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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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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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.

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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.

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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 2017, the USDA expects net farm income to rebound by a modest 3 percent nationwide, to $63 billion.

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Texas farmers are concerned that if plans for two of the world’s largest agricultural firms to merge go through, it will diminish competition and cause prices for seeds and other essential products to increase.

As The Texas Tribune reports, German conglomerate Bayer, a global distributor of seeds best known for its pharmaceuticals like aspirin, hopes to buy Missouri-based agricultural firm Monsanto, which sells agricultural chemicals.

Colorado One Of The Nation's Top Hemp Producers

Nov 27, 2017
U.S. Department of Agriculture

As U.S. hemp production doubled in 2017, Colorado became one of the country’s top hemp producers.

As The Cannabist reports, Colorado now grows almost 40 percent of all the hemp in the U.S. – more than twice what any other state grows.

Public Domain

The Texas Department of Public Transportation is once again considering whether to extend Interstate 27 northward from Amarillo and southward from Lubbock down to the Mexican border.

I-27 currently stretches 117 miles from Amarillo to Lubbock.

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Roger Sewell slowed his pickup down on a rural section of Pratt County, next to a field gleaming white.

“How’s it look?” he said with a grin, then added this good field of cotton, to be stripped in coming weeks and eventually turned into denim, was his.

Just a few years ago, it was tougher to find a cotton field in these parts. The fledgling industry had been struggling to regain its footing after peaking in acres more than a decade ago. High corn prices and 2,4-D drift were among the culprits causing farmers to shy away from cotton.

There’ve been five rounds of negotiations over the decades-old North American Free Trade Agreement in recent months, but little movement toward a re-imagining of the treaty with Canada and Mexico from which U.S. agriculture benefits greatly.

With President Donald Trump still threatening to pull the country out of NAFTA if his preferred updates aren’t made, senators in farm-intensive states increasingly are speaking out.

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West Texas oil producers are running out of places to send the growing glut of natural gas that is a byproduct of the recent oil boom in the region.

As Fox Business reports, all of the natural gas pipelines that stretch from West Texas to the gulf are basically full. And the gas can’t be sent north, because northern natural gas markets are already supplied by producers in Canada and the Rockies.

AlexCovarrubias / Wikimedia Commons

As the fifth round of NAFTA talks came to a close Tuesday in Mexico, the agriculture industry tried to convey the damage that would be done to the industry if a trade deal that is helping struggling sectors survive is terminated.

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In an opinion piece in The Guardian, truck driver Finn Murphy warns drivers will soon be replaced by automation and that the rest of us are next.

Murphy argues that with tech giants investing billions into driverless vehicles, truck drivers will use their jobs, once the technology is perfected. Drivers are the last part of the supply chain that hasn’t been automated forklifts and robots already load and unload cargo at warehouses.

Tyson Foods announced Monday it will build a chicken processing plant in Tennessee similar to one that had been planned for northeast Kansas. State officials say Kansas is still in the running for another facility.

The chicken plant in Humboldt, Tennessee, will be similar in size and cost to one previously planned for Tonganoxie. Plans to build that plant were put on hold in September after an outpouring of local opposition.  

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