Texas Tea

South Texas Oil

I can’t say that I was very surprised to find out from various online sources last week that Texas is pumping so much oil from the Eagle Ford Shale formation in South Texas (among other oil-rich shale formations, some of which are not quite as well-along as far as drilling goes) that if it were an independent country, it would be one of the top fifteen oil producers. I am not one who follows this kind of thing, religiously – although where I grew up in Southern California, I remember seeing many a small rocking-horse pumpjacks scattered here and there, nodding busily away in the bean-fields and citrus orchards in Camarillo, or along the highways and back roads. It was just one of those things in the background. I don’t know if there are many pumpjacks left in So-Cal now. Probably not, although they are at least as unlovely as wind turbines and probably don’t kill nearly as many birds. I lament the loss of the place where I grew up, by the way; a place of citrus groves, and lonely hills, a rural, blue-collar and working-class kind of place, where you could drive in a single afternoon from a palm-tree desert to a pine tree covered mountain-top frosted in snow. Alas, it seems that the wealthy coastal enclaves drive California now, to the ruination of the places which I remember so fondly.

But I like to think of Texas as a massive producer of oil and gasoline, especially when the stuff gets to be north of $3.00 a gallon. And I should have so known that the boom was big, and doing good for South Texas, just by simple observation over the time that I have lived here, especially since I began to write historical fiction and taking long road trips – towards Beeville and Goliad and Port Lavaca and all – especially to Goliad, which we have done for a good few years now. It once was, going down 181, through Poth and Karnes City and Kenedy, or by other routes through Smiley or Stockdale and Nixon to other destinations. Four or five years ago, many of the little towns along the way appeared as if they were dying on the vine. There were so many crumbling storefronts – and the ones open for some kind of business presented a more forlorn aspect than the ones which had given up the ghost and boarded up entirely. Weekday or weekend – such towns were deserted by mid-afternoon. Even the parking lot of the Walmart in Kenedy was all but deserted the first couple of times we drove past.

We first began noticing the changes along about Christmas 2010, driving down to Goliad to take part in Christmas on the Square. Suddenly – there were oilfield developments, truck parks and wells, dotted here and there among the pastures and brushlands; newly paved and graveled, lit up boldly at night. There was a little more traffic on the roads and the small towns didn’t look nearly so forlorn. The crumbling motel suddenly was rehabbed, and a number of new cabin-style units added to the row of existing roomettes. There were lights in the café, new vehicles parked out front, and on the edge of town there were several new RV parks – which, since there were no golf-courses, lakes or riverfront amusements – were obviously for workers rather than vacationers. New housing developments were going in, outside of Karnes City and Poth – and the Walmart parking lot was full. We remarked on this, to some old friends in Goliad – long-time residents, who confirmed our observations. There were neighbors and residents who owned country acreage who had been scraping by on a shoestring for decades – and now they had regular and generous checks for leasing their land.

On the whole, this is a good thing – and a good thing to know that this new oil boom has bought some prosperity to places that hadn’t seen much of it lately. I’d much rather that some of what I pay at the pump for unleaded is going right back here to Texas.

Texas Sales Tax Holiday

Texas Tax Free Weekend

Sales Tax Holiday
Aug. 9 – 11, 2013

The recent passage of Senate Bill 485 (83rd Regular Legislative Session, 2013) changes the dates of the this year’s annual Sales Tax Holiday to Aug. 9-11, a week earlier than previously scheduled. The change in law became effective immediately. As in previous years, the law exempts most clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks priced under $100 from sales and use taxes, which could save shoppers about $8 on every $100 they spend.

Subject to the criteria explained below, all sales of qualifying items made during the holiday period qualify for the exemption, including items sold online, or by telephone or mail. Lay-away plans can be used again this year to take advantage of the sales tax holiday.

The dates for the sales tax holiday are set by the Legislature.

The “Fine Print” – important information you should know about this tax-saving event

Clothing and Footwear

Backpacks

School Supplies

Layaways and Rainchecks

Prohibited Advertising

Reporting Requirements for Sellers

Austin Gets Second Area Code

Central Texas about to get second area code: 737

 

Callers in the Austin area code may soon be required to begin dialing the area code in order to complete the calls. Austin continues to grow and in order to provide a continuous supply of phone number a new area code (737) has been implemented.

Since two area codes will not be servicing the same geographic area, local callers may be required to include the area code when dialing, including calls within the same area code. Check with your landline or cellphone providers for more details and the exact implementation dates.

In addition to the long standing 512 area code, the new area code of 737 has been implemented as an available area code for the Austin area. See the blue area in the image.

If you have any questions regarding this information, please call your phone provider or visit the Texas Public Utility Commission’s website.

 

Texas Governor Lauches Chicago Ads

Gov. Perry Launches Chicago Ads

Monday, April 15, 2013  •  Austin, Texas  •  Press Release

As part of his ongoing efforts to spur competition between states and recruit jobs and employers to Texas, Gov. Rick Perry is taking his message of low taxes, predictable regulations, fair courts and a skilled workforce to employers in Chicago with a week-long web and print ad buy in Crain’s Chicago Business Journal and on chicagobusiness.com. Paid for by TexasOne, the $38,450 mixed media advertising buy includes a two-day takeover of the website, email marketing and a full page ad in Monday’s edition of Crain’s Chicago Business Journal.

The governor’s latest business recruitment efforts coincide with a new, Illinois-targeted section on Texas Wide Open for Business, and come just two months after Gov. Perry launched a radio ad inviting California business owners to check out Texas’ strong jobs climate.

TexasOne is a public-private partnership that markets Texas nationally and internationally as a prime business destination.

To view the Texas web ads, please visit Chicago Business.

Texas Boasts More Jobs Than Last Year

Texas Boasts More Jobs Than Last Year

COLLEGE STATION (Real Estate Center) – All Texas industries and the state’s government sector had more jobs in February 2013 than in February 2012.

According to the Real Estate Center’s latest Monthly Review of the Texas Economy, the state’s construction industry ranked first in job creation, followed by mining and logging, leisure and hospitality, other services, professional and business services and trade.

The state’s economy was robust, gaining 355,600 nonagricultural jobs from February 2012 to February 2013, an annual growth rate of 3.3 percent compared with 1.5 percent for the United States. The state’s private sector added 336,800 jobs, an annual growth rate of 3.8 percent compared with 1.9 percent for the nation.

All Texas metro areas except Texarkana had more jobs. Odessa and Midland ranked first in job creation followed by Houston-Sugar Land-Baytown, Fort Worth-Arlington and Corpus Christi.

Texas’ seasonally adjusted unemployment rate fell to 6.4 percent in February from 7.1 percent the year before. The nation’s rate decreased from 8.3 to 7.7 percent.

The state’s actual unemployment rate was 6.5 percent. Midland had the lowest unemployment rate, followed by Odessa, Amarillo, Abilene, San Angelo and Lubbock.

According to a recent Wall Street Journal article, only 14 of the nation’s 100 largest metros have more jobs now than they did before the recession, and six of them are in Texas. They are Austin, San Antonio, El Paso, McAllen, Dallas and Houston.

New and Improved

Ft Sam and Brook Army Medical Center Complex

by Celia Hayes

Having been in pretty good health over the last two or three years, it has been that long since I had to make an appointment to see a doctor – which since I am a military retiree, usually meant a long trek into the wilds of Brooke Army Medical Center, or BAMC – or as I liked to call it ‘the world’s largest red-brick Skinner box’. I was better acquainted with the grounds around it though; during a time when I worked in an office nearby. During my lunch hour, I used to walk across the street, flash my retiree ID at the gate, and walk briskly around the footpath which circuited the grounds – skirting the parking lot at the top of the hill, around the back of the tall brick structure, down to the complex of new dormitories, the park at the bottom of the hill, around past where the original Fisher Houses are, and where they were building a pair of new ones, the bright and shiny new dome of the state of the art rehab center, up the hill past the helicopter landing pad, and a wide and empty grass field and back to the gate again.

All that has changed since I worked that job – and I probably couldn’t walk anything like the same route today. The empty field has been filled in with an extension to the main building of practically the same size, and a huge parking garage. Now there are apparently twice the numbers of employees coming onto the BAMC complex daily as there were when I last went in for a routine appointment … so, I was not much looking forward negotiating the acres of parking lot and miles of corridor. But now it seems that the routine outpatient clinic has moved out of BAMC altogether and into it’s own bright and shiny building on Fort Sam itself. This, I feared, would not be an improvement. Fort Sam has been overtaken by changes too.

For those couple of years after I retired in 1997, I thought that Fort Sam was definitely getting pretty shabby. I would drive through and notice that the old warehouses and loading docks were looking exceedingly crumbly, and even the stolid old Spanish-colonial style blocks of dormitories and administrative buildings had the paint peeling off them in sheets. What was the Army coming to, I would wonder, that they couldn’t even send out the troops to slap another coat of paint on those buildings? The old hospital building looked like one of those mock structures that fire departments practice in, and it all looked dispiritingly shabby. Such were the benefits of the peace dividend, and the end of the Cold War.

Such have been the vagaries of current events and the realigning of military missions that things are also looking up on Fort Sam itself. This I discovered, finding my way to an appointment last week at the outpatient medical center, for treatment of a persistent bronchial cough. New units have moved in, the old buildings repurposed, scrubbed up and revitalized – and a number of new ones added to the current inventory. Among them was the brand-spanking-new outpatient clinic, as modern and up to the minute as anything that I ever saw on an Air Force base – which, as the Air Force was the newest of the armed services, usually featured built-to-purpose and relatively modern buildings, rather than the Army or the Navy’s usual century-plus relics. I don’t know what will happen next at Fort Sam – but I am pretty well certain that General Eisenhower and all those other Army officers who passed through early in the last century would not recognize much of it at all.

Texas King Cotton

When Cotton Was King

by Celia Hayes

Amazingly enough, cotton once was king in this part of Texas, even though one thinks more of cattle ranches rather than large-scale cotton production. By the mid 1700s, the Spanish missions established at the headwaters of the San Antonio River produced several thousand pounds of cotton fiber annually, which was spun and woven into cloth for local consumption. The climate was just right to grow cotton, all through the Rio Grande Valley and other more or less temperate regions. Once the threat of Indian raids diminished after the Civil War, and railways opened up access to distant markets, cotton agriculture thrived all across Texas – mostly on a share-cropped basis, where a landowner contracted with an otherwise landless tenant laborer to cultivate and harvest in exchange for a share of the resulting crop.

And cotton grew well – very well indeed, although actual physical relics of it having done so around San Antonio are sparse and most usually in ruins. Before the Civil War it was almost axiomatic that intensive cultivation of cotton speedily exhausted the most fertile soil – but that wasn’t what killed the cotton fields around San Antonio. The not-quite-unexpected disaster came with the arrival of the boll weevil plague – an insect pest which slowly began moving north from Mexico late in the 19th century and hit the American cotton-growing belt in the 1920s. The boll weevil and the stock market crash of 1920 sent local cotton producers into a tail-spin … and by the time efficient pesticides were applied to cotton fields after WWII, many growers and those who made a living from processing the cotton harvest had moved on to other crops – or other means of making a living.

Since the 1920s, suburbia has reached into the vicinity of formerly San Antonio and New Braunfels agricultural lands, but there are some still-existing or repurposed remains. The most noticeable are the ruins of industrial cotton ‘gins’ – ‘gin’ being a shortening of ‘engine’ – that mechanical device developed to efficiently and economically separate the cotton fibers from the seeds. There are three that I know of, although there are probably many more. The most famous that I know is the building in Gruene which now houses the Gristmill Restaurant. Indeed, Gruene was a whole little town built upon the cotton industry. When it all went to nothing in the 1920s, Gruene became stuck in a lovely and preservative kind of stasis, just as it was built in the late 19th and early 20th century. Now it is a destination on the north margin of New Braunfels – and well worth the visit.

The second old cotton gin is out in the fields on the southern fringe of New Braunfels – a little town now a crossroads of secondary roads. It used to be called Comal … and there, in a grove of pecan trees are the yellow-brick ruins and tall chimney stack, along with a brief row of stores which were the center of lively rural life at the same time as Gruene. And in the gentle valley of the Sister Creek there is a third building – a frame one, this time – which also housed a cotton gin, and now serves as the showroom for Sister Creek Winery.

There is still cotton in Texas fields, though; a couple of years ago, I took some pictures of cotton growing near Winters, just south of Abilene – and last year, we spotted huge trailer-truck sized cotton bales just outside Lockhart, at the edge of the parking lot at the Kreuz Market. Cotton – perhaps not king any longer, but still a haunting presence.

Romney Ryan or Obama Biden

I VOTED, Have You?

Today is Tuesday, November 6th, 2012. It is Election Day in the United States. Please get out and vote. The lines in my precinct were not that long. Only about 15 people standing in line.

If you live in Bexar County, to find out where to vote, go to the Bexar County Voter Website. If you live in other counties in Texas you can visit the Texas Secretary of State’s Voter website or visit your county website.

 

 

Nondelinquent Borrowers Soon to Be Eligible for Short Sales

Nondelinquent Borrowers Soon to Be Eligible for Short Sales

Daily Real Estate News | Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac have issued new rules, which will take effect Nov. 1, that will allow short sales for underwater borrowers who have never missed a mortgage payment. Previously, Fannie and Freddie allowed only home owners who had missed payments to qualify for a short sale.

Read More

Caterpillar Opens in Victoria

Gov. Perry Attends Grand Opening of Caterpillar Manufacturing Facility

Thursday, August 23, 2012  •  Victoria, Texas  •  Press Release

Gov. Rick Perry toured Caterpillar Inc.’s new hydraulic excavator manufacturing plant, which has been expanded thanks to a $1.175 million investment from the Texas Enterprise Fund (TEF) in 2010. Caterpillar has already created 225 new jobs and will generate $200 million in capital investment with the new facility, and plans to continue hiring in Victoria.

“Caterpillar is no stranger to the way we do business here in Texas, and they’ve made it clear, through commitment after commitment, they like what they see,” Gov. Perry said. “We happily return that sentiment and remain committed to our successful formula of low taxes, predictable regulations, fair courts and skilled workforce that has made Texas’ jobs climate second to none.”

Gov. Perry also congratulated Caterpillar on finding the right place for this facility in Victoria and making the right call to build in Texas, and congratulated Victoria on officially becoming home to this manufacturing center which expands Caterpillar’s presence in Texas to include about 3,000 employees.

Caterpillar is the world’s leading manufacturer of construction and mining equipment, diesel and natural gas engines and industrial gas turbines. The new plant triples the company’s current domestic production capacity for hydraulic excavators, and doubles the number of Caterpillar employees in the U.S. making excavators.

“This new facility in Victoria will help us better serve our customers in North America, and I am thrilled to have the opportunity to meet some of our newest employees and to see first-hand a factory that I am sure will be among the very best we have anywhere in the world,” Caterpillar Chairman and CEO Doug Oberhelman said.

In 2008, the company received an $8.5 million investment through the TEF to bring an engine manufacturing facility to Seguin, creating more than 1,400 jobs $111 million in capital investment. Caterpillar also has operating locations across the state, including Amarillo, Channelview, Coppell, Dallas, Denison, De Soto, El Paso, Fort Worth, Garland, Houston, Laredo, Mabank, McAllen, McKinney, Midland, Sherman, Waco and Waskom.

The Legislature created the TEF in 2003 and has re-appropriated funding in every legislative session since then 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 $470 million and closed the deal on projects generating more than 63,400 new jobs and more than $22.3 billion in capital investment in the state.

For more information about Caterpillar, please visit http://www.caterpillar.com.

For more information about the TEF, please visit http://www.texaswideopenforbusiness.com/incentives-financing/tef.php or http://www.governor.state.tx.us.