Marble Falls: State of the Economy 2019


By: Christian Fletcher, CEcD

Executive Director

Marble Falls Economic Development Corporation

2019 WAS ANOTHER SOLID YEAR for MF


The year began with ongoing recovery efforts from the October 2018 flood that damaged hundreds of properties around the Highland Lakes area, but it didn't take long for the community to regain its stride.  Home Zone opened in February.  The Residences at Panther Hollow and Harbor Freight Tools celebrated their grand openings in April, along with the new Harmony Park on Main Street.  Work began on 209 Main (the old police station) in May; this property will be a multi-tenant retail building that will house an expanded Redid, among others.  In June, Jardin Corona and Fiesta Winery opened in Old Oak Square, and the inaugural Slide Marble Falls event took place down the Third Street hill.  Blue Suede Shoes and Pam's Pearl opened in the Market on H.  In all, 49 businesses opened or expanded in Marble Falls in 2019.  Marble Falls ISD began work on a $55 million bond initiative designed to improve safety and security and replace aging systems on every campus in the district.  Phase 1a of the City's Park Improvement Plan--which included parking, trails, and a new beach at Lakeside Park--was completed just in time for the Marble Falls/Lake LBJ Chamber of Commerce to set up the Walkway of Lights for the 29th year.

Included below are some facts, figures, and trends showing how 2019 stacked up against the last several years in a few different economic categories.

Taxable sales set a new record at just over $476 million for Calendar Year 2019. This was an increase of roughly $34.1 million, or 7.72%, over the previous record set in 2018.  For reference, the state as a whole grew by 4.71% in 2019. Taxable sales in Marble Falls have increased by more than 50% since 2013.

The 7.72% of year-over-year growth from 2018 to 2019 was the third-highest rate of growth in the last 10 years.  The spike from 2012 to 2013 was associated with the construction of the Baylor Scott & White clinic and hospital infrastructure, while the jump from 2016 to 2017 was likely attributable to the H-E-B/Bealls project and multifamily construction.

RETAIL AND THE CONSTRUCTION INDUSTRY CONTINUE TO LEAD THE WAY

Overall, the retail sector grew by 11.22% from 2018 to 2019.  Since this sector accounts for 61% of all taxable sales in the city, the basis for our sales tax growth becomes clear.

When shifting the analysis to gross sales activity, the total for the last 4 quarters is $1.05 billion.  Retail trade is up 7.46% for the same period, while construction is up an astounding 176.78%.

Because Marble Falls is the economic hub of the Highland Lakes region, development activity along the lakes and throughout the large unincorporated areas of Burnet and Llano Counties benefits Marble Falls more than any other area community.

The combined value of all building permits issued in the city of Marble Falls in 2019 totaled $58.3 million, a 46.73% increase over the 2018 value.

Included in that figure are 20 new single-family home permits with a median value of $260,000.  This value is slightly higher than 2017 and 2018 ($230,000 and $242,500, respectively), but slightly lower than 2015 ($265,000) and 2016 ($275,000).  The number of SFR permits issued in 2019 was lower than the previous 4 years, likely due to new multi-family units and waning lot inventory in growth areas.

Also contributing to the upward economic trajectory are strong population and household income growth in Marble Falls' primary retail trade area, especially in the last 4 years.

IRS migration data from 2016 to 2018 shows that households moving into Burnet County have substantially higher incomes than those moving out of the county.

Additionally, the percentage of the RTA population with an associate's degree or higher has increased from 30.1% in 2016 to 33.4% in 2019.

Workforce development remains a key focal point for area economic development agencies.

The only economic indicator that did not perform as well in 2019 as compared to 2018 was hotel receipts.  While revenue was slightly higher in the first and second quarters of 2019, Q3 2019 was down approximately 5%, or $150,000, from the Q3 2018 total.  Occupancy rates stayed relatively level at just over 62% for Q3, but the average daily rate in the market dropped from $104.49 to $99.44.  Likely factors include a shortage of upscale rooms in the market as well as the emergence of short-term rentals in the area.

Looking forward to 2020, the EDC remains committed to enhancing the community's appeal as a destination through the commencement of Phase 1b of the Park Improvement Plan and finalizing a development deal to bring a hotel and conference center to the Downtown area.  The current High Demand Job Training Grant that the EDC is co-sponsoring is set to conclude in 2020, so new workforce opportunities and partnerships will be explored.  The recent expansion of the Business & Technology Park should result in several new businesses, including three that are set to close on their property transactions in January 2020.  A couple of new, master-planned subdivisions on the south side of town should deliver their first lots in the coming year, and we expect to announce some exciting retail and entertainment projects very soon.  Community leaders have very high expectations for 2020.

It's an exciting, prosperous time for Marble Falls, and we're looking forward to several new projects, including improved infrastructure and upcoming phases of the park improvement plan.

—John Packer, Mayor