Spike in new, used car sales boosts Tri-City taxable retail sales

By Kristi Pihl, Tri-City HeraldJanuary 20, 2013 

Sales of new and used cars and trucks helped boost taxable retail business in the Tri-Cities during the third quarter of 2012.

More than $96 million worth of vehicles were driven home by new owners in the Tri-Cities during July, August and September, according to data recently released by the Washington State Department of Revenue.

Pasco saw the biggest spike, with a 66-percent increase in auto sales compared to the same months in 2011. Part of the reason may be a similar upswing in the number of new and used auto dealers in the city, with 9 more than the previous year, according to the state.

Richland saw the most modest growth in auto sales at 8 percent. Richland city officials already had predicted a retail sales increase for autos with Tim Bush opening a BMW franchise.

Kennewick's auto sales jumped by 24 percent, without adding any new businesses, according to the state.

Overall, Pasco and Kennewick saw total taxable retail sales grow during the third quarter of 2012 compared to the same time in 2011. Pasco was up by 3 percent at $226.2 million, while Kennewick jumped almost 6 percent to $420.9 million.

Richland's total taxable retail sales dropped by almost 5 percent to $234.5 million, according to the state. Sales related to construction dropped 25 percent.

Kennewick and Pasco saw construction swell, with an 8 percent increase for Pasco and 15 percent growth for Kennewick.

Kennewick's commercial development more than tripled in 2012, according to city data. For the entire year, $77.9 million worth of new commercial buildings were approved. Commercial remodels for the year also were up by 80 percent, at $40.8 million.

Some of the major projects in Kennewick last year included Kadlec Regional Medical Center's standalone emergency department, Kennewick General Hospital's Southridge hospital and the Copper Ridge Apartments in Southridge, said Evelyn Lusignan, Kennewick's customer service manager.

Remodels included Kennewick School District buildings, HAPO Community Credit Union Business Center and WinCo, she said.

Hospitality businesses including hotels and restaurants saw slight growth of 2 percent in Kennewick and 3 percent in Pasco. Richland's hospitality businesses were down by about 1 percent.

Kris Watkins, president and CEO of the Tri-Cities Visitor & Convention Bureau, previously told the Herald that Richland has seen a decrease in hotel occupancy this year with lower levels of government travel after the end of federal stimulus dollars.

Tri-Cities apparel and accessory stores saw an increase in sales, with growth ranging from almost 10 percent in Kennewick to about 7 percent in Pasco.

However, sporting goods, story and book stores saw sales decline, with a 16-percent downward spiral in Pasco. an 8-percent drop in Richland and a 5-percent dip in Kennewick.

Here is how area counties did overall: Adams County, down 3 percent to $64.8 million; Benton County, no change, at $754.1 million; Columbia County, down 8 percent to $13.8 million; Franklin County, up 3 percent to $271.7 million; Grant County, down 5 percent at $389.7 million; Walla Walla County, increase of 5 percent to $192 million; and Yakima County, growth of 6 percent to $778.8 million.

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