March 31, 2015

Nebraska could place business tax breaks under microscope

Do tax breaks actually create jobs?

It’s a question the Unicameral wants answered.

A bill calling for the evaluation of tax incentive programs to lure businesses to Nebraska has advanced in the Unicameral.

Speaker Galen Hadley of Kearney says Nebraska needs to determine whether companies would not have come to Nebraska “but for” the incentives the state offered, adding that any company that receives a tax break will always say it was vital to its decision.

“So, what we have in developing an audit here is to try and use other metrics and other tools to try to be a surrogate for the ‘but for’ test,” Hadley tells colleagues during legislative floor debate. “Looking at growth in employment, looking at capital expenditures; looking at things that will help us decide whether or not these programs are working.”

LB 538 purports to evaluate the various tax incentive programs offered businesses by the state. Each tax incentive program would be subjected to a performance audit at least every three years.

Sen. Ken Schilz of Ogallala says it is in the state’s best interest to discover whether corporate tax breaks actually work.

“We talk about property tax relief. We talk about income tax relief. And we talk about sales tax relief. There’s only one sure way to make sure we have that opportunity to do some of those relief packages and get some of that done and that’s through growth,” according to Schilz.

Sen. Paul Schumacher of Columbus says Nebraska needs to know how effective incentives have been to lure businesses to the state and what happens when another state offers a Nebraska business incentive to move.

“These are some of the interesting issues I think we’re going to end up dealing with in the next few years as we struggle with promises to deliver tax relief and at the same time face huge expense issues with baby boomers, with prisons, with pre-school education, and with a lot of other things that are going to be sobering and very difficult for this body to juggle,” Schumacher tells colleagues.

LB 538 has advanced to the next round of debate.

Lincoln restoration company fined by EPA

An emergency restoration company from Lincoln has reached agreement with the Environment Protection Agency for violating federal regulations.

RDF, doing business as Paul Davis Restoration, has agreed to spend $27,304 to replace windows in Lincoln houses built prior to 1978. The company also will pay a $3,033 penalty.

EPA Region 7 found RDF failed to follow federal regulations during remodeling for fire and water damage, including not complying with record retention regulations, not posting proper warning signs, and not collecting all paint chips and debris and properly storing them.

Ethanol industry riding high last year, suffering this year

KAAPA Ethanol in Minden/Photo by KAAPA Ethanol, LLC

KAAPA Ethanol in Minden/Photo by KAAPA Ethanol, LLC

What a difference a year can make.

Last year, the ethanol industry soared. This year, it has been rough.

Overproduction and the big drop in oil prices get the blame from industry insiders.

CEO of KAAPA Ethanol of Minden, Chuck Woodside, says strong profits last year spurred over-production.

“We’ve got over 15 billion gallons of production in a 14-billion gallon market,” Woodside tells Brownfield Ag News.

Woodside says something has to give.

“And whether that means that we see some reduction in runs, we’ve already started to see some within the last two months and we may see that continue, based on certain locations and certain technologies and capacities,” Woodside says.

There is an upside to this downturn, according to Woodside. The ethanol industry has grown stronger the past few years, reinvesting profits to provide a stronger foundation. That, says Woodside, will allow the industry to better weather the down market.

Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, contributed to this story.

Omaha aspires to be a global agri-business leader

Omaha hopes to benefit from Nebraska’s strong agricultural sector to become one of the top five agri-business leaders in the world.

Senior Vice President Randy Thelen with the Greater Omaha Chamber of Commerce sees value-added agriculture as a key to making the city a global leader in food processing, biofuels, and bio-chemicals.

“We’ve seen tremendous growth of the Cargill campus up in Blair over the years,” Thelen told reporters during the 27th annual Governor Agriculture Conference in Kearney. “We want to see that to continue to grow and we see a new wave of investment taking place across the country in that space and we want to be a leader in that.”

Thelen said precision agriculture will need those who can help manage the huge amount of data needed.

“How can we best translate the data that is being collected today in a meaningful way that provides better abilities to manage the farms, manage these businesses around the world; not just here locally, but around the world?”

Thelen said it only makes sense that the urban areas of Nebraska would attempt to build off the strong foundation laid by agriculture.

Ken Anderson, Brownfield Ag News, contributed to this report.

Kearney hosts Agri-Eco Tourism conference, starting this afternoon

NE Tourism logoThe Nebraska Tourism Commission is opening its annual three-day Agri/Eco Tourism Workshop today in Kearney.

The event is designed for people who want to learn more about the tourism industries surrounding agriculture and the environment. Commission spokeswoman Karen Kollars says a host of activities are planned through Wednesday.

“We’ll start out with a three-hour workshop with business consultant Joe Calhoon who will be helping people grow their business in a simpler fashion,” Kollars says. “We will also be providing sessions on safety, making sure your farm is safe to have visitors and how to plan in case there’s an emergency.”

An event at the conference on Tuesday evening is designed to showcase a range of Nebraska-made products.

“Food products as well as soaps or lotions, different things that people could sell in their gift shops,” Kollars says. “It’s a great opportunity to know what else is out there for businesses to cross-market. Like if a winery wants to serve cheese, they’ll know what Nebraska cheese places are there.”

She says the gathering is a great place to find out how to develop a new attraction, increase income potential and create limitless opportunities.

The conference is underway at the Holiday Inn in Kearney.

By Brent Wiethorn, KKPR, Kearney