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Ports-to-Plains Alliance

Tuesday
May012018

Access to International Trade Critical for Colorado Ranchers and Farmers

This message could be from any Commissioner of Agriculture across the Ports-to-Plains Alliance Region. Trade agreements and exports are critical to agriculture and many other economic sectors.  We cannot eat all the good we produce and cannot use all the technology we produce.

“The North American Free Trade Agreement (NAFTA) is vital for the well-being of Colorado and the United States. As U.S. farm incomes decline, the export market is often what keeps our rural communities afloat.”

Let’s Not Take a Step Back

By Don Brown, Colorado Commissioner of Agriculture

If you live in Colorado, or if your business is touched in any way by any aspect of the agricultural industry, the ongoing national discussion about trade agreements and import tariffs should mean a lot to you. Colorado farmers and ranchers understand that there are a lot of things like weather and market price fluctuations that we can’t control. But we can make every effort to create new market opportunities and expand the global partnerships we have worked so hard to develop for our products.

We all need to work together to protect our state’s position in international markets. The Colorado farm community can’t afford to wait quietly for Washington to put forth a comprehensive trade strategy.  While we wait, our global competitors are moving aggressively to formalize trade pacts to put them at a competitive advantage to the U.S. It’s not right to force our hard-working farmers and ranchers to stand idle while this political drama plays out.

Colorado ranchers and farmers need free and open access to international markets, as well as trade agreements that help us advance our export relationships. Over the last few years, Colorado agriculture helped lead our state out of the Great Recession, the worst recession since the Great Depression, and a big part of that was our ability to trade with over 100 countries who purchase Colorado food and agricultural products.  Exports of food and agricultural products from Colorado have quadrupled in the past 20 years.

Agriculture is one of Colorado’s top economic sectors, creating approximately 173,000 jobs in our state.  And it’s not just farm and ranch families impacted by the free trade discussion.  If our markets are shut down, it will impact the dealerships where farmers buy farm equipment, the coffee shops where they eat lunch, the gas stations where they fuel up, and the banks where they do business.  According to the U.S. International Trade Administration, every billion dollars of exports supports more than 5,220 jobs. And every dollar of exports creates an additional $1.14 of economic activity for Colorado citizens.

Read on…

Monday
Apr302018

USDOT Announces BUILD Program to Replace TIGER

The U.S. Department of Transportation has announced a replacement for the Transportation Investment Generating Economic Recovery grants, a program popular with state and local agencies.

On April 20, DOT published a notice of funding opportunity for $1.5 billion through the Better Utilizing Investments to Leverage Development discretionary grant, or BUILD, program.

Although BUILD would replace the TIGER program, the two bear some similarities. Like TIGER grants, BUILD money would be awarded on a competitive basis to local or regional entities. The funding would support roads, bridges, transit, rail, ports or intermodal transportation.

“BUILD transportation grants will help communities revitalize their surface transportation systems while also increasing support for rural areas to ensure that every region of our country benefits,” Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao said.

According to a notice on DOT’s website, applicants will be assessed on the basis of safety, economic competitiveness, quality of life, environmental protection, innovation, partnership and additional nonfederal revenue for future transportation infrastructure investments.

Read on…

Friday
Apr272018

What Small Businesses Think of the Infrastructure Crisis

Lawmakers heard from industry groups during a hearing Wednesday to examine how small businesses view the infrastructure crisis.

The House Small Business Committee held the hearing with lawmakers looking to address severe issues facing the national infrastructure system. The hearing explored the challenges that small businesses are facing as a result, and how they could be addressed, with a specific focus on surface transportation and access to broadband.

There has been a growing concern over the crumbling roadways, bridge collapses, and failing pipes in our national infrastructure system. The problem impacts both families and businesses across the country, but there is hope with lawmakers looking to address it.

“Our nation faces an infrastructure investment deficit of $2 trillion over the next 10 years,” Marsia Geldert-Murphey, the chief operating officer at W. James Taylor, Inc., said during the hearing. “The investment gap has led to deficient roads and bridges, water main breaks, inadequate ports and inland waterways, late flights, and so much more. Failing to close this infrastructure investment gap brings serious economic uncertainty for small businesses.”

Geldert-Murphey testified on behalf of the American Society of Civil Engineers. The hearing included speakers from several industry groups which represent small businesses in construction, engineering, and other sectors needed to improve infrastructure. Kevin Beyer spoke on behalf of The Rural Broadband Association.

“There appears to be a widespread consensus that broadband is essential infrastructure, and critical to life in modern American,” Beyer, who also works as the general manager for Farmers Mutual Telephone Company, said. “The public policy question that remains is how to best ensure that the service is available, affordable, sufficient, and sustainable in high-cost rural areas that don’t attract private investments on their own.”

Read on…

Friday
Apr272018

Plainview - Hale County Business Park

The Plainview - Hale County Business Park Groundbreaking Ceremony is scheduled for Monday, April 23rd at 2:00 p.m. at the Business Park located on Interstate 27, north of Highway 194 (Dimmitt Highway).

Congressman Jodey Arrrington is scheduled to attend the ceremony as well as U.S. Economic Development Association Representative Trisha Korbis. 

Others in attendance include Mayor Wendell Dunlap, Hale County Judge Bill Coleman, Hale County Commissioners, Plainview City Council and the Plainview/Hale County Economic Development Corporation. The public is encouraged to attend.

“I am excited about the opportunity to attract new businesses and jobs to Hale County and my hometown of Plainview,” says Congressman Jodey Arrington. “This is a great example of local, state and federal leaders working together to support rural economics, which are the backbone of this country.” 

After the closure of the Cargill beef packing plant in Plainview in February 2013, community leaders met to prioritize what steps would be necessary to recover from the loss of this major employer. The City, County and EDC began discussions to develop a community-owned business park in an effort to diversify the local and regional economy. From there, a joint board was appointed that provided direction and guidance on the layout, construction, and future needs of the Park. 

The Plainview - Hale County Business Park was propelled forward when the City and County jointly received a $1,000,000 grant from the Economic Development Administration (EDA) through the U.S. Department of Commerce to support the construction of a new Business Park. 

With the assistance of EDA, the City and County will be able to complete this project sooner than expected. The City and County will be 50/50 partners for the construction and on-going maintenance expenses for the Park. 

“The Business Park is an essential element to the future growth and economic well-being of our community,” says Hale County Judge Bill Coleman. “The best part is that it has been a joint effort of the City of Plainview, Hale County and the Plainview/Hale County EDC.  The combined efforts of all the parties involved and the commitment of community leaders insures that this park will be a success.”

The Business Park area is zoned for commercial and industrial use and approximately half of the 140-acre industrial park will be sub-divided into five and ten acre tracts; the remaining acreage will not be sub-divided under the current phase and will be reserved for future tenant needs. 

Located on the Ports-To-Plains Interstate 27 Trade Corridor which links to Interstate 40, the Business Park location is easily accessible to the East and West Coasts. Located 580 miles from the Port of Houston and 550 miles from the World Trade Port of Entry in Laredo, Texas, the Park is also situated on the BNSF Rail Line which runs adjacent to the southern boundary of the Park and is five miles from the regional airport and 45 miles from Preston Smith International Airport.

On March 1st, bids were opened for construction on the Business Park and early in April, the City Council and Hale County Commissioner’s awarded the construction bid of $3.9 million to LoneStar Dirt & Paving. Construction for the Business Park includes sewer lines, water lines, NTS lines, electrical lines, gas lines, drainage easement and paved roads. Construction timetable for the Park is nine months.

“The Ground Breaking of the Business Park is a historic event for Plainview,” says Mayor Wendell Dunlap. “The partnership between the County, EDC and the City along with a grant from EDA has made this a reality and it will be a great day to celebrate this success. Plainview is moving forward and we invite you to be a part of this celebration.”

The Plainview/Hale County Economic Development Corporation will be the lead agency for interested Business Park tenants. 

“The ground breaking of this business park begins an exciting new chapter in the economic development and growth of our community,” says Mike Fox, EDC Executive Director.

For more information about the Plainview – Hale County Business Park, contact Mike Fox, EDC Executive Director at 806.293.8536 (o), 806.685.8942 (c) or michael.fox@plainviewedc.org

Thursday
Mar082018

House Transportation Subcommittee Mulls Ways to Fix Highway Trust Fund

Transport Topics

March 8, 2018

Chairman, Bill ShusterMembers of a House transportation subcommittee seem largely in agreement that the nation’s crumbling infrastructure and near-insolvent Highway Trust Fund are in desperate need of fixes — and quickly.

However, at a March 7 hearing, they agreed less on what long-term funding mechanisms should be used to make the financial, and road and bridge repairs.
“Long-term certainty and stability in infrastructure funding is critical for our states,” said Rep. Bill Shuster (R-Pa.), the Transportation Committee chairman. “Without it, our states, our economy and the American people face the consequences. Highway and transit projects get delayed, project costs go up, and our people and businesses continue to suffer the impacts of congestion and inefficiency.”
Rep. Sam Graves (R-Mo.), chairman of the House Subcommittee on Highways and Transit, agreed.
“Beginning as early as the spring of 2020, states may have to halt construction of surface transportation projects because, once again, the Highway Trust Fund will not be able to meet its obligations,” Graves said. “There are many reasons for this – motor fuel taxes have not been raised in 25 years, fuel-economy standards have increased, not all users pay into the Trust Fund.”
Monday
Mar052018

What is NAFTA?

Dirt to Dinner

March 5, 2018

Most of the conversation centered on food circles around the same issues, such as “What are GMOs” or “Where is the organic produce?” Or “Local is better.” At D2D, we wanted to explore the role international trade plays in bringing food to your dinner table.

While you are selecting avocados or blueberries at the grocery store, the last thing you are thinking about is Mexico. Or when you eat a ham sandwich, does Canada come to mind? Probably not. But these are just a few of the products that depend on trade between North American countries to satisfy our food demands.

Year-round availability of many food products occurs largely because other countries can either grow them cheaper than the U.S. or have growing seasons that are opposite of ours. Trade provides the best possible price for the products we want by moving food from where it is grown and produced to where it is eaten. It is an efficient, universal means of bringing balance to supply and demand, and taking the wild swings out of our daily food prices.

Those opposed to NAFTA, on the other hand, argue that the influx of produce from Mexico or Canada negatively affect their prices. For instance, the avocado farmer in California is able to sell the farm’s produce at a premium if avocados are not being imported from Mexico. However, NAFTA can encourage farmers to be more dynamic and versatile in their farming practices. Today, some farmers in California are adapting by diversifying into coffee plants.

Read on...

Thursday
Feb222018

Former San Angelo Mayor Appointed to Texas Transportation Commission

Standard-Times

February 22, 2018

Alvin NewAlvin New of Christoval has been appointed to the Texas Transportation Commission by Gov. Greg Abbott, according to a news release.

The Commission is responsible for governing the Texas Department of Transportation and for policymaking regarding the state’s highway system, developing a statewide transportation plan, assisting the development of public transportation and adopting rules for TxDOT’s operation, according to the release.

"I think it is a blessing," New said Tuesday of the appointment. 

Like local leaders San Angelo Mayor Brenda Gunter and Tom Green County Judge Steve Floyd, New said representing West Texas is important to the Concho Valley and to the state. 

"The ability to get food to the population centers and fuel to the population centers and fiber to the population centers means we need to have really good structure in our part of the state," New said. "And I will have a responsibility to try and communicate that."

U.S. Rep. Mike Conaway, R-Midland, who recently proposed legislation to have the designation of Interstate 14 expanded to include San Angelo, said having New on the commission is important because it decides where the state's transportation dollars are spent. 

Explaining larger population centers, like Houston and Dallas, will get the bulk of money each year, it is important to have someone, like New, who will, "defend rural Texas as his predecessor did," Conaway said.

New is replacing Tyron Lewis of Odessa.

Read on...

Wednesday
Jan102018

The potential ramifications of Trump's proposed infrastructure plan

Pacific Standard

January, 10 2018

President Donald Trump took many opportunities in 2017 to rail against the state of the United States' infrastructure, most recently using the fatal Amtrak crash in Washington state to point out the country's crumbling bridges, roads, and railways. "[O]ur soon to be submitted infrastructure plan must be approved quickly," he tweeted, harkening back to his oft-repeated promise to invest $1 trillion rebuilding the country.

That plan turned into little more than a punch line this past year. But come January, the White House will begin a push, in earnest, for a national infrastructure package that gets to $1 trillion in overall investment, using $200 billion in federal "seed" money, a senior official recently told Fox News.

Trump advisers had previously described an infrastructure package that would rely on the private sector to make up the $800 billion difference. In this version, most of the $200 billion would be rewarded on a competitive basis to states and localities that promise to raise new, infrastructure-dedicated revenue on their own, for a total of $1 trillion, according to White House officials. Some portion of the $200 billion would directly fund projects in rural areas.