Tuesday AM June 5th, 2007

Orders to U.S. factories posts modest gain in April…Texas hoping for successful bid to get wind turbine testing facility…U.S. Concrete making company-wide commitment to environmentally-friendly production technologies… The Commerce Department says orders to U.S. factories posted a modest gain in April. Declines in demand for cars, aircraft and boats nearly offset strength in business investment. […]

Orders to U.S. factories posts modest gain in April…Texas hoping for successful bid to get wind turbine testing facility…U.S. Concrete making company-wide commitment to environmentally-friendly production technologies…

The Commerce Department says orders to U.S. factories posted a modest gain in April. Declines in demand for cars, aircraft and boats nearly offset strength in business investment. The weaker-than-expected rise is the smallest in three months. Economists were encouraged that orders for non-defense capital goods, excluding aircraft, was up a strong 2.1 percent in April. The specific measure is seen as a barometer of investment by business. Orders for commercial aircraft plunged by 10.7 percent after having posted huge gains in the past two months.

Texas hopes to get word this month on whether it has won a bid for a U.S. Energy Department wind turbine testing facility–a prize the state’s land commissioner says would boost Texas’ position as the nation’s leader in wind-generated energy. Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson said that Texas bid on the project last year and is in the running with Massachusetts. The research and development facility will test wind turbine blades in excess of 200 feet long. Patterson said Texas has several pluses in its favor, including a site near Corpus Christi donated by BP and a contingent $5 million appropriation from the legislature. Long known as a top producer of oil and gas, Texas last year gained acclaim by surpassing California as the nation’s top producer of wind energy, and that capacity is forecast to grow rapidly in the next several years.

Houston-based U.S. Concrete says it’s making a company-wide commitment to environmentally-friendly production technologies. It plans to substantially replace traditional Portland cement with reclaimed fly ash and slag, material from coal-fired industrial plants or iron mills. The technique reduces CO?, emissions, landfill space consumption and raw material consumption. U.S. concrete says it also produces a more durable product.

One hundred classroom teachers from eight school districts are working at Houston-area offices and job sites this week—a collaboration between the Houston A+ Challenge and the Greater Houston Partnership, sponsored by Shell Oil. Teachers are paired with professionals in their fields of study, as teachers work to make students’ learning more relevant to the workplace.

The Greater Houston Convention & Visitors Bureau is welcoming 18 conventions, trade shows, events and other meetings to Houston in July. More than 19,000 attendees will spend an estimated $18.6 million in Houston. The Lutheran Church Missouri Synod gathers for its 63rd regular convention at the George R. Brown Convention Center July 14th through the 19th. The National Association of Catering Executives holds its 2007 NACE Educational Conference July 15th through the 18th.

The Woodlands-based CB&I has been awarded a $775 million contract by GNL Quintero of Chile, according to the Houston Business Journal, to build a liquified natural gas regasification terminal about 100 miles north of Santiago. CB&I will perform engineering, procurement and construction duties, including a new marine jetty with ship unloading facilities, two large LNG storage tanks and a smaller storage tank.

Dominion Resources is selling most of its U.S. on-shore oil and gas exploration and production operations for $6.5 billion. One of the buyers is New York-based Loews Corporation, which charters offshore drilling rigs to oil and gas explorers. It’ll pay about $4 billion for Dominion’s operations in Michigan, Alabama and the Permian Basin of Texas. Fort Worth-based XTO Energy will acquire Dominion’s operations in the Rocky Mountains, Gulf Coast, New Mexico’s San Juan Basin and South Louisiana for $2.5 billion. Both deals are expected to close in August. Richmond, Virginia-based Dominion has said that it wants to refocus on its power generation and energy distribution, transmission, storage and retail businesses.

Anadarko Petroleum is selling its interests in two natural gas gathering systems and processing plants to Pennsylvania-based Atlas Pipeline Partners in a $1.85 billion deal, according to the Houston Business Journal. The properties in central Oklahoma and southern Kansas consists of some 3,500 miles of gathering lines, and the properties near Midland include another 2,500 miles of gathering lines.

Ashmore Energy International is acquiring a 50 percent stake in GasAtacema of Chile and a 42.3 percent stake in Jamaica Private Power from Michigan-based CMS Energy, according to the Houston Business Journal, in deals that total $94 million. The deal follows Ashmore’s acquisition Shell’s interest in the two companies’ joint venture businesses in Brazil and Bolivia.

The company that prepares and maintains America’s space shuttles says it’s prepared for the possibility of a strike. The union representing 570 employees of the United Space Alliance has voted to authorize a strike as soon as next Sunday. That’s just two days after Friday’s scheduled launch of shuttle Atlantis. A United Space Alliance spokeswoman says the company “has a plan in place” so that launches would not be affected. The International Association of Machinists and Aerospace Workers rejected a contract offer over the weekend as “substandard.”

Encysive Pharmaceuticals’ pulmonary arterial hypertension drug can now be prescribed in Canada. The Houston-based pharmaceutical firm said Health Canada’s Therapeutic Products Directorate has approved Thelin. The drug was recently launched in Europe.

Harlan Meier is a retired farmer who has served on the Iowa Corn Promotion Board and with the Iowa Corn Growers Association. He has been so adamant about the financial benefits of ethanol that he’s earned the nickname “Mr. Ethanol.” After 30 years, Meier’s time has come. Ethanol has helped Iowa experience a boom. A report was done in February for the Iowa Renewable Fuels Association by LECG, a global analysis consultant. It says that by the end of 2006, ethanol made from corn and biodiesel made from soybeans boosted the states gross domestic product by $8.2 billion, or 6.8 percent. The report said that production of the fuels has also driven $1.8 billion in new household income in the state, helped create more than 53,000 new jobs and generated nearly $390 million in new state tax revenue.

Alan Greenspan admits it: he made deliberately cryptic statements as Federal Reserve chairman. He says it was his way of trying not to jolt markets. Greenspan seems less cryptic now that he’s retired and hawking a new book. He spoke frankly last week in an interview conducted by his wife, NBC news reporter Andrea Mitchell. The book focuses on his years at the helm of the Fed. That’s when Greenspan says he became eloquent in what he calls “fedspeak.” It’s also when he says he learned that “certain answers–no matter how you phrase them, no matter what you do–have market effects.” Now 81, Greenspan says he wrote “The Age of Turbulence: Adventures in a New World” in longhand in the bathtub. The book is due out in September.

Bill Miller Bar-B-Q has agreed to purchase Carol Burnett’s childhood home as part of a project to relocate and preserve the one-story Victorian house. The company had planned to raze the home to clear space for a parking lot accompanying a rebuilt restaurant next door. The company reached an agreement last week with American Sunrise, a nonprofit housing and education program led by former U.S. Housing Secretary Henry Cisneros. The nonprofit will cover the cost of dismantling the house into three pieces and moving it eight blocks to an after-school learning center for elementary school children. Burnett’s famed career has included Broadway, movies and “The Carol Burnett Show.” She has often spoken of her memories of the house, where she lived with her grandmother until she was seven.

Several Houston hospitals will receive the TMF Health Quality Institute’s 2007 Texas Health Care Quality Improvement Award. Hospitals being honored on June 28th in Austin will include: Cypress Fairbanks Medical Center, East Houston Regional Medical Center, Memorial Hermann Southeast Hospital and Park Plaza Hospital. Also being honored are Pasadena’s Bayshore Medical Center and Gulf Coast Medical Center in Wharton. Winning the Award of Excellence will be: Memorial Hermann-Texas Medical Center, Memorial Herman Northwest Hospital, The Methodist Hospital and West Houston Medical Center in Houston, Christus St. Catherine Health and Wellness Center and Memorial Hermann Katy Hospital in Katy, Kingwood Medical Center in Kingwood, Memorial Hermann Sugar Land Hospital in Sugar Land, Mainland Medical Center in Texas City and Memorial Hermann The Woodlands Hospital in The Woodlands.

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