Texas Named Tops for Best States for Business

Created Friday, 30 April 2010 17:05

In Case You Missed It: Texas Named One of Best States for Small Business and Entrepreneurship

April 30, 2010

AUSTIN – The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council has ranked Texas as one of the best states for small business and entrepreneurs in their Business Tax Index 2010: Best to Worst State Tax Systems for Entrepreneurship and Small Business report. Texas is ranked second in the index based on the cost of the state tax system on small businesses.

“Here in the Lone Star State, we have developed an environment that encourages entrepreneurs to pursue their dreams of small business ownership, further strengthening our economy and creating jobs for Texans,” Gov. Perry said. “Thanks to our low taxes, reasonable and predictable regulatory environment and skilled and educated workforce, businesses continue to look to Texas as a place for growth and prosperity.”

The report analyzes and combines 16 different tax measures into one tax score for the 50 states and District of Columbia, including income, capital gains, property, death/inheritance, unemployment taxes, and various consumption-based taxes, such as state gas and diesel levies.

“Taxes at the state and local levels matter by diverting resources from and reducing incentives for productive, private-sector risk taking that generates innovation, growth and jobs,” Raymond J. Keating, chief economist for SBE Council and author of the report, said. “Quite simply, economic recovery will be restrained by high or increasing taxes, or boosted by low or falling taxes. Governors and legislators have a choice.”

The SBE Council is a nonpartisan, nonprofit small business advocacy organization that works to protect small business and promote entrepreneurship. For more information about the index or to view the full report, please visit http://www.sbecouncil.org/businesstaxindex2010/.



Key Points

  • The Small Business and Entrepreneurship Council has ranked Texas as one of the best states for small business and entrepreneurs in their Business Tax Index 2010:
  • Best to Worst State Tax Systems for Entrepreneurship and Small Business report. Texas is ranked second in the index based on the cost of the state tax system on small businesses.



Risk of Major Home Price Decline Low in Texas

Created Wednesday, 28 April 2010 17:24

Risk of Major Home Price Decline Low in Texas

COLLEGE STATION (Real Estate Center) – A new study from the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University explains why Texas’ housing market fared far better than other states during the current downturn. It also suggests why the state’s economy is expected to continue to do better than the rest of the nation in the coming months.

“Texas’ lower-than-national-average housing cost is one reason for the state’s higher-than-national-average growth rate,” said Dr. Ali Anari, a Center research economist and one of the study’s authors. “When Texans are able to spend more on nonhousing goods and services, the state’s economy is strengthened and more people attracted.

“These results illustrate one of the key reasons the Texas economy outperforms the United States in terms of job growth almost every year,” said Center Chief Economist Dr. Mark Dotzour. “The fact that Texans pay less of their income for housing means they have more to spend on other things that add to the overall quality of life. Texas offers a lower cost of living than many places in the United States.

“This allows Texas employers to be able to attract workers at a reasonable wage rate that allows them to compete successfully in the global economy,” said Dotzour.

Since 1987, the average annual expenditure for shelter per consumer increased in every major American metropolitan market.

Texas data for the study came from the Dallas-Fort Worth and Houston-Galveston-Brazoria metro areas because they are among the major metropolitan areas for which consumer expenditure data are available. These two metros accounted for 60.3 percent of Texas labor force last year and 64 percent of Texas GDP the previous year.

“Houston and Dallas consumers spent the smallest shares of their incomes on shelter in 2008 (18.6 percent),” said Anari.

The two Texas metros in the study had virtually no increase in their shelter expenditure shares from 1987 to 2008. Houston’s share rose 1 percent while Dallas’ share increased 2.2 percent.

For more information on the study’s findings, read the Center’s news release.


Oil and Gas Drilling Rig Count

Created Tuesday, 27 April 2010 19:04

Texas’ oil and gas rig count for March rose more than 8 percent from February’s numbers, the highest rig count since January 2009. Not to the high during the boom of 2008.

Link to Texas Ahead Web Site.

Texas Production and Consumption Indicators

Production and Consumption Indicators
Date Value of Crude Oil Produced
Value of Natural Gas Produced
Active Oil & Gas Drilling Rigs Gasoline
(Millions of Taxed Gallons)
(Millions of Taxed Gallons)
Median Sales Price Existing Single Family Homes Auto Sales Net Value
Cigarette Packages Taxed
2006 $19,657.47 $19,852.05 746 11,372.8 3,731.6 $143,100 $45,756.2 1,280.2
2007 $21,850.32 $22,968.42 834 11,624.8 3,886.9 $147,500 $48,500.6 1,085.8
2008 $30,409.17 $34,415.89 892 11,709.7 3,854.0 $145,800 $44,442.4 1,060.6
2009 $18,455.53 $12,167.80 431.5 11,916.3 3,475.8 $143,600 $34,792.60 960.2
01/09 $990.68 $1,274.48 701 1,023.2 294.7 $131,800 $3,022.6 73.0
02/09 $821.71 $888.41 574 965.3 291.5 $138,200 $2,923.8 77.0
03/09 $1,144.70 $932.22 445 916.6 281.8 $139,600 $2,892.3 86.4
04/09 $1,263.39 $859.43 393 1,019.0 305.7 $142,800 $2,501.8 77.5
05/09 $1,505.56 $902.44 347 989.9 289.8 $149,300 $2,591.1 77.8
06/09 $1,741.54 $986.90 329 1,026.3 291.9 $155,000 $3,111.4 82.7
07/09 $1,643.61 $1,031.07 342 1,013.6 293.2 $153,300 $3,071.0 85.6
08/09 $1,809.69 $961.23 366 1,025.9 297.6 $150,000 $3,111.0 126.7
09/09 $1,722.75 $820.40 380 1,021.0 292.0 $147,300 $3,357.9 36.9
10/09 $1,958.76 $1,097.98 398 961.1 281.8 $142,700 $2,859.6 76.6
11/09 $1,978.15 $1,226.39 433 991.0 288.4 $142,400 $2,536.5 77.9
12/09 $1,910.83 $1,423.17 470 963.3 267.4 $144,400 $2,813.6 82.3
01/10 $2,027.86 $1,703.82 519 992.8 287.6 $136,700 $2,815.3 66.8
02/10 $1,796.83 549 945.5 289.6 $140,900 $2,969.2 70.6
03/10 593 913.6 273.8 $144,600 84.3


When San Antonio Parties

Created Tuesday, 27 April 2010 16:48

When San Antonio Parties . . .


San Antonio parties. It’s a pity there isn’t some kind of Olympics or even just a category in the Guinness Book of World Records for civic merry-making on such a wide scale. Yes, Oktoberfest in Munich, Carnival in Rio, and Mardi Gras in New Orleans are perennial heavyweights when it comes to that sort of thing – but here in San Antonio, we like to think we are, I don’t know . . . somewhat more family-friendly?

Generally our revels tend towards the milder end of the drunkenness-and-debauchery scale, excepting maybe Cornyation. You could bring your aged and respectable grandmother to San Antonio for the Fiesta and she wouldn’t see anything that would turn her hair any greyer. (Should your aged gran have spent a few dissolute younger years singing in a nightclub, dressed in a low-cut gown and draped across a grand piano warbling suggestive ditties to the clientele, she might actually be rather bored.)

But anyway – back to the subject . . . Fiesta, the ten-day long, all-events and every-corner of the city block party. Back in the mists of time – which for purposes of this account was at the turn of the last century, Fiesta started as an event to celebrate the victory of San Jacinto. The bon ton of San Antonio rode around in carriages throwing flowers at each other, and they had so darned much fun doing it, that everyone wanted to get into the act.

From there it spread; parades, parties, food-festivals, the Fiesta Kings and other royalty for a day, open houses, open neighborhoods, an oyster bake, concerts and all. It certainly makes it an easy week and a half for local TV news – hey, just do a story about whatever event offers the best snippets of footage for the evening newscast. I am sure the news director can just sit down with a schedule of Fiesta events and map out ten days worth of newscast.

Purely everyone wants into the act – St. Mary’s has the oyster bake, after all, and even a junior college like Palo Alto College can get in on the Fiesta action. My daughter wandered around, taking pictures of the crowd and the booths. Barbeque, of course – it’s not a party in San Antonio, unless there is some kind of meat-onna-stick and slathered with fiery BBQ sauce putting in an appearance. Masks, Fiesta bling, pets and classic cars – it just does not get any better than this. I can hardly wait to see what they will be up to next year. Y’all have 360 days or so to begin preparing.


Spring Showers Bring Flowers

Created Wednesday, 21 April 2010 13:24

The Flowers in the Fields

Two weekends ago, I had reason to go traveling to the East Coast – to the area of Washington, DC as a matter of fact. Since my airline flight to that place arrived and departed at the Baltimore Airport (oh, don’t ask, long story!), I had a wonderful opportunity to observe spring in full flower, along the various parkways and highways between Baltimore and Washington. Not just that, but it was fairly clear on approach – gosh, it was green back East, and the cherry trees in bloom stood out so clearly.

The flowering pear, the cherry and the dogwood trees were in full bloom, tangles of lilac made pale violet splashes among the otherwise plain green trees in the green belts along the highway. It was a very pleasing vista – only the autumn foliage equals it for sheer spectacle or so I was told . . . but there was one immediate lack. Although the grass verges and the median strips were verdant and starred with flowers . . . those flowers were all dandelions. Now, dandelions have their place and even uses – but still . . .

Compared to the spectacular verges and medians of Texas highways in springtime, this presented a very humdrum appearance. Oh, for fields of wildflowers . . . so last weekend, we drove up to the Hill Country to get our fill, of meadows carpeted with primroses, bluebonnets and poppies.

Eventually, we wound up at Wildseed Farms, out along the 290 (Texas’s very own Wine Road!) east of Fredericksburg, which is billed as the world’s largest working wildflower farm. Well, everything IS bigger in Texas, isn’t it? If there is another specialty nursery establishment in these United States which features live music on weekend afternoons, I’d love to hear about it.

Besides the live band, the nursery and garden accoutrements, fashions and accessories, the exhibit plantings, trees and water-features, there was a country store (which dispensed, among other delights – peach ice cream. There were comfortable tables and chairs spread out in the shade – and meadows of wildflowers, all around. Brilliant red corn poppies predominated mostly, at this time of year, although the field in front of the parking lot was carpeted with pale pink primroses.

They have mown walkways through the flower meadows, so it is possible to wander fairly freely with a camera and play ‘spot the flower oddity’ up close and personal. Tiny, shy white and purple ‘Five Spot’ flowers, completely white bluebonnets, as well as the totally red variety are to be found among the flower-meadows and exhibit plantings. Should anyone want to plant a living Texas flag out of the variously colored bluebonnets, Wildseed Farms would be the source for the plants.

We’ll be making a return trip to the Farm – just to see the summer crop of flowers, and listen to the band. And the peach ice cream was positively delicious.






1000 Jobs in San Antonio

Created Tuesday, 20 April 2010 15:10

Gov. Perry Announces Kohl’s to Create More than 1,000 Jobs in San Antonio

TEF helps close deal on retailer’s customer operations center

April 20, 2010 AUSTIN – Gov. Rick Perry today announced the state will invest $750,000 through the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) in Kohl’s Department Stores Inc. for the creation of a customer operations center in San Antonio. Kohl’s is committed to creating 150 jobs through the TEF investment, but anticipates generating more than 1,000 jobs and $18 million in capital investment.

“Companies across the nation are looking to Texas as the place to grow their business thanks to our low taxes, reasonable and predictable regulatory climate, skilled workforce, and incentives such as the Texas Enterprise Fund,” Gov. Perry said. “This TEF investment in Kohl’s will bring more than 1,000 jobs to San Antonio and further strengthen and diversify this vibrant community’s economic environment.”

This new facility will provide e-commerce, credit analysis and collections functions for the growing retail chain.

“Our goal is to create thousands of new jobs for San Antonians in 2010, and this announcement goes a long way toward fulfilling that mission,” San Antonio Mayor Julián Castro said. “We also aim to bring sustainable, eco-friendly business and opportunity to San Antonio. In 2009, Kohl’s was named, by Newsweek magazine, the country’s leading green retailer and ranked in the top 20 greenest companies nationwide. Kohl’s is a great addition to our growing ‘green’ enterprises.”

“We are extremely pleased with Kohl’s decision to expand in San Antonio,” Bexar County Judge Nelson Wolff said. “San Antonio has been able to maintain great momentum through an economically challenging time, and Kohl’s choice of San Antonio is a testament to their confidence in our workforce and our community. We look forward to seeing the new center operating very soon.”

“Kohl’s is a recognized leader in the retail industry and a booming Fortune 500 company,” said Kenny Wilson, Chair of the Board of the San Antonio Economic Development Foundation and Central and South Texas president for Bank of America. “Kohl’s choice to place their financing and e-commerce center here, adding more than 1,000 jobs, only strengthens our growing economy. We are excited they have chosen San Antonio as the site of their first major expansion outside of their headquarters office.”

At Gov. Perry’s request, the legislature created the TEF in 2003 and re-appropriated funding in 2005, 2007 and 2009 to help ensure the growth of Texas businesses and create more jobs throughout the state. TEF projects must be approved by the governor, lieutenant governor and speaker of the House. The fund has since become one of the state’s most competitive tools to recruit and bolster business. To date, the TEF has invested more than $391.8 million and closed the deal on projects generating more than 52,600 new jobs and more than $14.3 billion in capital investment in the state.

For more information about the TEF, please visit http://www.texaswideopenforbusiness.com/financial-resources/texas-enterprise-fund.html or www.governor.state.tx.us.

Key Points

  • Gov. Rick Perry today announced the state will invest $750,000 through the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) in Kohl’s Department Stores Inc. for the creation of a customer operations center in San Antonio.
  • Kohl’s is committed to creating 150 jobs through the TEF investment, but anticipates generating more than 1,000 jobs and $18 million in capital investment.
  • To date, the TEF has invested more than $391.8 million and closed the deal on projects generating more than 52,600 new jobs and more than $14.3 billion in capital investment in the state.

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Fiesta San Antonio 2010

Created Wednesday, 14 April 2010 13:03

Fiesta! San Antonio 2010

It’s Fiesta time in San Antonio . . .   think of it as our peculiar version of Mardi Gras. Another friend described it as a city-wide, week-long block party, but it has grown to become all things to all San Antonians. It began as a parade in the 1890s to commemorate the victory of the Battle of San Jacinto, where people rode around in carriages and threw flowers at each other. But everybody wanted to get into the act; now Fiesta covers ten days and takes in just about every part of town and every socio-economic element.

There is a grand debutante coronation, where the two-dozen daughters of local elite wear gowns and trains crusted with about fifty pounds of rhinestones, sequins and metal-thread-embroidery (I am not making this up!), a raunchy variety show that sends up the whole concept (not making up that part, either!), half a dozen elaborate parades; one of which is an evening torch-light parade, and another is on flat-boats along the San Antonio River – an open-air oyster-bake, and exhibitions, parties, open houses, athletic contests, pageants, shows and concerts all over the city. It’s an excuse for people to dress up in strange costumes, eat, drink, party hearty and bash total strangers over the head with confetti-filled eggs. Like New Orleans Mardi Gras – but perhaps a bit more couth. The crowds along the parade routes don’t yell at the girls on the floats to show their tits; they ask them to show their shoes. Under their ornate and gorgeous gowns, they are usually wearing running shoes or crocs. One year, when rain threatened, one of the debutants was wearing swim fins, which earned her quite a lot of laugher and applause.

The culinary crown-jewel just might be NIOSA, or Night in Old San Antonio, a sprawling four night long food-fest in La Villita, sponsored by the San Antonio Conservation Society.  The extraordinary thing is that just about all of it is good and not terribly expensive, either. It’s organized roughly by ethnic neighborhoods; Mexican foods all clustered together, regular American (mostly barbeque of various animal parts) a hugely popular booth with egg rolls and other orientalia, a French-Cajun section offering jambalaya and delicacies like  . . . umm, snails, and the German neighborhood, featuring sausages, pretzels and cream-horns. Many of the food booths have been run by the same set of volunteers for years, and they have done a lot of tinkering with the TexMex recipes, besides cooking it all from scratch. (One variant of meat-onna-stick is famous locally – this is one recipe for it, but apparently the original was done with beef hearts. It’s a Peruvian specialty; one of the volunteers adapted the recipe for American palates years ago.)

The last time we did NIOSA, we even dared to try escargot; snails to you. Having had a couple of cups of beer first helped. Three dark little wads of gelatinacous phlegm drenched in melted butter and garlic and served on a slice of baguette; which proves that if you throw enough melted butter and fresh garlic on anything, you have a chance of rendering it edible. Not appetizing, but at least edible.

It is entirely possible to do a whole fifteen-course dinner, just walking from booth to booth, grazing; appetizers, fish course, vegetable, entree, salad, dessert- eating out of hand as you walked. NIOSA kicks in next Tuesday and runs to Friday night. Bring your appetite and try the snails. At least once.


Living Antiques for the San Antonio Gardens

Created Tuesday, 06 April 2010 16:32

The Flowers that Bloom in the Spring, Tra La!

It is one of the advantages of living in South Texas that a lot of garden plants which must be sheltered and cosseted throughout bitterly cold winters up north, thrive here as well as wildflowers. And now that wildflower season has arrived, so has one of our two gardening seasons. In most places, there is only the one – spring and summer, but here we have two – spring and fall, when the weather is temperate and glorious, where palms and semi-tropical plants thrive. Still, there is a lot to be said for garden plants which are native to Texas or from a similar clime and native-adapted. One of the best sources in San Antonio for native and semi-native plants, and ideas about what to do with them is a nursery and sample garden hidden away on Evans Road, outside 1604 – the Antique Rose Emporium – which, contrary to the name, has more than roses for sale, and on display. Be warned, however; I use the word hidden without much exaggeration.

Although there are signs pointing the way, and another at the main entrance on Evans Road, the gardens and nursery are at the end of a bumpy dirt road which crosses Salado Creek and wanders up the low bluff on the opposite bank. A first time visitor might very well be dubious, upon first venturing along that road; even more on those few occasions when Salado Creek is flooded and one must come in the back way – a single lane track which skirts some warehouses, a couple of farm properties and houses, and threatens at every lightly marked turn to become someone’s driveway. But at the end of it is a garden – landscaped with paths, quaint little buildings, pergolas and lawns – and a tall classic Texas windmill, all the better to show off the plantings.

The Emporium can give anyone with a green, or a semi-green, or even just a purple thumb, a fair idea of what can be grown in your Texas garden; salvias and mist-flowers, roses, scented verbenas and geraniums, jasmines and day-lilies . . . and herbs. An astonishingly wide variety of herbs can be nurtured here, year around. Why put up with a shelf of jars containing relatively tasteless dried green dust, when you can walk out the back door and pick fresh parsley, basil or thyme? The emporium offers all this and just about everything you need to make them grow well – organically. In the spring and summer, the gardens are alive with butterflies, bees and birds. (There are also a couple of resident cats – including Sylvester, the feline king of the Emporium, who turned up as a stray a good few years ago.)

If I wanted a nice bit of garden ornament – say, a gazing ball, or a pot glazed in jewel-colors, a bird-feeder or a bottle-tree, I would definitely check out the Rose Emporium first. Even just going there is as relaxing as a day in the park.


Hurrah for Olives

Created Friday, 02 April 2010 01:06

Hurrah for Olives!

Although it embarrasses me thoroughly – especially after Saturday last – to confess that I really don’t like olives, straight up. Nope: don’t care for them, I do not like them in a house, with a mouse, here or there, anywhere – not even at the Olive Ole festival down in Elmendorf, the home of the Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard . . . although I can really, really, and in an almost religious sense – get behind olive oil. Olive oil, drizzled on salads, infused with herbs, brushed over grilled meats, dipped into with chewy pieces of good rich sourdough bread, infinite in goodness, and utility – the cooking oil of the gods. Heck, by way of proving olive oil versatility, there was even a food vendor at Olive Ole offering samples of brownies made with the stuff.

It seems that there has been another Texas oil boom in the works over the last decade – only this time, the oil isn’t in them thar hills – but in the trees. It turns out that this part of south Texas is well-suited for growing olive trees, although why it took three hundred years to figure this out and give it a whirl is beyond me. I have always insisted that the Hill Country has the capacity to become the new Provence, what with all those vineyards, and goat-cheese and lavender and all. Limestone hills, oak trees, long-horned cattle – all we really need to make it perfect would be a couple of terraced hill-towns and a couple of castles or two on some of the higher hills. In fact, any day now I expect Toll Brothers or Centex to give that concept go for a fabulously wealthy home-owner.

There were other culinary delights than olives, as the olive-bar array in the main tent was somewhat less enticing for me, as being at the end of a very long line. The Don Strange Ranch had a booth, offering -OMG grilled sausage and vegetables! The Becker Vinyards had their offerings of vino and lavender, and a host of other specialty food providers were also fully represented. A booth offering an interesting combination of fine art pottery and grass-fed beef was “The Bull and China Shop” – Linda Perez, of the L & M Ranch, in Floresville. I wouldn’t know about the beef, (there not being any samples available) but the pottery was exquisite and mesmerizing, in that it begged to be picked up and touched, for the sheer tactile joy of it. Some of her pieces combined the delicacy of fine porcelain, and a gemlike pink and cream flush, threaded with a fine, smoky grey crackle pattern which reminded us irresistibly of rose quartz. Two extremes – fragile china and the solidity of stone, met in a single bowl you could hold in your hands. It’s complicated to make – she told us about all the steps – and each piece is a triumph against the odds.

I expect there will be an Olive Ole next year – meanwhile, many of the food vendors are at the Saturday Farmer’s Market at the Pearl Brewery, or have a regular sales outlet at their location, or through HEB. I think everyone straggled away from this event tired and sunburnt, after a lovely day at the Sandy Oaks Olive Orchard – and replete with olives, in every form imaginable.