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ATBC & IACCGH Small Business Outreach Featuring SBA Director Tim Jeffcoat

The American Turkic Business Council DBA Texas Turkish American Chamber of Commerce in partnership with the Indo-American Chamber of Commerce Greater Houston hosted a small business outreach where SBA Director Tim Jeffcoat was the keynote speaker.

A small business is defined as a business with 500 employees or less. When we look at small businesses, one question that often comes to mind is “Why do we care?” Mr. Jeffcoat answered this question by emphasizing to the audience that according to the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) Office of Advocacy, 98.6% of Texas Business and 99.5% of Houston MSA Business are made up of small businesses.

SBA is focused on its goal of providing access to counseling, Federal contracting, capital, and support during crisis. The ultimate objective of each employee working at the SBA is to help Americans start or grow small businesses. Since 1995, small businesses have generated 64% of new jobs, and paid 44% of the total United States private payroll, according to the SBA. Small businesses contribute to local economies by bringing growth and innovation to the community in which the business is established.

Small businesses also help stimulate economic growth by providing employment opportunities to people who may not be employable by larger corporations. Small businesses tend to attract talent who invent new products or implement new solutions for existing ideas. These small businesses can be anything from manufacturing or processing firms with 1,500 employees. Some examples of their areas of expertise can include operating of refineries, oil transportation, airline and aircraft industry, and delivery services. In addition, they can also be service firms with up to $38.5M in revenues. Examples of service firms can include oil/gas support, software development, radio/TV, car rental, and trash collection.

As many large corporations depend on small businesses for the completion of various business functions through outsourcing, larger businesses also often benefit from small businesses within the same local community.

With SBA’s many programs, individuals can have better access to information and business development assistance. The federal government “goaling program” is meant to help small businesses to get prime contracts in cases where they are women-owned, small disadvantaged, and service-disabled-veteran-owned. In cases of business development, the SBA is dedicated to work directly with small businesses to ensure a highly structured plan is made available to help them develop into more successful and effective businesses. In addition to the business development program, the SBA lending and training programs are meant to make each process friendlier, simpler, ubiquitous, and inexpensive.

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Luncheon Forum: U.S. and Houston Economic Outlook by Mark Vitner

As part of ATBC luncheon series, American Turkic Business Council in partnership with the French American Chamber of Commerce and Asian Chamber of Commerce hosted Mr. Mark Vitner, Senior Economist at Wells Fargo.

During his keynote address Mr. Vitner presented important data information of the U.S. and Houston Economic Outlook as well as his visions and forecasts.

Mr. Vitner began his speech with an overall outlook telling the audience that he expects the U.S. economy to grow only 1.7% in 2016. The strong domestic demand is helping offset the effects of the slow global growth. Looking back at last year’s federal budget, Mr. Vitner highlighted that the budget deal is providing a slight boost to economic growth. With the exception of the energy states, the state and local governments are following in their footsteps by lifting spending. When we look at the global economy, the slow growth in China is weighing down on other economies. This not only pushes the value of the dollar higher, but also presents a threat to U.S. exports and corporate earnings.

As we look at the economic growth, Mr. Vitner said the real GDP growth has been disappointing and unusually volatile. This recent volatility is due to swings in international trade and business inventories. While we face this movement in some areas, by looking at the private final domestic demand, we can easily see that it is growing more solidly and consistently.

When we talk about economic factors, one thing that usually comes to mind is its impacts on the employment situations. With solid month to month gains, Mr. Vitner emphasized that fears of recession can be put to rest. As unemployment continues to decrease, he said we are at the near of what we consider full employment. With job growth increasing across most industries, the strongest increase is happening in the construction industry followed by education and health services, professional and business services, and hospitality.

Mr. Vitner talked about the fall of optimism when it comes to small businesses because of the tight profit margins that have been rising due to competitive compensation costs and falling sales. With weakness in manufacturing and mining activities, there have been a divide between the employment data and GDP data. Another fall in optimism is in regards to the oil prices. With lower oil prices and a surge in crude oil inventories, there have been cuts in exploration activities. With countries like Iran, Russia and Saudi Arabia being adamant about not cutting back on output, it seems premature to expect the prices to rise anytime soon.

Now, when we look at the Houston and Texas market, we can easily see that Texas has been seeing employment growth slow down over the past year, with the exception of solid payroll gains in Austin and Dallas.

The Texas housing market is now in line with the pace of the U.S. growth. Residential construction activity has been picking up over the last year with an increase in single and multifamily housing permits.

Mr. Vitner said, although the oil slump has had a very meaningful impact on the local economy, especially with ones with close ties in the energy sector, Texas is still seeing a strong growth in population. But this unfortunately doesn’t mean that everyone is doing well, many manufacturers are still reporting cutbacks in employment.

When we look at the Houston housing market, Mr. Vitner emphasized that even after a solid growth period, the pace of residential building has slowed. It has become evident that the current weakness in the energy sector is spilling over to the housing market. Although the pace has slowed, home prices continue to increase in Houston even as the population remains robust.

Mr. Vitner ended his keynote address with a few critical takeaways. He included that in 2016, he expects the real GDP to rise 1.7%, with the economy being able to weather down the global economic slowdown. Mr. Vitner included that with a weakened global economy, industries closely tied together will face more trouble as a disinflationary undertow is created. His third takeaway was focusing on interest rates. Mr. Vitner said as the Federal Reserve begins to normalize interest rates, many policymakers will likely move gradually and cautiously. Looking at the housing market, Mr. Vitner emphasized that the demand for single family homes is reviving, which allows for first time home buyers to come back into the market. Finally, Mr.Vitner highlighted that the economy is definitely better for the consumers than the producers. Unfortunately, regions that are exposed to agriculture, energy, and mining and manufacturing are seeing conditions weaken.

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Exclusive: Expansion plans revealed for Baylor, CHI St. Luke’s McNair campus

The Baylor College of Medicine and CHI St. Luke’s Health plan to break ground on the next phase of their McNair Campus in early 2016.

The next phase of the campus will feature a second patient tower that will house 420 beds, and a medical office building. The patient tower is expected to begin construction in January, and the medical office building will begin in the fall. The projects are expected to be completed by 2019, according to a statement.

Once completed, the project is expected to have cost $1.1 billion and will be more than 1.2 million square feet. The hospital will feature 650 beds altogether and will feature ambulatory services, operating rooms, laboratories and office space for clinicians.

In addition, the Texas Heart Institute will relocate its operations to the new McNair campus. There will also be facilities for basic science and translational research, the statement said.

“The way (the McNair Campus) is being designed and built, it will have great sustainability in the future,” said Michael Covert, CEO of CHI St. Luke’s Health. “There’s only so much money and so many chances to develop a facility.”
The Baylor St. Luke’s Medical Center McNair campus is a byproduct of the joint venture between the two institutions following the $2 billion acquisition of St. Luke’s Health from the Episcopal Diocese of Texas by Colorado-based Catholic Health Initiatives. CHI St. Luke’s and Baylor are building the new campus to eventually move out of the existing facility in the medical center, which was built in 1954 and is now outdated.

Dallas-based HKS is the architect of record for the second tower, and development partners for the medical office building have not been chosen yet, according to Ty Morrison, a spokeswoman for CHI St. Luke’s.

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Dow opens massive production facility in Freeport

The Dow Chemical Co. (NYSE: DOW) began production at its massive propylene production facility at the company’s Oyster Creek site in Freeport, Texas, on Dec. 18.
The plant is part of the company’s $4 billion initiative to expand its operations in the Texas Gulf Coast.
“This milestone solidifies our first-mover advantage by bringing our investments in the U.S. Gulf Coast to fruition,” Andrew Liveris, Dow’s chairman and CEO, said in a statement. “This is another important step in executing Dow’s global growth strategy, further increasing our feedstock flexibility by harnessing the value of integration and positioning the company for growth in attractive, fast-growing markets.”
Propylene is a main component of plastics. Dow’s new site is slated to create about 750 kilotons of propylene annually, making it one of the largest facilities of its kind.
In addition to the propylene plant, Dow is also underway on a world-scale ethylene production facility in Freeport. The company said it is making significant progress on the project but did not disclose an expected completion date.
Together, the Gulf Coast projects will connect low-cost raw materials — namely natural gas — to many of Dow’s highest-margin downstream businesses.
Michigan-based Dow Chemical is the second-largest manufacturing firm in Houston based on its number of local full-time employees.
The company announced earlier this month that it would merge with Delaware-based DuPont (NYSE: DD) to create a chemical giant with a combined market capitalization of approximately $130 billion.

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ABQ fares better than you might expect among best U.S. cities to find a job

Last week the monthly report by the New Mexico Department of Workforce Solutions showed Albuquerque added 7,200 jobs in the month of November. This week a new national report puts Albuquerque solidly in the middle of the pack among U.S. cities to find a job.
The WalletHub report ranks Albuquerque 73rd out of the 150 U.S. metros studied in “2016’s Best & Worst Cities to Find a Job.”
The study looked at 150 of the most populated U.S. cities across 17 metrics, ranging from job opportunities and starting salaries to housing affordability, commute times and employment growth.
In the two main ranking categories, Albuquerque scored 77th for its job market, but made up ground in the “socioeconomic environment” category, ranking 53rd.
The Texas cities of Plano, Austin and Irving captured three of the top four spots as the best places to find a job in the U.S. for 2016.
Neighboring metro Denver placed 12th in the U.S. Phoenix was 47th, while Tuscon placed 110th and El Paso 85th.
The National Association for Business Economics expects nonfarm employment to grow by nearly 210,000 jobs per month as national unemployment falls to 4.7 percent by the fourth quarter.
The full WalletHub report can be seen here.

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Business Facilities Announces 2015 Deal Of The Year Winners

TINTON FALLS, NJ — JAN. 4 — Business Facilities has announced the winners of its 2015 Economic Development Deal of the Year competition.

The Gold Award, BF‘s top prize in the annual contest, went to Greater Houston Partnership for Goodman Global Group’s consolidated campus. The $417-million, 4.1-million-square-foot project from Japan-based Daikin Industries will generate an estimated $3.9 billion in annual economic impact for the Houston region, directly creating 4,600 new jobs and more than 11,000 indirect or induced jobs.

BF‘s Silver Award went to the South Carolina Department of Commerce for Volvo’s first North American assembly plant, a $500-million facility that will generate 2,000 new jobs over the next 10 years (and up to 4,000 by 2030). Louisiana Economic Development won the Bronze Award for Formosa Petrochemical’s $7-billion complex in St. James Parish.

“The 2015 Economic Development Deal of the Year Awards were our most competitive ever, with 30 project nominations spanning 18 states,” said BF Editor in Chief Jack Rogers. “All of these projects were high-impact developments worthy of consideration for our top awards, so our blue-ribbon panel of judges really had to roll up their sleeves and dig into the details to pick the winners.”

Due to the unprecedented number of big-ticket submissions for the 2015 contest, BF‘s judges also bestowed a record seven Honorable Mention Awards. The recipients include:

Utah Governor’s Office of Economic Development, for the SolarCity expansion; Tennessee Department of Economic and Community Development for Community Health Services’ Shared Services Center; Economic Development Partnership of North Carolina for Novo Nordisk’s expansion; Alabama Department of Commerce for the Polaris manufacturing facility; Georgia Department of Economic Development for Kaiser Permanente’s National Innovation Center; Indiana Economic Development Corp., for Subaru’s expansion in Lafayette; and Greater San Marcos (TX) Partnership for its Amazon project.

Under the code name “Project Superbird,” Daikin’s consolidated corporate campus project spurred a fierce competition between several Gulf Coast and U.S. Southeast locations. According to Goodman Manufacturing Co. President and CEO Takeshi Ebisu, an educated workforce, robust economic growth and a favorable year-long climate tipped the balance in Houston’s favor. Daikin, headquartered in Osaka, Japan, is a leader in the heating, ventilating and air-conditioning industry. In 2012, it completed a $3.7-billion acquisition of Goodman Global Group, which specializes in the ducted-style residential unitary HVAC segment in the U.S.

The consolidation will involve the relocation of two separate manufacturing operations from Tennessee to Houston. The single, contiguous 4.1-million-square-foot campus will house distribution, manufacturing and R&D operations as well as offices. According to company officials, the Houston facility will be the largest tilt-wall industrial building in the world, second only to Boeing’s aircraft assembly plant in Everett. WA.

“Greater Houston Partnership’s team marshaled an impressive array of suitable sites, tailored incentives and regional data to back up its one-of-a-kind proposal,” Rogers said. “Houston continues to cement its status of one of the most robust growth-oriented metros in the U.S.”

Volvo’s decision to put its first North American automotive plant in Berkeley County, SC vaults the Palmetto State, already the long-time home of BMW’s auto assembly hub, into the top tier of automotive manufacturing leaders in the U.S. The $500-million plant is expected to generate an estimated direct economic impact of $7.5 billion.

The SC plant, which will produce Volvo models for the U.S. and export markets, is part of an ambitious plan by the Swedish auto giant to double global sales.

“With Boeing, BMW and now Volvo assembly facilities, South Carolina has put down a marker that it intends to be a leading player in advanced manufacturing for years to come,” Rogers said.

Taiwan-based Formosa Petrochemical Corp. will build one of the largest chemical complexes in the world on a 1,000-acre site in St. James Parish, bringing 1,200 new jobs to Louisiana. The project is expected generate more than $9 billion in capital spending.

“Louisiana’s world-class infrastructure offers unmatched logistics options for large-scale petrochemical operations, providing a solid foundation for future growth,” Rogers said.

For more than four decades, Business Facilities has been a leading national publication focused on site selection and economic development.

BF congratulates all of the winners of our 2015 Economic Deal of the Year Awards.

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GHP to launch first-of-its-kind job portal to bring new talent to Houston

The Greater Houston Partnership plans to launch a new job portal that will aggregate every job in the greater Houston area in an effort to attract new talent to the city.
The “Careers with No Limits” job site will officially go live Nov. 12 and will feature jobs from small employers as well as large enterprise companies in the 11-county area GHP represents, said Jon Nordby, director of talent attraction and marketing for GHP.

To get the jobs in front of candidates, the site will leverage popular social media platforms such as LinkedIn, as well as Facebook and Twitter. Specific details as to how those sites will be used weren’t immediately available, only that platforms like Facebook and LinkedIn would bridge gaps between a candidate and a recruiter, while Twitter would act as one place to target job postings to candidates.

“This serves as a central location for every job available in our region,” Nordby told the Houston Business Journal. “A young engineer coming out of the University of Miami would see a job pop up on their Twitter feed faster than anything he experiences out of Chicago or Los Angeles.”

The site is the first of its kind in terms of a regional aggregation platform, according to GHP. It uses technology from CareerArc, a recruiting and human resources platform, to pull together the social media and job listings, Nordby said.

Careers with No Limits is a component of GHP’s national marketing campaign, the City with No Limits, which debuted in June 2014 to help make Houston appear more attractive.

Careers with No Limits will feature every job from an internship to a Ph.D. position, but ultimately it’s Houston’s next generation of skilled labor that the site is targeting. Ideally, candidates would be recent graduates in a field such as science, technology, engineering or mathematics.

“The entire idea of social distribution is a fairly new conception in the recruiting world. Lot of companies still don’t have the ability or desire to invest funds in it to start up the project,” Nordby told HBJ.
The site is free for companies to use. The Greater Houston Partnership declined to disclose its investment into the platform.

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Skorpios’ $7 million Albuquerque expansion could mean 300 new jobs

Albuquerque’s Skorpios Technologies Inc. is expanding its operations with the assistance of $7 million in Local Economic Development Act (LEDA) funding from the state and the city of Albuquerque.

Announced Monday, the optical communications company’s expansion expects to ultimately bring 300 high-wage jobs to the city over the next few years. According to a statement from Gov. Susana Martinez’s office, the company will receive $5.5 million from the state and an additional $1.5 million from the city. The funding from both the city and the state is to assist with infrastructure at “the company’s new permanent facility in Albuquerque,” including research and development efforts, as well as test and assembly operations. The company is located at 5600 Eubank Blvd. NE.

The jobs created will include high-tech engineering and manufacturing roles and will carry salaries ranging between $60,000 to $150,000.

Skorpios CEO Stephen Krasulick said in a statement that the company is excited to expand in Albuquerque and looks forward “to collaborating with the state and city to create opportunities that benefit the community and our company.”

The expansion news comes almost a year after the company landed $22 million from Cottonwood Technology Fund during the first quarter of 2015. While the deal was not for Series A funding, it remains one for the bigger venture capital deals in the state during the early part of the year.

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Sugar Land manufacturer expands to build aerospace capabilities

Systronix Inc. is underway on the second phase of a major expansion, which will include a massive new facility and create more than 100 jobs, as the company plans to grow its aerospace services business.

As part of the second stage of the machine and electronic manufacturer’s expansion, Systronix financially committed to land within the Rosenberg Business Park, located near the intersection of Interstate 69 and FM 2218.

The company plans to build a 100,000-square-foot facility at the business park, according to a Nov. 9 release. Construction on the facility is slated to begin in March 2016, with a completion date set for the following year. Solar Realty Partners and the city of Rosenberg have partnered to develop the project.

In conjunction with the new facility, the company plans to hire an additional 150 employees over the next five years, Systronix President Gary Kerbow told the Houston Business Journal.

The announcement of the new facility and hires comes on the heels of the company’s recent expansion of its current facility on West Airport Boulevard in Sugar Land.

The 50,000-square-foot development opened in the first quarter of 2015 and took two years to complete. The expansion added manufacturing capabilities that now include electrical assembly and advanced manufacturing of precision metals.
Additionally, the company received all of the required aerospace quality certifications.

“This has positioned Systronix to grow into the aerospace industry,” Kerbow said in a statement.

Systronix plans to roll out the third phase of its expansion within the next five years, which will involve building clientele and revenue.

Systronix Inc. is a 25-year-old company based in Sugar Land that provides precision machining and electronic manufacturing services. By 2020, the company plans to grow into a $50 million business with no more than 25 percent involvement in medical, energy, aerospace, or military and defense, according to a statement.
Meanwhile, Houston’s aerospace industry has made major headway in recent months.

Last month, the Houston City Council approved the first dedicated infrastructure for the spaceport. Meanwhile, NASA’s Johnson Space Center announced that it would partner with the Houston Airport System to help progress the project.
The spaceport is expected to make the surrounding area a new hub for an aerospace economy.

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State surpasses wind-capacity milestone with 4,300 megawatts in third quarter

Oklahoma breezed past the 4,000 megawatt milestone for wind capacity in the third quarter and now has more than 4,300 megawatts of wind projects producing electricity.

The state added almost 400 megawatts of wind capacity at projects in Beaver and Garfield counties, according to the third-quarter market report released Thursday by the American Wind Energy Association. That was second behind Texas, which added 771 megawatts of wind capacity in the quarter.

Oklahoma also has 1,200 megawatts of wind under construction across seven other projects, the report said. Among them are Kingfisher Wind, a 298-megawatt project in northern Canadian County and southern Kingfisher County, and the 200-megawatt Goodwell project in Texas County. 

Construction plans nationally include 102 projects in 25 states, with an expected capacity of 13,250 megawatts. If completed, that would push the U.S. to more than 82,700 megawatts of wind capacity, double the capacity from 2010.
“American wind power continues to gain strength,” said Rob Gramlich, AWEA’s senior vice president of government affairs.

Key tax incentive
Future growth is dependent on new investments in transmission infrastructure and renewal of a key federal tax incentive for wind energy that expired at the end of 2014, wind industry representatives said in a conference call with reporters. Wind projects that either began construction or expended five percent of a project’s cost in 2014 can still qualify for the 10-year tax credit.

Among those calling for an end to the federal production tax credit are Sen. James Lankford, R-Oklahoma City. He filed legislation earlier this month that would eliminate the credit from the tax code altogether. Lankford said that would stop it from being included among a package of popular tax extenders that typically win passage because of their broad appeal.

AWEA representatives didn’t comment specifically on Lankford’s proposal, but Gramlich said the Senate Finance Committee advanced an extension of the production tax credit as part of a tax extender package in July. It hasn’t yet come up for a vote in the full Senate.

“We remain hopeful some form of extension will pass by the end of the year,” Gramlich said. “The extenders (package) is the only real game in town right now.”
Tom Kiernan, the wind association’s CEO, said about $20 billion in wind projects are under construction across the country.

“This growth is in jeopardy, however, as continued policy uncertainty could throw the wind industry off yet another economic cliff,” Kiernan said.

The industry is trying to stop a repeat of 2013, when wind installations fell 92 percent following a sunset of the production tax credit. The association said that translated into the loss of 30,000 jobs.

Transmission needs
The incentive provides a 2.3 cent per kilowatt hour tax credit for electricity generated by wind. A two-year renewal of the production tax credit could cost $10.5 billion over the next 10 years, according to estimates by Congress’ Joint Committee on Taxation. The incentive began in 1992, but it’s lapsed five times since then.

Michael Skelly, president of Clean Line Energy Partners, said the country needs to build additional transmission infrastructure to unlock future wind development. His company plans several high-voltage, direct-current transmission lines, including the Plains and Eastern Clean Line. That project would take electricity from planned wind farms in Oklahoma’s panhandle and ship it directly to western Tennessee for utilities in the southeastern United States. An “off-ramp” is expected to be built in Arkansas that would take 500 megawatts of the 3,500-megawatt capacity of the transmission line.

‘Wind rush’ in state
Skelly said Texas’ investments in its Competitive Renewable Energy Zone transmission lines unlocked a “wind rush” in that state, which leads the country in wind capacity at more than 16,400 megawatts.

Clean Line is expecting a final environmental impact statement from the federal government in the next few weeks for the Plains and Eastern Clean Line. Following that will be a decision by the federal Energy Department over whether to participate in the project.

“With more transmission, we can bring wind energy from areas where it’s abundant and cheap to areas where it’s needed,” Skelly said. “It’s an exciting time for the wind industry as there are new transmission projects currently awaiting decisions from federal authorities that will bring about thousands of megawatts of new wind development.”
Skelly said the Plains and Eastern Clean Line could open up the Oklahoma and Texas panhandles to additional wind development of up to 4,000 megawatts.

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