Wednesday October 12th, 2005

Houston purchasing managers see another healthy month, despite hurricanes...Houston firm poised to print special T-shirts--if Astros win...Gulf Coast hurricane evacuees help push apartment demand, according to M/PF YieldStar...

The National Association of Purchasing Management says neither Hurricane Katrina nor Rita dampened the Houston economy in September. The Houston PMI, or Purchasing Managers Index, was 62.1--the 18th time in the last 20 months that it has exceeded 60. A reading above 50 indicates the Houston economy is generally expanding. The PMI is based on a monthly survey of some 80 purchasing executives in oil and gas exploration and production, manufacturing, engineering and construction, chemicals, distribution, business and financial services and healthcare. Components of the PMI include sales, production, employment, purchases, prices paid and inventory levels.


A Houston company stands to profit if the Houston Astros continue doing well. Trademarks Promotional Products is printing special T-shirts for a large distributor licensed by Major League Baseball that places product in large department stores. The company's Mike Davenport calls the quick turnaround "hot market printing."

Mike Davenport audio 1

Davenport says the process begins with the fourth Astros win.

Mike Davenport audio 2

Trademarks Promotional Products is producing the same shirt that television viewers will see.

Mike Davenport audio 3

The Astros face the St. Louis Cardinals in the best-of-seven National League championship series for the second year in a row. Game one is Wednesday night in St. Louis. The match-up is at soon-to-be-demolished Busch Stadium. A new stadium, set to open in 2006, is being built next door.


Officials with a South Texas plastics plant that exploded last week have begun to bring units not affected by the blast back online but they say today that the process will be slow. Rob Thibault, a spokesman for Formosa Plastics Corporation, says the plant will start back up in phases. He says he did not know when the unaffected units in the plant would all be up and running again. Nearly all the fires at the Olefins Two unit, where the explosion took place last Thursday, were finally extinguished. A small fire resulting from a broken pipe that was venting gas still needed to be put out. Thibault did not know when that fire would be extinguished. Investigators have yet to determine what caused the explosion because the ongoing fire keeps them from inspecting the unit.


ConocoPhillips and BP officials say placing a two-year time limit on federal loan guarantees for a natural gas pipeline through Alaska and Canada won't speed up closing a deal on the project. The sunset provision is included in an oil refinery bill by U. S. Representative Joe Barton--a Republican from Texas. The bill passed the House of Representatives on Friday. The provision says if the state doesn't enter a binding contract to bring North Slope natural gas to market, the federal loan guarantees passed by Congress will expire two years after Barton's bill is enacted.


Gulf Coast hurricane evacuees helped push apartment demand in Houston during the third quarter, according to real estate market information firm M/PF YieldStar, as reported in the Houston Business Journal.ξ Demand jumped to more than 17,800 units in the quarter, bringing year-to-date absorption to 39,600 apartments. Occupancy reached 93.8 percent in September. Corporate leasing among companies temporarily relocating from New Orleans depleted nearly all of Houston's available top-tier units.


Free bankruptcy legal advice and counseling is available to Katrina and Rita victims in a program called Project Fresh Start. The program was created by the bankruptcy section of the State Bar of Texas, providing attorneys to assist individuals and small businesses on a pro bono basis. The guidelines for how bankruptcies are filed will be changing and becoming more complex on October 17th.


New Orleans-based Hibernia Corporation warned today it faces substantial costs and financial uncertainties stemming from Hurricane Katrina. Hibernia has offices in Louisiana and Texas--including areas devastated by Katrina in August and Rita last month. The banking company is trying to complete its $5 billion acquisition by Capital One Financial. In a filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission, Hibernia says it'll "experience increased costs'' because of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita. It says those costs include rebuilding or repairing branches and other properties and replacing equipment and other property. The company also says it expects "to experience substantial employee and recovery costs.''


Hurricanes Katrina and Rita are eating into the operations of the nation's restaurants. Applebee's, for example, says sales were weak in its Midwest and New England markets in late August. It says sales for restaurants open at least a year could range from down three percent to up one percent. At the same time, the National Restaurant Association says consumers are resilient. The industry trade group says America's eateries posted record sales in July and August and are on target to post all-time high sales for the year. And, even though thousands of restaurant workers have lost jobs because of Hurricane Katrina, the overall industry will employ a record 12.2 million people.


A small portion of the state's pecan crop was affected by Hurricane Rita in a big way--but most of the crop is suffering from drought. Details come today from the Texas Cooperative Extension. Rita made landfall September 24th near Sabine Pass. Agent William Ree in Bryan has received reports of downed trees in East Texas, but the economic impact on the state is minimal. He says there's not a whole lot of pecan production in that area. Cindy Wise with the Texas Pecan Growers Association says most of the state's crop has suffered from drought. Although the general harvest is behind schedule, some types of pecans are have been harvested. Early varieties, such as Pawnee, which are popular with the gift pack and specialty market, were harvested in South Texas before recent rains.


If you've got a pay raise coming, you can plan on pumping most of it into your gas tank. Salary.com, a compensation software and data company, says workers getting pay raises averaging 3.7 percent this year will spend all but a fraction of it on gasoline, because of skyrocketing prices. The survey of about 90 cities nationwide finds some places are being hit harder than others. The most expensive city is Brownsville, where drivers spent 4.6 percent of their pay on gas. Brownsville has by some of the highest pump prices in the country along with above-average commute times. The cheapest city is Santa Ana, California where drivers spent two percent of their pay going to and from work.


Negotiations between G&H Towing and a tugboat crew union continue after the two sides agreed to a contract extension through the end of the month. An earlier contract extension expired Monday. Union members, which include workers at the Port of Houston, rejected a tentative contract between the Seafarers' International Union and G&H Towing.


Movie Tavern Partners is opening two Houston-area dining/theater complexes in the next six months, according to the Houston Business Journal. One will be a seven-screen theater on Richey Road and I-45 at the Commons at Commerce Park North Shopping Center. The second project will be a six-screen theater west of the intersection of Highway 59 and FM 1960 at the Deerbrook Shopping Center.


A team of private companies led by Space Services Incorporated, a client of the Houston Technology Center, has been awarded a contract from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration to assess commercial opportunities of next generation solar wind and telecommunications space systems. The team will examine cutting-edge technologies to achieve detection of solar storms. The team will explore the possibility that a spacecraft powered by advanced solar sail technology and located deep in space, can effectively detect solar storms.


ENGlobal is opening the first ENGlobal Canada office in Calgary, Alberta to provide engineering services for oil and gas projects in Northern Alberta. The company says its Beaumont and Lake Charles engineering offices, closed as a result of Hurricane Rita, have reopened. About 80 percent of the 700 ENGlobal employees affected by office closures have returned to work.


A Northwest Indiana hospitality company is selling 100 hotels as part of a deal designed to generate cash and increase growth. The hotels owned by the White Lodging Service Corporation are in 12 states--including Texas, Indiana, Colorado and Illinois. Officials say about 35 projects under development aren't included in the sale, which began about two months ago. The deal is being handled by a hotel brokerage firm. The hotels included are Marriotts, Hiltons, Holiday Inns and Raddisons, with 25 in Indiana.


The U. S. Senate has approved a bill that includes $15 million in new funding for nanotechnology research at the University of Texas, as well as the University of Houston and Rice University. The Strategic Partnership for Research in Nanotechnology funds are part of the fiscal 2006 Department of Defense appropriations bill. Congress previously appropriated $26.5 million for the research between 2003 and 2005. Nanotechnology research includes the pursuit of stronger, lighter and more efficient materials for use in health care, transportation, defense and other sectors of the economy.


Three hospitality industry executives have been inducted into the Hospitality Hall of Fame at the University of Houston Conrad N. Hilton College of Hotel and Restaurant Management. This year's honorees include Hilton Hotels Corporation CEO Stephen Bollenbach, Darden Restaurants Chairman Joe Lee and Carlson Companies President and CEO Curtis Nelson. Previous inductees include Howard Johnson, J. W. Marriott, Walt Disney and Colonel Harland Sanders.


The University of Texas Medical Branch at Galveston has been awarded a five-year $2.5 million grant from the National Institutes of Health for training physicians and scientists whose research focuses on women's health. The program will focus on minority health and health disparities, endocrinology, infectious disease and immunology, addiction, adolescent health and geriatrics.


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