HPPR Economy and Enterprise

Agriculture:
crop production
crop irrigation
livestock production
dairy production
research & development

Energy
oil & gas production
wind energy
biofuels production
food processing
manufacturing

Transportation & telecommunications
rail service
air service
highways
internet service

Economic indicators & conditions:
workforce demographics
employment rates
land values
tax collections

Entrepreneurship:
small business development
technology application
innovation

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The Texas solar energy industry boasts the fourth highest number of workers nationwide, according to a new CNBC report. The Lone Star State employs almost 9,000 solar workers, just behind New York State and Massachusetts.

California employs by far the most solar workers nationwide, with a staggering 87,000 jobs devoted to solar power. In the Golden State, more than five million homes are run on solar energy.

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Even though marijuana is legal in Colorado, because it is still illegal on the federal level, any job in the industry can be classified as trafficking in a controlled substance – something that is not necessarily a concern to industry’s state-licensed employees, except non-citizens.  

As Colorado Public Radio reports, just having a job in a marijuana dispensary or grow house can get even a legal resident deported and banned from the US – sometimes for life.

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In the midst of one of the worst droughts to hit the state in decades, Texas is experiencing another kind of drought.

From Texas Standard.

Texas cattle are known more for their beef than their milk. That’s for good reason: The Lone Star State is the country’s leader in beef production by a wide margin.

But don’t count out Texas dairy. Milk production is on the rise in the state, and that’s thanks in part to a move west. Ellen Jordan, a professor and dairy specialist at the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, says the Texas produces more than 12 billion pounds of milk.

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The Amarillo City Council has approved a plan that would create one daily flight from Amarillo’s Rick Husband International Airport to Phoenix, Arizona.

As The Amarillo Globe-News reports, the decision means American Airlines can now begin preparing direct nonstop air service between Arizona and the Texas Panhandle. The city council voted unanimously to approve the plan, which will open Amarillo air customers up to 89 domestic destinations and four countries out of Phoenix.

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Renewable wind and solar energy, along with a booming natural gas industry, continue to win the battle over coal in Texas.

As The Huntsville Tribune reports, last year Texas lost 455 coal-mining jobs, more than any other state. And the state’s biggest power supplier, Luminant, announced that it would be shuttering two massive coal-fired plants this year.

Agribusiness Mergers Putting Farmers In A Tight Spot

Feb 8, 2018
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Farmers who grow the corn and soybeans that our food system requires are in a tight spot.

As Mother Jones reports, growers depend on a very small number of companies, which have enormous leverage to raise prices, for seeds, pesticides, and fertilizers. Then, when farmers go to sell their crops, a few very large grain-trading firms have the leverage to keep prices down, due to a lack of competition.

From Texas Standard.

As President Donald Trump touts America’s nuclear arsenal, two nuclear weapons plants in the U.S. are running into some financial trouble. The Center for Public Integrity reports that the two plants – the Pantex plant near Amarillo, Texas, and the Y-12 facility in Oak Ridge, Tenn. – have failed to keep the ambitious cost savings promises that were made four years ago.

A new, widely debated federal mandate requires truckers to electronically track the number of hours they’re on the road — a rule that’s meant to make highways safer. But there’s a big difference between hauling a load of TVs and a load of cattle destined for meatpacking plants.

Last fall’s dramatic public backlash against plans for a massive poultry operation in northeast Kansas could lead to a change in law.

Two lawmakers whose districts include Tonganoxie — a small, rural commuter town between Lawrence and Kansas City — want to give local residents a say on whether they’ll be neighbors to a chicken plant.

Voters in the county of any proposed large-scale facility for caging or slaughtering poultry would be able to force a public vote on the matter by gathering enough signatures on a petition.

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Oklahoma is the number two producer of wind energy in the United States.

Yet, as The Christian Science Monitor reports, the Sooner State has recently soured on this form of renewable energy.

Due to the state’s crippling budget woes, in addition to pressure from the state’s powerful oil and gas lobby, Oklahoma has been phasing out the key tax incentives that had, in large part, been responsible for the booming wind industry in the state.

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The Texas oil and gas workforce has reached a seven-year low, according to The Houston Chronicle.

The news comes even as oil prices have stabilized.

When crude prices plummeted three years ago, after the economic glory years of the fracking boom, the Texas energy industry scrambled to find ways to produce more oil using fewer bodies.

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After steady gains over much of last year, Texas employment growth appears to have stalled last month.

As The Houston Chronicle reports, the Lone Star State only added 400 jobs in December, after gaining nearly 54,000 in November and more than 67,000 in October. That puts the state unemployment rate at 3.9 percent, slightly higher than November’s record low of 3.8.

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Millennials in Amarillo are buying homes at one of the fastest rates in the nation, according to a new study by the personal finance website SmartAsset.

In the site’s latest rankings of “Millennials and Homeownership,” Amarillo ranked 13th in the nation, tied with Oklahoma City.

In fact, HPPR States performed exceedingly well in general in the study, with Kansas, Oklahoma, Colorado and Texas cities making up seven of the top 14 cities on the list.

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The unemployment rate in Colorado and Kansas changed very little in December.

As Colorado Public Radio reports, Colorado’s unemployment rate increased by two-tenths of a percentage point from November to December - from 2.9 to 3.1 percent. But that’s actually good news because, according to the Department of Labor, the rate went up because more people entered the workforce.

In winter, farmers across the U.S. visit their banks to learn whether they have credit for the next growing season, relying on that borrowed money to buy seed, fertilizer and chemicals.

But prices for corn, soybeans and wheat are low enough that some producers have had a hard time turning a profit, and financial analysts expect some farmers will hear bad news: Their credit has run out.

The federal government wants to revamp hog slaughter inspections, proposing changes that were more than 15 years in the works and are being touted as ways to improve food safety. Critics argue they hand too much responsibility to meatpackers and may put workers’ safety at risk.

City of Garden City

Garden City is one step closer to having a major multi-sport athletic complex.

The Kansas Department of Commerce last week approved a Sales and Tax Revenue (STAR) Bond for the $30 million Sports of the World Complex, which according to a press release from the City of Garden City, will include indoor and outdoor facilities and a stadium that can accommodate ice skating, hockey, rugby and more.

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Texas job growth will likely rebound by 3 percent this year, according to new prognostications from the Dallas Fed.

As The Austin American-Statesman reports, the Fed expects employers to add about 370,000 new jobs in 2018. That’s up from just over 300,000 last year. However, payroll numbers are not expected to rise due to a tight labor market.

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Texas isn’t quite as special these days as it has been for most of this new century, claims a new editorial in the Dallas Morning News.

The state, notes the contributor Richard Parker, “has burned brightly since the beginning of the century.”

But now that bright Lone Star is cooling off. Parker is careful to note that the state’s changing fortunes don’s so much signal a downturn as “a leveling off.”

A few years ago, Kansas City restaurateur Anton Kotar surveyed the local and national restaurant scenes and concluded his town’s reputation as a steakhouse paradise had slipped.

The problem, he says, is the way conventional beef is raised – bulked up with grain on feedlots, making it cheap and plentiful and changing what Americans expect to taste.

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The United States Supreme Court may soon strike down a ban on sports betting that has existed for decades in many states.

But, as The Austin American-Statesman reports, that doesn’t mean Texas Panhandle residents will legally be able to call the local bookie and plop down a grand on the Cowboys anytime soon.  

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If you live in Texas, you might have wondered why you can’t purchase liquor or buy a car on Sunday.

According to The Texas Tribune, these prohibitions are some of the last remnants of the so-called “Blue Laws” in the Lone Star State. These laws have actually been on the books since before Texas—or even the United States—was founded.

The purpose of the laws was to encourage citizens to focus on church and resting on what was widely considered to be the Lord’s Day.

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Back in July, The New Yorker’s Lawrence Wright published an investigation into the politics of the Lone Star State entitled “America’s Future is Texas.” The essay became one of The NewYorker’s most popular pieces of 2017.

This week Wright followed up his politics piece with a look at the Texas economy’s longstanding attachment to the fossil-fuel industry, which has resulted in a seemingly endless boom-and-bust cycle.

From Texas Standard:

In the Panhandle city of Amarillo, alongside the howling winds and the lonesome wail of freight engines, another sound is heard more frequently these days. I’m talking about the whooshing of espresso machines. In the last decade, Amarillo has gained national attention as a mecca for espresso aficionados.

In Sidney, Neb., Cabela's corporate headquarters and flagship superstore sit up on a hill like a castle over the prairie. Pretty much everybody in town has deep ties to it. Melissa Norgard got her first job there working in the store's deli when she was 16.

"When I was growing up here, no, I never would have ever thought, Cabela's leaving, no," Norgard says.

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On Thursday, the Federal Communication Commission (FCC) overturned its 2015 decision that reinstated rules blocking internet service providers (ISPs) from reducing speeds, blocking, or charging more for certain content. That move could have a large impact on rural customers, who often have fewer choices for ISPs.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture faces a lawsuit that argues the federal agency must bring back a proposed rule that defined abusive practices by meatpacking companies.

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A group of Texas congressmen is asking the White House to reconsider its plans to renegotiate the North American Free Trade Agreement.

According to The Houston Chronicle, the lawmakers are worried that the Trump team’s plans to overhaul the trade deal could permanently damage the complex network of energy agreements between Canada, the United States and Mexico.

Kansas City Federal Reserve

As the Omaha World Herald reports, with corn prices at around $3.50 per bushel, grain farmers in Nebraska are increasingly exhausting their cash supplies and taking out loans.

Brad Bauer, a senior vice president at Pinnacle Bank, told the Herald that the demand for operating loans for farmers in Nebraska has increased because many producers have exhausted their cash reserves.

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