Category Archives: business news

AEDC turns 25

The year 1989 proved to be a time of tumult and triumph for Amarillo.

Voters rebelled against the City Commission (as it was called then) and tossed most of its members out. Times were tough then. The economy was in the tank, the city was fighting with prominent businessman Boone Pickens, who had gotten angry at the local newspaper over its coverage of certain issues.

City voters, though, did have the good sense to approve the formation of the Amarillo Economic Development Corporation, a body tasked with spending a portion of sales tax revenue on job-creation projects for the city and the surrounding region.

Voters said “yes” to AEDC and it came into being.

It’s been collecting a half-cent of sales tax every year since, building a handsome investment fund for the past quarter century.

It has had some notable successes and some stinging defeats over the years.

The big daddy of the successes, of course, was the return of Bell Helicopter to Amarillo. Bell/Textron set up huge aircraft assembly operation next to Rick Husband Amarillo International Airport after AEDC dangled about #45 million in inducements to the company to relocate its assembly operations from Fort Worth to Amarillo. Suffice to say the good folks of Cowtown were none too pleased with what they thought amounted to corporate bribery of a company using public money.

Bell came here, began assembling the V-22 Osprey for the Marine Corps. The site has grown in the years since then, adding hundreds of jobs.

AEDC also lured Hilmar Cheese to Dalhart, another venture that drew criticism from local folks who couldn’t grasp why AEDC was spending sales tax money on something built way up yonder in Dallam County. Well, that project has been a boon to the region as well.

Not all the projects have panned out. But all in all, the AEDC has provided an innovative inducement to companies looking to expand their payrolls or to relocate from other locations to the High Plains of Texas.

Billboards are cropping up around town saluting AEDC. TV spots are airing that do the same.

All in all, the AEDC has helped the city stay afloat while other communities have struggled during tough times.

That’s reason enough to offer a good word.

Economy becomes Democratic trump card

Who’da thunk this could happen?

The economy is looming as the Democrats trump card as they fight to retain control of the U.S. Senate and try to prevent Republicans from grabbing even tighter control of the House of Representatives.

http://thehill.com/opinion/juan-williams/219140-juan-williams-economy-could-tip-election-to-dems

That’s the view, at least, of Juan Williams — one of Fox News’s token liberals.

Williams noted in an essay that President Obama is now using President Reagan’s legendary line from his 1980 campaign when he asked: Are you better off than you were four years ago?

Obama is turning that question on its ear for the GOP.

Are we better off today than we were four years ago, or six years ago, or even one year ago?

The answer unquestionably is a resounding “yes!”

The economic reality, though, hasn’t yet registered with Americans, according to RealClearPolitics.com, Williams reports. “RealClearPolitics has 55 percent of Americans disapproving of the president’s handling of the economy, to only 40 percent approving.” Why is that? My guess is that the GOP has done a better job of bad-mouthing the economy than Democrats have done talking it up.

The data tell a different story. This past month, we added 142,000 jobs to the economy, but that was seen as a “disappointment.” The previous several months registered more than 200,000 jobs monthly. The unemployment rate is now at 6.1 percent. Manufacturing is up. Exports are up, knocking down the trade deficit.

Will any of this work in Democrats’ favor when the mid-term elections are decided? That remains to be seen.

Still, it boggles my mind that the economy — which seemed to be in such a shambles just three years ago — now has become Barack Obama’s major bragging point.

Who knew?

Tax cuts pushed off GOP table

Tax cuts used to be the mantra of the Republican Party.

No more, or so it seems. Cutting taxes now appears to be the bane of the Grand Old Party. Why? Some states that have cut taxes too much now face the dreaded “d” word, budget deficits that are blowing apart any effort to do something constructive for constituents.

http://www.politico.com/story/2014/09/republicans-shift-away-from-tax-cutting-mania-111359.html?hp=t1

Meanwhile, at the federal level we’re seeing the deficit shrinking as the federal government has reduced spending while holding the line — for now — on tax revenue.

“We have to stop being one-trick ponies,” said California Rep. John Campbell, a member of the arch-conservative Republican Study Committee and the No. 4 Republican on the House Budget Committee.

Kansas Gov. Sam Brownback, a Republican who once served in the U.S. Senate, might be in serious trouble this election year because he’s pushed too hard for tax cuts that have cost the state too much revenue to pay for certain things — such as, oh, road maintenance and public education.

As Politico reports, the tax cuts that once were the mainstay of a party dominated by Ronald Reagan are MIA in the current political discussion. GOP candidates are talking about the Affordable Care Act and terrorism. Tax cuts? Forget about it.

Well, rest assured that Democrats will remind voters of the danger of cutting too much. They’ll be talking enough for both political parties right up until Election Day.

Cell phone courtesy course is in order

Cell phones. I love ’em and hate ’em at the same time.

What do I love about cell phones? A few things come to mind: I love being able to call my wife when I forget something I’m supposed to get while running errands; I love the Bluetooth feature in my Prius that allows me to talk and drive at the same time while not fiddling with the gadget; I love being able to place — or receive — an emergency phone call, which has happened in both instances.

OK, what do I hate about them? Watching individuals talk and drive at the same time. The No. 1 thing I hate about them is being forced to listen to someone’s conversation.

It’s that aspect of cell phones that brings to mind an idea I hadn’t thought of until just today. Cell phone merchants ought to conduct cell phone courtesy courses, teaching first-time users (if there are any of them left on Planet Earth) the do’s and don’ts of cell phone usage.

Here’s an example.

I was at work Tuesday at the car dealership that employs me part time. The waiting area in our service department was full of customers; maybe about 10 or 12 folks were sitting there waiting on vehicles they’d brought in for service.

About four of them were talking on cell phones. But one of them — a gentleman about 70 years of age — could be heard above everyone else. In fact, his was the only voice I heard for nearly an hour. He was talking loudly on his cell phone.

The woman sitting right next to him was talking on her cell phone. I didn’t hear a thing she said. She was being discreet.

Mr. Loudmouth? He was anything but discreet. He was bellowing into his phone for no apparent reason. He wasn’t hard of hearing. How do I know that? Because he and I spoke briefly and he had no difficulty hearing what I was saying to him in my normal conversational voice — which isn’t particularly loud.

But he just had to talk loudly into that gizmo.

I didn’t mean to eavesdrop. But, hey, I couldn’t help it. Neither could any of the other customers who had to listen to this guy’s constant blathering.

Cell phones have become a part of our society. However, I think I have an idea that would make it a less-intrusive element in our way of life. I am going to pitch it to one of the sales folks working at the cell phone store where I do business.

Revoke NFL's 'non-profit' status

If Congress is going to get involved in anything involving the National Football League, it should be quite specific and it should deal exclusively with matters of taxation.

Take the league’s status as a “non-profit” entity, which exempts it from paying federal taxes.

Yank that status. Now.

http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/218301-reid-joins-bill-aiming-to-revoke-nfl-nonprofit-status

We’ve heard some clamoring from lawmakers about the House and Senate convening hearings over the issue of domestic violence. Accordingly, Sen. Cory Booker, D-N.J., has proposed a bill that would remove the non-profit status and dedicate revenue received toward paying for programs dealing with this tragic issue.

The hearings are a waste of time. All they would do is give senators and House members a platform to pontificate in public about their indignation over domestic violence.

Other senators, such as Harry Reid, D-Nev., and Maria Cantwell, D-Wash., are targeting the non-profit issue as a way to punish the league for its support of the Washington Redskins team nickname, which many Americans believe denigrates Native Americans.

Whatever the cause, the tax issue is the only way Congress should get involved in the affairs of a private enterprise.

Frankly, I’m astonished that the NFL enjoys the tax-exempt status at all. To suggest the league is a “non-profit” organization is laughable on its face.

Congress has a role to play in fixing what’s wrong with the NFL. That role, though, should focus solely on taxation.

Export oil, deplete supply, price goes up

Pressure reportedly is mounting on Capitol Hill to lift a four-decade ban on exporting U.S. crude oil.

This notion gives me pause. I’m not totally against it. It surely, though, does raise a fundamental economic question: If supply-and-demand policy regulates the price consumers pay for a product, would exporting oil overseas reduce the supply here at home and, thus, mean we pay more for what we purchase?

http://thehill.com/policy/energy-environment/217620-momentum-builds-to-allow-us-oil-exports

I watched the price of gasoline drop twice Saturday while I was working. The price of regular unleaded gasoline is now around $3.07 per gallon in Amarillo.

Then this morning I read in the Wall Street Journal that prices might be coming down even more. And this comes as the pressure builds to allow U.S. exports of oil. Why? Because we have so much of it now being produced here at home, thanks to the enormous shale oil reserves being developed in places such as North Dakota and Montana — not to mention the production that’s occurring in West Texas and Oklahoma.

Some Republicans want to lift the ban enacted in the 1970s when oil was relatively scarce. We had been through those oil embargoes slapped on us by rogue Middle East nations. The price of fossil fuel products has gone nowhere but up ever since … until now.

The price is coming down, thanks to a lot of factors: better motor vehicle fuel efficiency; increased development of alternative energy sources, which means less reliance on fossil fuels to generate electricity.

All of this has contributed to a glut of oil supply in the United States.

Do we want to draw down that supply when Americans might start to see some serious relief as they fill up their motor vehicles with fuel?

Supply goes up, prices go down. Isn’t that what we want? I need to think some more about this idea.