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

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.

David Purser / Wikimedia Commons

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.

Pixabay / CC0 Creative Commons

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.

wocintechchat.com / CC0 Creative Commons

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.

Public Domain

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.

Richie, Robert Yarnall / Flickr Creative Commons

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.

Baishampayan Ghos / Wikimedia Commons

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.  

Roy Luck / Flickr Creative Commons

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.

SMU Central University Libraries / Flickr Creative Commons

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.

FCC

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.

AlexCovarrubias / Wikimedia Commons

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.

The retail economy in rural America has been rough for decades. But where thousands of stores have closed in recent years, Dollar General is thriving, sometimes at the expense of local shops. Dollar Generals are discount stores that sell goods from hand tools to hot dogs. They're reshaping the retail landscape in small towns. And making lots of friends — and enemies — in the process.

Puerto Rico’s hot winter days and warm nights have played a key role in the global seed business for more than 30 years. So, the devastation wrought on the U.S. territory by Hurricane Maria in September stretches to the croplands of the Midwest and Great Plains.

Fields in Puerto Rico are used for research, development and/or testing of up to 85 percent of the commercial corn, soybean and other hybrid seeds grown in the U.S., according to the Puerto Rico Agricultural Biotechnology Industry Association.

Harry Wood / Flickr Creative Commons

Texas politicians are leaning on the Trump administration to ease up on a Federal mandate encouraging ethanol use in American automobiles, reports The Houston Chronicle.

Texas Sen. Ted Cruz was among a group of GOP lawmakers who met with Trump this week to ask the President to change the mandate.

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Lawmakers in Washington may end net neutrality next week, and that could be bad for small businesses on the High Plains.

As The Texas Tribune reports, net neutrality is an Obama-era regulation that requires internet companies to treat all customers the same. If the rule is repealed, internet service providers like AT&T and Suddenlink could prioritize access to some websites over others.

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Solar power continues to expand across the Sooner State.

As The Tulsa World reports, in this state that has long been a bastion for proponents of fossil fuel, photovoltaic panels can be seen glittering beneath the Oklahoma sky more and more frequently these days.

Colorado Ill-Prepared For Economic Downturn

Dec 4, 2017
50states.com

Colorado is among the least prepared states in the country for the next recession.

As The Denver Post reports, a new analysis from Moody’s Analytics found that the state’s rainy day fund of $613 million is less than half the money needed for even a moderate economic downturn.

Ron Reiring / Wikimedia Commons

The executive chairman of BNSF railroad recently penned an editorial in the San Antonio Express-News pleading with lawmakers, including Texas Sen. John Cornyn, not to withdraw from the North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA).

Leaving NAFTA, wrote Matt Rose, would end the one million jobs in Texas that rely on the trade deal. Rose noted that, in 2015, the Lone Star State exported over $125 million worth of goods to Mexico and Canada.

Updated Nov. 30 with EPA decision — Midwestern U.S. senators’ lobbying campaign paid off Thursday for farmers who supply the renewable fuel industry.

The farm economy is showing some stability, the U.S. Department of Agriculture says, but the upswing doesn’t extend to all agricultural sectors.

Over the last three years, farm earnings have plummeted, eliciting concerns that the farm economy could tumble toward another farm crisis like the 1980s. For 2018, the USDA expects net farm income to rebound by a modest 3 percent nationwide, to $63 billion.

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