Most of the economic indicators in Brownwood including sales tax allocations, sales of homes, residential and commercial construction and hotel occupancy showed gains in 2012 over the previous year, and the unemployment rate for Brown County was at a four-year low.

The area also faces challenges including the drought, the unknown impact of the Cline Shale, low wages compared with the state, and limited retail, restaurants and other "lifestyle related businesses."

Those were among the details of the Brownwood Economic Development Corp.'s annual report, which the Brownwood City Council ratified Tuesday after a presentation by BEDC Executive Director Emily Crawford.

The report gives details of economic indicators which, Crawford said, show "the temperature of our economy."

According to economic indicator numbers for 2012:

• Sales tax allocations — up 4.5 percent.

• Unemployment — the numbers for 2012 were "fantastic," Crawford said. 

The average unemployment rate for 2012 was 6 percent, a four-year low. Six of the year's 12 months saw the rate lower than 12 percent. Brown County's unemployment rate for the year was .8 percent lower than the state, and 2.1 percent lower than the national rates.

• Commercial business activity — 52 certificates of occupancy were issued for new buildings or after a remodel, expansion or change in classification. That number is down slightly from 2011, when 59 were issued, but was the second-highest number since 2006.

Twenty-seven of the certificates of occupancy were for new buildings, up from the 2011 number of 23. 

Ninety-one sales tax permits were issued, down from the previous year's 113.

• Home sales — 190 homes were sold in 2012, a four-year high and up from last year's 169. In 2007, 247 homes were sold.

Twenty-five certificates of occupancy were issued for new home construction, the highest number since 2006, when 45 new homes were built. In 2011, 15 new homes were built.

• Hotel occupancy tax — 2012's $341,425 was down from the previous year's $349,633.

Considering the drought and the reduced visits to Lake Brownwood, "it's remarkable that our hotel occupancy continues to be strong," Crawford said. Business and sports-related travel have been factors in hotel occupancy, Crawford said, according to city numbers from the Brownwood Area Chamber of Commerce's tourism department.

The report listed "short-term challenges" including major employers and metal fabricators losing employees to the Permian Basin and the Cline Shale.  The BEDC is working with Ranger College and Texas State Technical College to develop short-term training programs to increase the labor pool and fill vacated positions.

Long-term issues, identified through the BEDC's Strategic Plan, included:

• Recruitment and retention of young professionals.

• Availability of higher skilled mechanical and technical labor.

• Limited housing options and availability.

• Limited resources for entrepreneurship and innovation.

• Perception of high taxes by major industry.