Category Archives: business news

Amarillo to get new link to Austin

Amarillo is being hooked up more tightly to Austin, via a new air carrier that will provide direct non-stop daily service between the cities in September.

Fascinating, yes? I couldn’t help but think of a former state legislator who once half-joked about splitting the Texas Panhandle from the rest of the state when he first took office in 1991.

State Rep. David Swinford once pitched a notion out loud that the Panhandle was so far removed from the state capital that it should become a separate state. I asked the Dumas Republican lawmaker about that idea when I first arrived in Amarillo in 1995 and he acknowledged that he was semi-serious about it.

The idea never got sufficient traction.

So, here we are, more than two decades later and we get news that Via Airlines is going to begin direct air service between Amarillo and Austin this fall. The in-state air carrier plans one flight out of AMA and one flight back each day, with the hope of expanding service if traffic merits it. Via currently operates a fleet of 50-passenger regional jets.

Via officials along with Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport officials say there’s sufficient interest in getting from the Panhandle to Austin to merit this new service. I guess travelers don’t like flying first to Dallas Love Field via Southwest Airlines, or to Dallas-Fort Worth International Airport via American Airlines before connecting to Austin-Bergstrom International Airport.

We’ll see how this goes. It does bode well for the future of the Panhandle and the growing reliance the region has on its air service, which happens to be quite good. AMA already provides direct service to Las Vegas, Phoenix, Denver, Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston. Now we can add Austin to the list of business and leisure travel destinations.

I also am quite sure that former Rep. Swinford no longer wants to split the Panhandle from the rest of the state.

The message? We don’t need your money!

I’m trying to put myself inside the skull of my friends at the Amarillo Chamber of Commerce or the Amarillo Convention and Visitors Council.

They no doubt know about that moronic sign west of Amarillo, the one that tells liberals to keep on going.

Don’t bother stopping in Amarillo, or in Vega (where the sign is planted) or in Wildorado, Adrian or in any of the cities and towns along the length of Interstate 40 that crosses the Texas Panhandle.

While you’re at it, the sign implies, don’t bother spending any of your money here if you’re one of them damn liberal thinkers. Don’t even think about eating here. Or booking a night or two of lodging here. Or buying groceries.

Just keep on going.

That’s what the sign suggests y’all just do. Pronto, man!

The sign is the product, apparently, of a former Amarillo City Council member who by all rights should know better than to dissuade people from spending their money in the Panhandle.

But … Randy Burkett is so damn ideologically rigid — or so it appears — that he he has tossed the needs of the greater community into the crapper just so he can demonstrate a silly penchant for political grandstanding.

Nice going, Mr. Burkett. This is how you show your “love” for the Texas Panhandle and the “great state of Texas”?

Two years later, Trump still making no sense on trade

I posted a blog item nearly two years ago wondering if Donald Trump knew a damn thing about trade policy.

My conclusion, based on what I understood from a speech he gave in Bangor, Maine, was that he was clueless.

I must maintain that conclusion today.

Incoherence on trade policy …

Now that he is president of the United States, Trump has decided to impose steep and punishing tariffs on imported goods from two of our nation’s most vital trading partners: Canada and Mexico.

The Republican president has trashed the North American Free Trade Agreement, which includes the United States and, yes, Canada and Mexico. NAFTA was intended to forgo the kind of protectionist tariffs that governments impose on other nations.

The concept of “free trade” is to allow goods and commodities to flow among participating countries. To that end, I long have believed NAFTA was doing as it was intended.

Yet the president took office after promising to re-do NAFTA. I don’t know the basis of his disagreement with the agreement, except that he says the United States is wallowing in some sort of deepening “trade deficit” with our primary trading partners.

Now he’s calling Canada — Canada, I tell ya! — a threat to our “national security.” Does this guy, the president, know anything — about anything?

Two years ago, in Maine, Trump told us he favored free trade; then in the same speech, he said he opposed it.

His nonsensical approach to trade has not abated one bit now that he has taken an oath to serve as the head of state of our great nation.

This is what we acquired when Donald Trump got elected?

Holy cow, man!

Let’s try ‘Sod Poodles Tower’

AMARILLO, Texas — OK, I’m just kidding about that suggestion to name the tower after Sod Poodles.

I mention it because of an announcement today that Amarillo’s tallest structure is slated to carry the name of another bank.

Chase left the ground floor of the 31-story tower and today it was announced that FirstBank Southwest is moving into Chase Bank’s first-floor office space.

FirstBank Southwest, pending federal approval, will be able to put its name on the top of the “tallest building between Fort Worth and Denver.”

The building known formerly as the Chase Tower will become the FirstBank Southwest Tower.

My question: For how long?

I’m not real crazy about corporations purchasing building-naming rights. What occasionally happens is what occurred when Chase left the tower. The building name came off the top of the skyscraper. Yet we still refer to the structure informally as the “Chase Tower.” Just mention the name and everyone in Amarillo knows what you’re talking about.

At least, though, the new bank is a locally owned outfit. I suppose that makes it more tolerable than some big corporate name being plastered on the side of what is among the city’s most recognizable downtown structures.

They’re going to name the city’s new minor-league baseball team later this year. I’ve already stated my case for Sod Poodles, which is among the five finalist names under consideration by the team owners.

My own preference for what it’s worth — and it’s not much these days, given that my wife and I now live elsewhere — would be to put a name more linked to the region than to some corporate entity.

Palo Duro Tower. Llano Estacado Tower. High Plains Tower. Canadian River Tower. Caprock Tower.

Just thinking out loud …

POTUS has weird view of ‘respect’

Donald John Trump keeps telling us how the United States is now “respected” around the world.

Let me think. Is that what the finance ministers of the six other industrialized nations said when they commented on the president’s absurd trade policies? That they really “respect” the United States now that Trump has imposed harsh tariffs on imported goods?

Um, I don’t believe that’s the case.

As the Wall Street Journal reports: The ministers of the six non-U.S. members of the Group of Seven industrialized nations—the host Canada, along with France, Germany, the U.K., Italy and Japan—on Saturday issued a joint statement excluding the U.S., and conveying their “unanimous concern and disappointment” with the U.S. decision last week to impose tariffs on steel and aluminum imported from the European Union, Canada and Mexico.

Respect, eh? Is that what we are getting these days?

Trump’s penchant for protectionism does not breed respect at any level among the other industrialized nations. Indeed, what is laughable on its face is how the president considers U.S.-Canada trade policies as presenting a “national security threat” to the United States. National security threat? Is he kidding?

I believe a serious “national security threat” exists with Russians meddling in our electoral process, which is what happened in 2016 and which well might occur again this year!

Where is the outrage at that threat, Mr.

President?

Instead, Trump decided to vent his anger at a nation whose sons have fought and died alongside our warriors for most of the 20th and 21st centuries.

Shameful.

Trump ‘insults’ Canadians … nice!

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has some strong thoughts about Donald Trump’s decision to impose punishing tariffs on Canadian steel sent to the United States.

He said: “Our soldiers who had fought and died together on the beaches of World War II … and the mountains of Afghanistan, and have stood shoulder to shoulder in some of the most difficult places in the world, that are always there for each other, somehow — this is insulting to them.”

At a personal level, Trudeau has taken serious offense to the president’s curious decision to go to “war” against the nation with which the United States shares the longest unsecured border in the world.

Yes, Canadians fought alongside Americans and Brits at Normandy. Curiously, we are about to honor the D-Day invasion in a few days.

Sure, Trump recognizes the longstanding alliance between the United States and Canada. Then he said our allies are taking advantage of us in trade. His response is to get back at them; impose these tariffs in a classic protectionist move.

Trudeau is looking for some sign of “common sense,” but says he cannot find it in the policy announced by the “U.S. administration.”

Well, Mr. Prime Minister, a lot of Americans are just as confused as you are. Let us know when common sense presents itself.

Jobs report: once cooked up, now legit?

Donald John Trump has this maddening capacity for talking out of both sides of his mouth and for avoiding accountability for it.

The U.S. Labor Department’s jobs report this week is an example of it. The bean counters at the Labor Department reported that 223,000 jobs were added to non-farm payrolls in May. Unemployment fell to 3.8 percent.

Good news? Of course it is! The president should take a victory lap on this one. He hailed the report so much that he actually sort of spilled the beans an hour before the data were released, breaking with longstanding presidential protocol. Some critics are concerned that he might have manipulated stock markets around the world by offering that hint of the good news that was about to be revealed.

But wait! He once derided those same bureaucrats’ findings when they delivered stellar jobs report numbers during the Barack Obama administration. He called them phony, cooked up. He said the actual jobless rate during President Obama’s time in office was many times greater than what the Labor Department said it was.

So, which is it? Were they cooked up then and have gained validity just because Trump is in office?

This is the kind of duplicity that Trump gets away with. It simply is astonishing in the extreme that the man’s “base” continues to cheer him on, giving him more incentive to keep lying to the nation.

Weird.

Good news, then a trade war … nice!

Donald J. Trump has just managed to piddle on his own good-news report. This is weird, man.

The U.S. Labor Department this morning released some seriously positive news: 233,000 non-farm jobs were added to the payrolls in May, which is greater than what economists expected; the nation’s jobless rate fell to 3.8 percent, the lowest rate since 2000.

We’re cheering the news! Yes, the economy is showing signs of rocking along. The president deserves his share of credit for the serious uptick in employment activity.

But … wait!

The previous day, the president announced a huge tariff on imported steel and other goods. Who’s going to get slapped with this protectionist measure? Our major trading partners and allies: Canada, Mexico, the European Union.

Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau made a statement this week about how this policy might make sense to someone in Washington but at this moment he cannot figure out what Trump is trying to do.

I’m not an economist, but I know enough about global economics to understand that trade wars rarely produce winners. Everyone loses. The cost of manufacturing items goes up because companies — that are in the business for make maximum profit — must increase the price of what they produce to cover the cost of sending it to trading partners.

Who pays the cost? You do. So do I.

This is classic protectionist policy, favored by union leaders who understandably want to protect their members’ jobs against foreign competitors.

Free trade? It’s out the window, flushed down the crapper, tossed onto the trash heap.

I’m still unclear about what Trump is trying to do.

I’m delighted with the jobs report. The trade war might tamp down a lot of our enthusiasm.

Goofy.

Is Trump responsible for gas price hikes?

I believe it was around 2011. Gasoline prices were spiking.

Republicans were aghast at the fuel prices. They couldn’t understand why the president at the time, Democrat Barack Obama, wasn’t doing something about it.

I don’t know what the president can do, short of imposing some sort of price control. That’s been tried. It didn’t work in the 1970s.

So now the price of motor vehicle fuel is climbing steadily. I thought we had a “surplus” of fossil fuels, given that we were using more alternative energy sources, driving more fuel-efficient vehicles.

Oh, no. I guess that was a mirage. Right?

The national average price of a gallon of gasoline is up about 12 cents during the past two weeks.

Hey, where’s the outrage now? Why aren’t we yammering at Obama’s successor, Donald J. Trump?

The president cannot do anything now any more than any president can limit the price of a market-driving commodity.

But … the silence is rather deafening this time.

Downtown’s future looking brighter

Beth Duke is on a singular mission, which is to improve the economic condition of Amarillo’s downtown district. It makes sense, given her day job as executive director of Amarillo Center City.

This past weekend, Center City conducted a tour of historic structures scattered through the downtown region. The aim of the tour is to give prospective business owners an opportunity to see what the future might hold for the city — and for them.

I happen to support Center City’s mission and I have noted before that the organization has deployed the perfect person — that would be Beth Duke — to carry the mission forward. Duke was born and reared in Amarillo and spent a lengthy career covering the city while working as a reporter and editor at the Amarillo Globe-News.

Another reason for supporting Center City and its effort to juice up downtown lies in the ripple benefit that is sure to accrue across the city over time.

Study after municipal study reveals a common denominator among cities: All of the communities that enjoy economic and cultural vitality also are home to vibrant downtown districts.

Amarillo is on that path. You see it constantly evolving into something few of us can foresee at this moment. The downtown ballpark is under construction; downtown has welcomed two new first-class hotels; new retail businesses are springing up along Polk Street — and existing businesses are moving into shiny new digs.

There’s some positive rumbling about prospects for some rotting structures, namely the Barfield Building and the Ruhl Building.

It’s not all goodness and light. That 31-story skyscraper once known as the Chase Tower is undergoing change, although commercial real estate brokers report a jacked-up interest among folks who want to relocate to it. But then we hear that the Amarillo Club — which occupies the top two floors of the tower — is closing.

Will the historic building tour accelerate downtown’s rebirth? That remains to be seen, although the Globe-News reports some highly positive impact: “Tours like this are great, otherwise I don’t think people would realize what has been done to these old buildings,” said Laura Lane, who took part in the tour. “I am so glad to see historical buildings in downtown Amarillo get refurbished and reused and reinvented. To be able to walk to work, with restaurants everywhere now, this just enlivens the downtown area.”

As the city’s downtown evolution progresses, I feel confident enough to declare that once Amarillo’s work is done — whenever that occurs — the entire city is going to reap the reward.