be made available to other area media at a monthly press conference.
The index will be prepared by economist Karr Ingham, who is based in Amarillo and studies local economies across Texas.
Just as the federal government uses economic indicators to gauge the health of the national economy, Ingham develops a set of indicators that fit the local economies of cities and uses them to calculate an index.
The index provides a pulse of the local economy, Ingham said.
“We want to be able to calculate the local economic growth rates and track the nature of the business cycle, see what are the turning points, and to kind of track the leading edge of whatever is going on,” Ingham said.
The 19 indicators Ingham uses include retail sales, auto sales, building permits, average home sale prices, airline emplanements, employment data and other statistics.
To arrive at a monthly index number, Ingham researches where the assimilated economic indicators stood on Jan. 1, 2000, a date chosen as a starting point.
The statistics are entered into a formula developed by Ingham, and the Jan. 1, 2000, result is assigned an index value of 100.0.
Every month afterward, the results are measured against that base line.
The index will be useful to decision-makers in the local business community, Tribune-Herald Publisher Donnis Baggett said, adding that the newspaper is partnering with the bank to present the monthly report as a public service.
“Not only will we be able to see exactly where our local economy stands on a month-to-month basis, but the trends can help us visualize where we’re headed,” he said. “That’s valuable information when you’re managing a budget, whether it’s for a business or a household.”
Members of Waco’s business community are generally keen to point out that the city’s economy tends to be resistant to wide swings in economic conditions.
“This is going to show that our economy in Waco is a lot more stable than what you get with the rest of the nation,” said Jim Haller, First National’s executive vice president for marketing.
The local unemployment rate, while elevated well above pre-recession times, is not as high as many other places.
Nationally, the rate is 9.5 percent. June numbers for McLennan County showed the unemployment rate to be 7.5 percent.
Despite its stable reputation, the area has its share of bad news. Snead Manufacturing this week announced it was closing its McGregor plant and laying off 139 workers.
Texas cities generally follow the national economy, but there is often a lengthy lag time before what is happening on the national scene comes to Texas, Ingham said.
Ingham analyzes the local economies of Amarillo, Lubbock, Abilene, Bryan-College Station, Midland-Odessa and McAllen.
He also has set up the same system in Denver and Colorado Springs, but turned it over to those cities’ governments to manage.
In the other communities, the report has been done through a similar arrangement with a newspaper, or through a bank or economic development corporation, Ingham said.