October 25, 2014

Gas under $3 a gallon at several Nebraska locations

Some Nebraskans are getting pretty good deal at the gas pump but Rose White with AAA Nebraska says the further west you go the more you will pay.  She says prices vary across the U-S.

Missouri has the lowest price at $2.84 a gallon for self-serve unleaded so those in southeast Nebraska will see lower prices. However, Wyoming is among the highest top ten in the country. Of the 173 communities AAA Nebraska surveyed on Thursday 29 of them posted gas at under $3 a gallon.

White says there are several reasons for the price drop. She says crude oil prices dropped to $79 a barrel, down from $107 in June. Several other factors include U-S crude production is up, lower corn prices has kept ethanol prices down and no hurricanes to disrupt production for the two years.

White says it is hard to predict what the future holds but AAA is reporting prices will be favorable for the rest of the year.

Winter fuel outlook report calls for 7% increase in gas prices

The American Gas Association is out with their winter fuel outlook report. Vice President of Policy Analysis Chris McGill says they take into consideration supply, demand, temperature, weather events and pipeline capacity to calculate their outlook.

 McGill says domestic natural gas supplies are at an all-time high so there is no fear of a shortage during the cold winter months. He says demand is also up for not only home heating but for electric generation, industrial use and for transportation.

 McGill says heating systems had to work overtime last winter due to the polar vortex that caused a deep freeze event for an extended period of time. That is not in the 2014-15 winter outlook and forecasters say it will be a more normal winter an that will also help keep heating bills in check.

 McGill says taking all factors into consideration consumers can expect a 7% increase in their winter heating bills compared to last year. He says right now on a national basis it is $4 per-million BTU’s, which is a sustainable number. McGill says that number could be relatively stable going forward the next several years.

September’s Economic Survey Index

September’s overall Economic Survey Index for the Midwest and Plains states dropped from 57.2 in August to 54.3 in September. Creighton University Economist Ernie Goss conducts the monthly survey and says the region isn’t seeing the job growth it should.  

He says, “Normally this region exceeded what is going on in the U-S and now we are moving below that. Why? Because of the agricultural economy has weakened and the energy economy that has weakened. Why? The dollar has strengthened making those goods less competitively priced abroad so exports weakened a bit for the month. Grain prices, 30% decline over the year. That is a heck of a hit for the farm.”

Goss says regarding wages, year over year we like to see an increase of 3% or 4%. The latest report shows a 1.6% and Goss says that needs to be a lot stronger.

USDA grants and loans bring cash infusion to rural Nebraska

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is awarding more than $1.7-million dollars in loans and grants to a host of projects across rural Nebraska.

Doug O’Brien, the agency’s Under Secretary for Rural Development, says the infusion of capital comes from the Rural Micro-entrepreneur Assistance Program and it’ll go initially to five Nebraska-based agencies.

O’Brien says, “Southeast Nebraska Development received $250,000 in loans and $62,000 in grants to make microloans and provide technical assistance to small businesses in 15 Nebraska counties.”

The Lyons-based Center for Rural Affairs is getting a $500,000 loan in order to make microloans to support very small rural businesses across the state.

Another large contribution is going to First Ponca Financial.

“We provided $300,000 in loans and $75,000 in grants and they’re serving 12 Nebraska counties, 2 Iowa counties and 1 in South Dakota,” O’Brien says. “They’re going to serve those very small micro-entrepreneurs, providing technical assistance and access to capital for these small businesses.”

He says the Perennial Public Power District is getting a $300,000 grant from the USDA.

O’Brien says, “They in turn are providing the Fillmore County Hospital equipment and helping to furnish its new behavioral health facility.”

The Nebraska Enterprise Fund is getting a $100,000 loan to make microloans to support small, rural businesses across the state.

Across the country, he says the USDA is awarding $59 million in grants and loans to projects similar to those in Nebraska.



Rural Futures Institute building on early success

The University of Nebraska Rural Futures Institute is already impacting residents in the two years it was established. Founding Executive Director Chuck Schroeder says they focus on building relationships with local community leaders who want to see growth. This program supports N-U faculty research and engagement projects and student service programs to build relationships with community leaders to help them secure a sound foundation that includes workforce development, health care to recruitment of companies to relocate. 

The Institute’s latest project focused on the community of Neligh. They worked with the Neligh Economic Development Office to help promote their town of 1,600 as a great place to live and do business. The Rural Futures Institute had a new service program that sends students around the state to work with community leaders to help solve challenges. Students produced a series of videos called “This is My Neligh” that city leaders can use to tell potential new residents about what the community has to offer. 

Other communities that have benefited from the Institute include Kimball, Valentine, Holdrege, Ord, Red Cloud and Seward.

 The students earn credits for their work on the service projects.