I write this blog post from my hardened bunker at the Marshall County Economic Development Council also known as the Mattcave! I am surrounded by six bodyguards. They are all ex-special forces with attitudes, our building has 14” reinforced concrete walls and we have a small armory down the hall. Why such precaution you might ask? For safety of course, after all, Guntersville is the sixth most dangerous town in Alabama. Heck, Arab is not far behind at number eight.
Apparently, according to www.onlyinyourstate.com, Guntersville and Arab are pretty dangerous stomping grounds. Along with other towns like Lanett, Jasper and Gadsden, things are pretty bad. Even Talladega made the list! Of course, when it comes to race day, a lot of women there are committing heinous crimes by wearing some of the outfits you see on TV!
So what is this stalwart source of journalistic prudence that is www.onlyinyourstate.com? A click-baiter. A website that’s sole purpose is to get you to post it on Facebook or Twitter so people will click on it to see if their town is ranked in whatever crazy list they have generated that week. Those clicks allow them to sell advertising for such amazing products as nick.radio or the Super-Beats diet pills or even other click-bait articles. I clicked on the article entitled “Kid Rock’s Mansion Will Take Your Breath Away.” It was fascinating! Of course, I had to wait through a commercial for FUSE staring Mr. T before I could see the stunning views of Mr. Rock’s amazing place. Funny, I would have expected the mansion to be draped in a Confederate Flag…I guess he decided to take it down.
But let’s get back to these cesspools of violence and property crimes that we call home. I have to laugh when I see these. They are way off base. Sometimes, they do use actual data, sometimes not. An example of a list that had no data was “The 10 Most Beautiful, Charming Small Towns In Alabama.” That list certainly had a lot of charming towns, but no reason as to why they were chosen. The town descriptions were right out of Wikipedia as were many of the pictures. It makes no sense. Unless you consider why they post such things, for clickers.
My favorite faux story comes around every now and then on various websites and it involves the highest taxed city in the U.S., Arab. Yes you heard it, Arab, Alabama, home of the Arabian Knights and the Polk Salat Festival. I first saw this in print in the Birmingham Business Journal about 10 years ago. The City of Arab has the highest sales tax in the nation at 12%! What??? That’s crazy. What town has taxes that high and why would any business ever locate there? Now it is up to 13%. Websites from time to time will just report this with no fact-checking or other research.
A small, and I mean very small, portion of Arab extends into Cullman County. Cullman has a unique tax structure. The 4% county sales tax is distributed to all the cities based on their population rather than each city having a sales tax like we have in Marshall County. So, since Arab has a 5% city sales tax, you add that to the 4% state sales tax and you get 9% total for the overwhelming majority of the city of Arab. But in that tiny portion that is in Cullman County, which by the way has NO sales tax generating businesses, you have to add another 4% giving you 13% total. Again, there are no businesses in this .001% of the city limits but it gets reported all the time on stupid click-bait websites as the highest taxed city in America! Silly!
My point in this post is simple, ignore these websites that only exist to sell ads; ads which are only sellable when people click on them. Even when they do use data sources, it is only aggregated data sources that never tell the real story. Don’t let these sites make you feel anything less than great pride for your town. The good news is that professional economic developers and the site location consultants that we work with to bring companies to our communities do not pay attention to them. These sites are the National Enquirers of economic development! I have to go, the bodyguards are changing shifts and I need to make a run for my up-armored Humvee before nightfall!