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Border economy is a mixed bag

Mail Boxes International owner Brant Baron stands in his H Street company's storage room lined with boxes. Holiday sales have returned to normal this year, which is about 50 percent more than nonseasonal times, Baron says, but overall business is not operating at prepandemic levels.

"We're still not back to where we were precovid," Baron said. "There's still a lot of people who haven't been back to the states since. But we're hearing more and more people every day saying, 'This is my first time back.'"

Mailbox owners like Baron have had varying degrees of sales and optimism with returning Canadian customers as cross-border travel restrictions have slowly eased this year.

Economic recovery in Blaine seems to be a mixed bag. Blaine's sales tax receipts are looking promising despite the closure of several mailbox stores, but gas tax revenue continues to be hard hit with Canadians not waiting at the fuel pump as they once did.

Mailbox stores contribute to the city's sales tax, which benefits basic city operations in the general fund, while gas stations contribute to the city's gas tax, which funds street maintenance and operations.

"It's huge," said city finance director Daniel Heverling of the missing gas revenue. "It's really hurting the street fund because the numbers are way down. The sales tax is impacting the general fund but it seems like it's rebounding."

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