Wednesday PM September 20th, 2006

Texas Enterprise Fund awards incentive package for Lockheed Martin's moon spacecraft project to create Texas jobs... Enron creditors can recover $1.3 million family of former Vice Chairman Cliff Baxter...British scientific academy accuses Exxon Mobil of misleading public about global warming...

The Texas Enterprise Fund is awarding a $7.5 million incentive package to Lockheed Martin for bringing about 1,000 jobs to the Houston area. The NASA contractor was awarded an $8 billion contract for the new Orion spacecraft to return man to the moon, and the Bay Area Houston Economic Partnership worked to persuade the company to locate the jobs in Texas. The Partnership's Bob Mitchell says these are jobs that could have gone to other cities.

"We have been working with them in a competition California, Alabama, Louisiana and Florida to get these jobs. And not only is the state helping us, the county and the city is also working with us on this. So it's a competition. These jobs could have very easily gone to another location. In fact, I believe, originally Lockheed Martin was talking about bringing in the neighborhood of 300 to 400 new jobs. Now we're talking a thousand to 1200 new jobs."

Mitchell says these jobs will average about $65,000 salaries, and the project will last a number of years.

"This consolation program, of which the crew exploration vehicle is just one piece, is a 35 to 40-year program. This thousand to 1200 jobs is just the beginning, because there's going to be so many different new industries that are going to be created from this consolation program, and these jobs are going to increase over the years."

NASA also plans to build a moon base for an eventual manned mission to Mars.

Boeing reportedly will get an $80 million federal contract to provide new high-tech ways to catch illegal immigrants trying to cross U.S. land borders. That's the word today from a congressional aide who spoke on condition of anonymity. The Homeland Security Department is expected to announce the contract as early as today. Boeing's one of several major defense companies competing for the job. Other companies' proposals relied more heavily on using flying drones to patrol the border. But Boeing focused on a network of 1,800 high-tech towers, equipped with cameras and motion detectors. Those could feed live information to border patrol agents. The contract is part of the secure border initiative, which is the government's latest attempt to use advanced technology to solve the illegal immigration problem. Lawmakers have called the problem a national security issue, and it's gotten new attention since the 9-11 terrorist attacks.

Enron creditors can attempt to recover $1.3 million in funds from the family of former Vice Chairman Cliff Baxter, according to Bloomberg News. Baxter committed suicide after Enron collapsed in December 2001. U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Arthur Gonzalez said the funds can be recovered through Texas Probate Court because Baxter was paid within 90 days of Enron's bankruptcy filing. Baxter was paid in November 2001 under a deferred-compensation program available to some Enron executives. He was one of 113 employees paid a total of $53.1 million under the program, receiving $796,814 after taxes were withheld.

Britain's leading scientific academy is accusing Exxon Mobil of misleading the public about global warming. The Royal Society also alleges the Irving-based oil giant has given almost $3 million to 39 groups that undermine the scientific consensus on climate change. The groups are among more than 50 listed on Exxon's Web site as receiving funding for "public information and policy research.'' Exxon Mobil says it backs groups that "research significant policy issues and promote informed discussion on issues of direct relevance to the company.'' However, it says the groups don't speak for Exxon. Founded in 1660, the Royal Society is Britain's leading academy of scientists. It counts Isaac Newton, Charles Darwin and Albert Einstein among past members.

Construction work could begin next year on a $3 billion update of BP's oil refinery in Northwestern Indiana. The project announced this morning would allow the Whiting, Indiana, refinery on Lake Michigan to process heavy Canadian crude oil. The project involves reconfiguring the refinery and is expected to create up to 80 permanent full-time jobs and 2,500 jobs during the three-year construction phase. BP America Chairman Bob Malone says the project will increase the diversity of oil products that can be refined into gasoline and diesel fuel for Midwestern consumers. The project could be completed by 2011, pending regulatory approvals. BP officials had announced in October that they were considering upgrading either the Whiting plant or the Texas City refinery to turn Canadian oil sands into gasoline.

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