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Milam County's Economy Grew in 2021

Milam County’s economy grew in 2021

We have been talking about some rather depressing topics in this space like traumatized economies and company towns. How about we talk about something positive?

Economies are typically measured by Gross Domestic Product or GDP. GDP is the sum of all the goods and services produced by an economy over a given period, typically a year. Economists consider GDP to be the best available indicator for an area’s economy. In a prior article, we wrote about Rockdale/Milam County’s economy was at its peak in 2011, being a size of $1.1 trillion. The low point was in 2020 at $577 billion. Milam County’s economy just about halved over this time.

The U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis (BEA) collects and releases the annual GDP data towards the close of the following year. The 2021 GDP data was released in December 2022.

I am happy to report that Milam County’s GDP grew a little in 2021 - $30.6 million or 5.3%

To understand this, we need to dig into which industries grew and which ones shrank.

At a high level, Milam County’s total private (non-governmental) sector grew by three percentage points, now making up 87% of the total economy. Actually the public sector, making up 13% of the economy, shrunk considerably.

Different industries fall into one of two categories: traded and local. Traded industries create a good or service that is sold outside the community and imports dollars in return. The following traded industries grew in 2021: Mining and Natural Resource Extraction (322%), Agriculture (115% - this may look like a big number but Agriculture makes up a small percentage of total GDP), and Manufacturing (39%). Professional and Business Services, which could be both traded and local, grew by 9.3%.

The other group of industries, local industries, are those that rely on the circulation of dollars within the community. Many of these experienced a contraction: Finance, Insurance, and Real Estate (-19%); Retail (-14%); and Health Care (-7%). However, Restaurants experienced 2021 growth at 7%.

The terrific takeaway from this is that Milam County’s economy is growing in the parts we want it to grow for sustained prosperity. 

It appears that Milam County’s economy bottomed out in 2020. There are a number of things going on that would indicate that this economy should be on a continued growth trajectory.