HPPR Economy and Enterprise

Agriculture:
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dairy production
research & development

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

Transportation & telecommunications
rail service
air service
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Economic indicators & conditions:
workforce demographics
employment rates
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tax collections

Entrepreneurship:
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XCel Energy says it plans to refund nearly $40 million to its Texas customers this June. According to a press release from XCel spokesman Wes Reeves, the giveback is due to “a continued drop in prices for power plant fuel and the increased use of low-cost wind energy resources.”

So, what does that mean in everyday terms? Those XCel customers who use more than 1,000 kilowatt-hours a month will see a credit on their bill of around $35. The refund may be spread over two months depending upon when a customer’s meter is read.

For many farmers, 2019 was the first year of growing hemp, since it became legal under the 2018 Farm Bill. In addition to the normal challenges of farming, hemp growers have had to deal with a different kind of problem: theft.

 

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The Amarillo City Council has unanimously approved a bond that would allow city residents to decide the fate of a proposed $319 million project to expand and renovate the Amarillo Civic Center.

As the Globe-News noted this week, the plan would include a massive overhaul of the huge facility on Buchanan Street in downtown Amarillo.

Clearing one of the last hurdles in a nearly two-year merger marathon, a federal judge on Tuesday ruled that Overland Park-based Sprint may complete its $26 billion deal with rival T-Mobile.

At first glance, this modest home nestled against a hillside in the mountains somewhere west of Colorado Springs appears to have all the amenities you'd expect in a quiet retreat. There's even a two-story tower built right in. An otherwise peaceful place to catch the 360-degree view of winter's splendor.

"[It's a] really nice place to sit and vacation — enjoy. But, if necessary, it's a guard post," Drew Miller pointed out.

Updated at 11:23 a.m. ET

The U.S. labor market revved up in January, with employers adding 225,000 jobs. That's well above the number forecasters were expecting. The unemployment rate inched up to 3.6%, near a 50-year low, according to a new report from the Labor Department.

Employment growth for November and December was also revised upwards by a total of 7,000 jobs.

Spirit AeroSystems said Thursday it has reached an agreement with Boeing to resume production of the 737 Max, but at reduced levels.

Many farmers are wrapping up a frustrating first year of growing hemp, which was legalized under the 2018 Farm Bill.

“It’s kind of a good way to start, in that that’s about as bad as it can get,” said Jeff Cox, Bureau Chief of Medicinal Plants at the Illinois Department of Agriculture. “There’s a lack of expertise, just a general lack of knowledge as to how to grow hemp the best way."

Copyright 2020 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

STEVE INSKEEP, HOST:

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The Texas Tech Board of Regents has set a $90 million-budget for the construction of the highly anticipated new veterinary school in Amarillo.

As the Amarillo Globe-News notes, construction began this month on the new Texas Tech School of Veterinary Medicine, to be located just north of the Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center on Coulter Street, across from Northwest Texas hospital.

Brett Adams, who farms near the town of Peru in southeast Nebraska, takes the good news where he can get it these days. After nearly a year, the floodwater is mostly gone from his riverside farmland.

Adams is on the local levee board, which manages the town’s nearly 8 miles of Missouri riverbed. And the (unpaid) work keeps him very busy: he was on a call when I first climbed into his pickup, apologetically holding a finger up every so often.

After hanging up, he said he can’t afford to miss a call. Somebody might be on the other end bearing good news.

Texas Sens. Cruz And Cornyn Back New North American Trade Deal To Replace NAFTA

Jan 16, 2020

WASHINGTON - U.S. Sens. Ted Cruz and John Cornyn, both Texas Republicans, joined with most of their colleagues from both sides of the aisle to pass the United States-Mexico-Canada Agreement, a new North American trade deal.

Kansas City, Missouri — Time was, a fledgling tech company called CivicPlus had to explain to prospective customers why it was based in Kansas — and not some tech-heavy coastal city.

“We said, ‘Hey, you get Midwest values, but with Silicon Valley quality,’” recalled Ward Morgan, owner of the government software maker based in the college town of Manhattan. “It did throw people off to think that there was a tech company in Kansas.”

Today CivicPlus, founded in the 1990s, serves 3,500 cities and counties on two continents.

The first phase of a new trade agreement between the United States and China is scheduled for a White House signing ceremony Wednesday and many in the agriculture community are hoping the deal will bring some relief to the farm economy.

As the Mountain West grows and hunter numbers decline, states are finding ways to bring in more revenue to fund conservation.

An independent review of Kansas’ rising electricity prices shows the current system for setting rates could use some improvements.

In a lengthy report requested by state legislators and submitted by London Economics, analysts concluded three main things: The current ratemaking process has been slightly balanced in favor of utilities, regulators are limited in their ability to protect consumers from paying for underused investments (such as aging coal plants), and additional bill surcharges and have been a key driver of rising rates.

Spirit AeroSystems announced Friday that it will lay off 2,800 employees at its plant in Wichita as the shutdown of the Boeing 737 Max program drags on.

The move comes just weeks after Boeing ordered Spirit to halt all deliveries of 737 Max components. Spirit produces about 70% of the jet at its facility in south Wichita, including the fuselage. The program accounts for half of the company's annual revenue.

A much-anticipated update to the 25-year-old North American Free Trade Agreement is one step closer to implementation.

On Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee, chaired by Sen. Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, voted 25-3 to approve the United States Mexico Canada Agreement. Two Republicans and one Democrat cast the "no" votes.

San Antonio is readying itself for 5G networks from big telecoms like AT&T and T-Mobile.

Payments to Oklahoma farmers from the Trump administration to soften the effects of a trade dispute with China are helping a little, but many farmers are still struggling with a years-long decline in incomes.

Half of a million Colorado workers are set to receive new labor protections that go into effect in 2020, but not everyone is happy. Some employers are upset with the new rules, and some workers are upset that they have been left out.

A few workers who traditionally haven’t gotten protections like overtime pay and guaranteed rest breaks will get them, but critics say the proposed rules will change things too slowly and for too few people.

When Peter Bouckaert started at New Belgium in the late 1990s, the company was a small, boutique brewery making its way in Fort Collins. He was employee No. 33. During his time there, Bouckaert crafted some of its most beloved brews, including La Folie, French for "the folly."

Now, he and hundreds of other current and former employees face a decision: to sell or not to sell one of the largest independent craft breweries in the country.

People are eating a lot of meat, both in the U.S. and around the world, and that could be good news for the cattle sector in 2020. Things are looking up for pork, too.

Lee Schulz, a livestock economist at Iowa State University, says there’s typically a 9 to 14 year cycle for beef production. At the current point in that cycle, heading into year six, he says the number of cattle should be leveling-off, which would mean farmers and ranchers would get lower prices for their beef.

TOPEKA, Kansas — Personal income growth in Kansas is below the national average, due in large part to troubles in the agriculture industry, which makes up about 40% percent of the state’s economy.

Kansas farmers face an expanding drought and low commodity prices, though a break in the ongoing tariff dispute may bring those up.

“Farmers have bills to pay,” Kansas Wheat Commission CEO Justin Gilpin said. “Ultimately, what we need to do is hopefully see commodity prices somewhat bottom out here and get trade going.”

The blow also has been softened by a total of $732 million in federal trade-bailout money in 2019 alone, which Gilpin calls a “lifeline” for some Kansas farmers.

Updated at 12:15 p.m. ET

Dennis Muilenburg, the embattled CEO of Boeing, is resigning from his post, the aerospace giant announced Monday. The company says its board of directors has named David L. Calhoun, the current chairman, as successor.

For decades, major tobacco companies have fought against raising the age limit to buy their products from 18 to 21. But recently, some cigarette and e-cigarette giants have started lobbying for the minimum age to rise.

"Raising the purchase age to 21 reduces underage access," a radio ad from e-cigarette giant Juul declared. "That's why Juul Labs supports making 21+ the law nationwide."

The Trump administration confirmed this week negotiations for the first phase of a US-China trade agreement are finished. President Trump also elected not to enact additional tariffs planned for December 15th.

Spirit AeroSystems said Friday it will suspend production of the 737 Max beginning Jan. 1.

The company says Boeing ordered Spirit to halt all 737 deliveries. The 737 Max was grounded in March following two fatal crashes overseas.

Spirit did not say how the production suspension would affect its workforce of more than 13,000 people. The company is Wichita's largest private employer.

Spirit makes more than 70 percent of the 737 at its south Wichita plant.

On a side street near the Des Moines Water Works, a tall fence surrounds three garden plots. Geese fly overhead while trucks drive past a sign between the road and the fence. It says: “Industrial Development Land For Sale, Contact City of Des Moines.”

Until recently, the city rented the land for growing vegetables but now it’s been rezoned and put up for sale.

If there's one company that can slow U.S. growth to a crawl, it's Boeing.

The aircraft and aerospace giant is so important to the economy — it's the No. 1 exporter — that its decision this week to suspend production of its troubled 737 Max airplane is expected to reverberate throughout the manufacturing sector.

Several analysts project that the move will slash economic growth by half a percentage point and eventually lead to layoffs.

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