The silver lining of high gas prices

Published 12:00 am Monday, July 14, 2008

Might high gasoline prices be having at least one positive effect on a rural economy like ours?

The Associated Press, in an article datelined in rural Alabama, suggests that $4-a-gallon gas is causing small-town residents to do their shopping at home rather than in nearby cities.

&uot;Many stores in rural towns — from small independent shops to local chains — are starting to enjoy a little life after years of seeing customers bypass them for distant malls,&uot; the AP reports. &uot;While it may not reverse the decades-long decline of small-town shopping, it could lead national mall developers and merchants to rethink where to build and challenge a basic tenet of retailing: Build, and shoppers will come from miles away.&uot;

Thomasville, Ala., has seen a 5 percent increase in sales tax revenue so far for the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, the AP says. In Brewton, Ala., a town of about 5,000 people that’s about 80 miles southeast of Thomasville, sales tax revenue is up 6 percent in recent months after having been flat in recent years.

Meantime, city officials in bigger Mobile and Montgomery say they’re dealing with shortfalls, in part because out-of-towners are staying close to home.