Local sales tax revenue continues climbing upward amid the COVID-19 pandemic, with newly released data from July showing an increase of roughly $1.5 million countywide from the same time last year.

Wilson County Mayor Randall Hutto credits the half-cent sales tax increase voters approved in March for the boost. June’s sales tax information also shows a $1.5 million increase from last year, and when August’s data is released next month it could solidify a trend.

The Joint Economic and Community Development Board of Wilson County is also continuing to pursue new businesses that could further raise those numbers. Its current major project is codenamed Orange Mesh, and it represents a personal protective equipment facility.

Project representatives have tentatively selected Lebanon as the location, and the Wilson County Budget Committee approved a $23 million investment in August in the event of a final decision.

In addition, the JECDB and Hutto have held meetings with the Nashville Superspeedway staff in Lebanon as they prepare a long-term vision for the facility. The track received a spike of interest in June after NASCAR announced plans to use it for a cup series race in 2021.

“They are headed towards that June 20 race,” JECDB Executive Director G.C. Hixson said during the board’s meeting Thursday. “They’ll start their renovations on the track very soon … their intention is to do as many revenue events out there as they can. That would be NASCAR driving events, car shows, different things of that nature. They do a music festival in Dover, and so they’re open to all kind of activities out there.”

The JECDB also added seven new projects over the past month, according to its meeting agenda — though the county lacks existing structures to accommodate at least three of them.

Among those the board recommended sites for are a pharmaceutical packaging company and a vehicle manufacturer that would create roughly 200 and 100 new jobs, respectively. The board also offered a “build-to-suit” proposal at the Nashville Speedway Industrial Park for a 200,000 square foot manufacturing facility.

Although new business investment would drive up sales tax revenue, board members noted that other factors may be influencing the current surge.

“Part of it may be with COVID that people are staying close to home and shopping closer to home,” JECDB Treasurer Phil Smartt said. “Rather than going to Nashville or Murfreesboro.”

Hixson added that stimulus money and increased unemployment benefits have given some residents more spending money.

In any case, the county remains optimistic about its economic prospects after a budget process marked by uncertainty.

“We’re still getting quite a bit of flow of projects,” Hixson said. “I think overall … we’re very busy and responding.”

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