Volume 20, Issue 5 - Friday, February 4, 2022
By Mary Scott Nabers, CEO of Strategic Partnerships Inc.
The interest in renewable energy is destined to escalate. Recently, the federal Investment Tax Credit (ITC) program enhanced the appeal for these types of projects while also expanding the scope.

The ITC program encourages private investment in renewable energy projects by offering lucrative incentives in the form of tax credits. For offshore wind projects, it is possible for investors to receive a 30 percent tax credit. A 26 percent tax credit is available for photovoltaic (PV) solar energy projects, and a 10 percent tax credit is available for investors of geothermal heat pump installations.

Benefits from the ITC program may diminish in 2023 and possibly expire altogether in two years. However, the incentives could be renewed. Whatever may happen in the future, public officials throughout the country are rushing to capitalize on this type of funding while the tax incentives for investors exist.

In Ann Arbor, Michigan, numerous solar projects with ITC eligibility are being promoted. City officials have budgeted $6 million for one project for construction of a new fire station that will be powered by renewable energy. The project includes geothermal heating and cooling, rooftop solar panels, EV chargers, and more for a new facility of 12,000 square feet.

The Dallas Federal Reserve vice president’s economic outlook for 2022 suggests Texas will outperform the nation this year but cautioned that potential for additional COVID waves, lasting supply-side constraints, and continued high inflation pose risks.

In a February 3 presentation, Dallas Fed VP and Senior Economist Pia Orrenius charted the sharper, yet shorter-lived decline and steeper recovery of Texas’ employment fueled by domestic migration.

Texas is one of only four states that has exceeded its pre-pandemic level of employment. Utah, Idaho, and Arizona are the others. In Texas, Austin and Dallas-Fort Worth were the first metros to recover all lost jobs from February 2020 to December 2021. In addition, Texas job growth has exceeded the U.S. rate since September 2021.

Orrenius also factored the U.S. gross domestic product (GDP) into her outlook for 2022. U.S. GDP is predicted to grow 3.9 percent in 2022 and 2.5 percent in 2023.

Job growth in Texas is forecast to be between 2 percent and 4 percent from December 2021 to December 2022 despite ongoing hiring impediments and wage and price pressures. The percentage growth is slower than the 5 percent recorded in 2021, but it is still above the trend and national job growth.

In the Fed's survey of Texas businesses, companies said they plan to raise wages by 6.4 percent and selling prices by 6.4 percent this year to offset input prices that could increase by 7.1 percent. The Consumer Price Index inflation is the highest it has been since 1982.

Accelerated migration of people out of high-density, high-cost-of-living areas should continue to benefit Texas and boost economic growth, but supply-chain disruptions and labor shortages are expected to be a continued drag on growth. Most businesses surveyed do not have strong expectations of significant supply chain relief through the first half of 2022.

Further COVID outbreaks will remain a downside risk to the 2022 outlook, but they tend to constrict supply, not demand, Orrenius concluded.
Seven ports in Texas placed in the top 50 among U.S. ports for waterborne tonnage, according to the latest figures from the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers (USACE).

Based on 2020 port activity, the Port of Houston took the No. 1 ranking with 275.9 million total tons with the Port of Corpus Christi’s 150.8 million tons taking it to the third spot behind the Port of South Louisiana.

Houston’s ranking reinforces its role in strengthening the nation’s supply chain. In USACE’s Fiscal Year 2022 Workplan for the Infrastructure Investment and Jobs Act, Houston was the only port in Texas to receive construction funding.

The Houston Ship Channel’s Project 11, the deepening and widening channel improvement program, was allocated more than $142.51. This funding is specifically designated to complete Segment 3 of the $1 billion project, which will focus on the Barbours Cut Container Terminal section of the channel.

Other Texas ports making USACE’s top 50 list were Beaumont at No. 8 with 70.6 million tons and Port Arthur at No. 15 (41.2 million tons), Freeport at No. 16 (38.7 million tons), and Texas City at No. 20.

The Port of Galveston cracked the top 50 list by moving 11.9 million tons through the deep-water harbor in 2020, placing it 46th among the busiest U.S. ports.

Galveston port director and CEO Rodger Rees said the port's ranking classifies it as high usage, making it eligible for more funding opportunities.
Texas is eligible to receive more than $107.56 million in the first round of grants from the U.S. Department of the Interior to clean up orphaned oil and gas wells across the state.

The department announced on January 31 that $1.15 billion in funding is available to states in the first phase of a $2.58 billion program which is an initiative of the Bipartisan Infrastructure Law. The legislation allocated a total of $4.7 billion to create a new federal program to address orphan wells.

Orphaned wells are inactive, non-compliant wells that have been inactive a minimum of 12 months and the well’s operator has not filed an organizational report for more than 12 months.

Millions of Americans across the country live within a mile of one of these orphaned oil and gas wells that are polluting backyards, recreation areas, and public spaces across the country, according to the department.

The investments to clean up these hazardous sites will create jobs, catalyze economic growth and revitalization, and reduce methane leaks.

In the coming weeks, the department will release detailed guidance for states to apply for the initial grants. These resources will allow state officials to begin building out their plugging programs, remediating high-priority wells, and collecting additional data regarding the number of orphaned wells in their states.

Improvements in the state data will be combined with more accurate Bureau of Labor Statistics job loss data that will be released in upcoming months to determine final formula funding for states.

Application guidance also will be released in the coming months for states to access the formula grant funding they are eligible for, followed by further instructions to apply for the $1.5 billion in state performance grants.

Overall, Texas is eligible for $343.7 million in estimated formula funding and initial grant monies.
Rusty Brockman
Mayor
City of New Braunfels
Public career highlights and education: I am a 1974 graduate of the University of Houston with a Bachelor of Science in health, physical education, and recreation. In 1983, I received my Master of Education from Stephen F. Austin State University in secondary education and a mid-management certificate. I spent 30 years in public education as a teacher, coach, assistant principal, principal, and central office administrator. After retiring from the education profession in 2001, I went to work for the Greater New Braunfels Chamber of Commerce as vice president of economic development and retired in 2018, after which I was offered a part-time position with an aggregate quarry and cement manufacturer doing community relations. In May 2020, I was elected mayor of New Braunfels and am currently in the second year of my first term.

What I like best about public service is: I took a lot of time thinking about this one. In all my work, no matter where it was or who I was honored to work with, the most important thing I found that gave me so much satisfaction was working with and for the people in the community. Some examples are partnerships and teamwork in my coaching, teaching in the classroom, working as part of a team of educators to build successful programs for students, communicating with parents, and working in volunteer positions in nonprofit and community organizations for solutions that address community needs and make life better for an entire community.

The best advice I’ve received is: As a human being, it is my responsibility to pass through this life God has given me as a builder and not a destroyer. Actions and words take only seconds to tear apart years of collaboration and partnerships. Caring and respecting others and commitment to others is contagious and will create opportunities for success and happiness for entire communities. It should never be about me, but we!

My favorite way to de-stress is: This one is easy. I love being outdoors and enjoying our wonderful creation God has given us, whether participating in sports or doing yard work. But, I must say that my favorite way to de-stress is to be with my five grandkids and family! They keep me young, make me laugh, and encourage me to be the best Dad and Pa I can be.

People might be surprised to know that I: Am interested in singing and taking part in community theater. These were important parts of my days as a school kid growing up, but as I have had more time to reengage in these areas my interest has continued to peak. My involvement in the Wurstfest Association and being an Opa has given me so much happiness. This is a way for our family to continue to promote and encourage the German heritage of this great community of New Braunfels.

One thing I wish more people knew about the city of New Braunfels is: Our community, my home, is a unique place that provides anyone visiting or moving here with opportunities. It is diverse, growing in a healthy way, and vibrant. Because of a strong work ethic and prideful history, anyone who gets an opportunity to visit or live here will embrace our commitment to continuing building strong relationships with past generations and including new residents as they begin creating their own important heritage as a New Braunfelser!
The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) recently presented design changes to its Interstate 35 Capital Express Central project to the community after making modifications in response to feedback from the public and the city of Austin.

TxDOT’s proposed $4.9 billion project will rebuild the highway through an 8-mile stretch of Central Austin. Construction is set to begin in late 2024 or early 2025. Design modifications presented include:

Shifting all the highway’s frontage roads to the west side of I-35 between Cesar Chavez Street and Dean Keeton Street to improve access to core employment destinations, reduce potential impact on surrounding land uses, and improve accessibility to future freeway lid space.

Incorporating widened bridge crossings over a future lowered freeway design along with dedicated bicycle and pedestrian improvements, improving east-west connectivity as well as the opportunity for improved non-motorized access up and down the corridor.

Using roadway design standards tailored to fit the environment they are built in with the goal of a safer interstate compared to the current antiquated design.

The modified design will be carried forward along with another alternative and the no-build option as TxDOT develops its Draft Environmental Impact Statement (DEIS), a federally required step under the National Environmental Protection Act. Another official public comment period will be open when TxDOT presents its locally preferred alternative in the DEIS, expected in late 2022.

Meanwhile, the city of Austin is working with TxDOT and the Downtown Austin Alliance to develop plans for caps and stitches, or lids and widened bridges over I-35.
Cybersecurity and risk management held on to its No. 1 spot in the National Association of State Chief Information Officers (NASCIO) annual ranking of top 10 priorities for the ninth consecutive year.

NASCIO released its State and Local 2022 Tech Forecast on January 27 in which it noted increased state IT spending with $1 billion in state and local improvement grant funds from federal stimulus and recovery legislation, of which $200 million will be available in Fiscal Year 2022.

The state CIO organization transition continues with the chief information officer broker business model evolving from owner-operator to more managed services, outsourcing, and multi-supplier initiatives. Following 13 state CIO transitions in 2021, including in California, Washington, Utah, Ohio, North Carolina, and Georgia, NASCIO leaders wondered what to expect in 2022.

Elevated cyber threats during the pandemic by nation states and criminal actors have shifted focus on enterprise cybersecurity models, whole-of-state collaboration, and ransomware mitigation.

In addition, states are focusing on digital government services, which ranked second in the list, to incorporate user centric design, improved customer experience, security, automation, and citizen identity management.

State CIOs identified low-code/no-code, artificial intelligence, mass personalization, robotic process automation, Internet of Things, and remote work technology as emerging IT areas that will be most impactful in the next three to five years.

Pinpointing cybersecurity initiatives, an overwhelming 83 percent of state CIOs said adoption/expansion of enterprise identity and access management solutions will receive more attention in the next two to three years. Sixty-nine percent predicted continuous enterprise cybersecurity assessments would merit more attention.

State cyber issues to watch are a looming talent crisis, increasing threats with remote work, whole-of-state cybersecurity resilience, support and partnerships with local governments, and a more centralized operating model for cybersecurity.
Galveston councilmembers reviewed a proposed memorandum of understanding (MOU) for the funding of the Pelican Island Bridge Construction Project at a January 27 workshop.

Under the terms of the MOU, the city along with Galveston County, Port Houston, Texas A&M University, Galveston County Navigation District #1, and the Port of Galveston would make financial commitments to fund the construction of the bridge connecting Galveston and Pelican islands. The existing Pelican Island Bridge is owned and operated by the navigation district.

Based upon preliminary engineering plans and environmental considerations, the most feasible and desirable alignment for the project is west of the existing Pelican Island Bridge.

Recent estimates put the total project cost at approximately $115 million for final design, environmental studies and permitting, right-of-way acquisition, construction, demolition of the existing bridge, and construction phase services. Of that, about $85 million will be for construction of the new bridge and $20 million will go to the demolition of the existing bridge.

The Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) has programmed $45 million in federal and state funds to support the project, and the Houston-Galveston Area Council has committed $21 million.

TxDOT plans to let the project in the third quarter of 2023 with construction beginning in the fourth quarter of that year. Completion is anticipated for the third quarter of 2026.
Officials from the city of Houston, Harris County, and a nonprofit coalition are joining for a $100 million initiative to house 7,000 more people experiencing homelessness and to make enhancements that will bring the region closer to ending homelessness.

The partners will use federal COVID relief funding for the second phase of the Community COVID Housing Program (CCHP). The housing initiative has already housed a record number of people experiencing homelessness — more than 7,000 people since October 2020.

Harris County intends to invest $35 million in American Rescue Plan (ARP) Local Fiscal Recovery Funds in Phase 2 of the CCHP, with $29.5 million committed by Commissioners Court on top of $5.5 million previously approved.

The city of Houston plans to allocate at least $35 million — including funds approved by City Council for a $6.2 million housing navigation center — and helped secure $26 million from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs (TDHCA). The coalition will raise additional funding for Phase 2 from private philanthropy, making it a public-private partnership (P3).

In alignment with the partnership’s goals, the city and the county also officially signed on to the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD)’s and the U.S. Interagency Council on Homelessness (USICH)’s national House America Initiative.
Nearly $30 million in financial assistance will support water, wastewater, and flood projects across the state after the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved the funding February 2.

Board members authorized $14.6 million, consisting of $9.49 million in financing and $5.11 million in grant funding from the Flood Infrastructure Fund (FIF), to the El Paso Water Utilities Public Service Board acting on behalf of the city of El Paso.

With the financial assistance, the Public Service Board will construct a pair of detention basins to reduce flooding of major streets and increase safe traffic flow in northeast El Paso.

More than $10.23 million from the Texas Water Development Fund will go to the Greater Texoma Utility Authority on behalf of the city of Henrietta. The city will use the assistance to finance the planning, design, and construction of wastewater system improvements.

Henrietta proposes to decommission two existing wastewater treatment plants and construct a new plant. The consolidation also requires the construction of new sewer lines and two lift stations to interconnect the two collection systems.

Board members also approved $4.62 million to the Greater Texoma Utility Authority on behalf of the city of Dorchester for water system improvements and $324,375 to Wharton County for a watershed flood protection project.
The city of Cedar Hill will host a mandatory virtual pre-bid conference at 10 a.m. February 8 for the construction of a new outdoor municipal pool facility to replace the pool at Crawford Park.

In November 2017, voters approved funding to build a new outdoor pool to replace the existing pool, and the city began the design process in 2018, which included site analysis and selection.

The site analysis assesses environmental conditions, potential impacts to existing programs and amenities, and other site-specific considerations. Based on this analysis and input from the City Council, Parks Board, and citizens, Virginia Weaver Park was selected as the location for the new pool.

According to a design solicitation from 2019, the facility may include, but is not limited to, the following amenities and areas that will be identified with the public engagement process: an activity pool, waterplay features, zero depth entry, water slide, lazy river, pavilion, shade structures, bath house, and concession building(s).
El Paso councilmembers are taking action to promote the expansion of the city’s airport and maintain its competitiveness.

In support of a strategic plan goal to expand the core business of air transportation, the City Council approved an Air Service Development Program to encourage expanded passenger service from El Paso International Airport.

El Paso’s director of aviation said reducing costs minimizes the initial risk for airlines and allows the market to grow and ultimately support the new service resulting in greater connectivity for the community.

Incentives will be offered for a new non-stop route and a new airline and include waived landing fees for two years, and 100 square feet of operating space for two years.
The city of San Antonio will host a non-mandatory pre-bid meeting at 11 a.m. February 10 for work on the Alamodome West Water Loop project.

Project scope includes rerouting 8-inch hot water heating supply and return lines serving the west side of the Alamodome building. The existing heating hot water system will be abandoned below ground.

Additionally, a set of 4-foot hot water supply and return lines are to be routed to the ice rink melt heat exchanger through the interior of the building.

An on-site visit also is available from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. February 11 at the Alamodome.
Based on new development projects, job growth, and nearly $1 billion in new capital investment last year, the Greater Houston Partnership is entering 2022 even more determined to foster economic development.

Civic and corporate leaders from Houston’s 12 counties convened on January 28 for the Partnership’s annual meeting where it outlined its strategies that include engaging regional business leadership, growing sector-specific businesses in “clusters,” promoting collaboration across all counties of Houston, and elevating the city’s global reputation.

The Partnership concluded the annual meeting with an overview of its Houston Next strategic plan for the upcoming year. This strategic plan will aim to bolster Houston’s position as a great global city by showcasing its diverse modern economy, quality of life, and opportunity.

The organization also used the meeting to evaluate the results of its 2021 strategy. The Partnership’s look back on the previous year highlighted 26 new development projects, 2,900 new jobs, $922 million in new capital investments, and $2 billion in venture capital funding for local startups.

Additional landmark events from the past year touted during the event included the launch of the Partnership’s Houston Energy Transition Initiative and its work with One Houston Together program to promote racial equity. The Partnership also noted the groundbreaking of one of Houston’s newest developments from 2021, the TMC3 collaborative research campus.
The National Security Collaboration Center (NSCC) at The University of Texas at San Antonio (UTSA) joined the United States Cyber Command (USCYBERCOM) Academic Engagement Network (AEN) in January.

AEN’s overarching goals include engaging the future workforce, increasing cyber applied research and innovation, expanding cyber focus analytic partnerships, and enriching strategic dialogue between organizations.

Partnership with the U.S. Cyber Command creates new opportunities for UTSA students to work alongside Department of Defense (DoD) operators, developers, and researchers on matters of national security, using their cyber skills to address global issues in real-time, NSCC Executive Director and Brig. General (Ret.) Guy Walsh said.

UTSA is one of 84 colleges and universities from 34 states that have been selected to partner across the Command’s entire organization. The network includes USCYBERCOM Headquarters, Joint Force HQ-DODIN, the Cyber National Mission Force, Air Force Cyber Command/ 16th Air Force, Army Cyber Command/ 2nd Army, U.S. Fleet Cyber Command, U.S. Marine Corps Forces Cyberspace Command, and the U.S. Coast Guard Cyber Command.

Created by the National Security Agency in 2009, USCYBERCOM is one of the DoD’s 11 unified combatant commands, focused on cyberspace operations and capabilities, cyber expertise, and cyberwarfare.

USCYBERCOM’s intent in the first year is to extend partnership opportunities to all 84 institutions through collaboration and access to the cyber enterprise via scheduled monthly events and engagements with the staff and their commands, to gain unique insights from the partnering institutions, and to cross-share faculty and student research in key areas of focus.
Dallas City Manager T.C. Broadnax announced the appointment of Kimberly Bizor Tolbert and Jon Fortune as deputy city managers on February 1.
Bizor Tolbert most recently served as the city manager’s chief of staff. Prior to that, she was an assistant executive director, chief of staff, chief strategic officer and director of strategy and innovation with the North Texas Tollway Authority (NTTA). She also previously served with the city of Dallas as assistant director of the Department of Aviation and assistant to the city manager.
Fortune previously served as Dallas’ assistant city manager for public safety. Before that, he was assistant city manager, director of management and budget, and chief finance officer for the city of Denton. 
Eanes ISD trustees unanimously named Dr. Jeff Arnett as the lone finalist for the district’s superintendent of schools to succeed Superintendent Dr. Tom Leonard, who is retiring.  

Arnett has served as Eanes ISD’s deputy superintendent since 2016. Prior to that, he was assistant superintendent of operations and outreach and chief communications officer in Barrington 220, a school district outside Chicago. 
Juan Ontiveros joins the Strategic Partnerships Inc. (SPI) team to assist clients throughout the state of Texas. Most recently, Juan spent the last 26 years leading the utilities and energy management department at The University of Texas (UT).

Juan spent the early stages of his career in design engineering services, eventually earning the title of chief engineer for missile testing projects in the state of New Mexico. He left that position to become the coordinator of campus utilities for The University of Texas at El Paso (UTEP) where he was promoted to the university’s director of facility services.

His next career move was to the position of director of utilities and energy management at UT Austin. Finally, Juan accepted the position of associate vice president of utilities and energy management for UT Austin. In that role he directed 190 employees and managed a $60 million budget until his retirement in 2021.

Juan’s professional contributions also have applied to committee appointments and organizational memberships. He is an active member and past president of the Texas Association of Physical Plant Administrators of Universities and Colleges and a member of the Association of Physical Plant Administrators. He is a former past chairman of the International District Energy Association and was appointed to the National Research Council’s Ad Hoc Committee to recommend energy efficiency improvements for the U.S. Capitol complex. In 2010, Juan was one of eight members of a U.S. State Department delegation charged with assessing earthquake damage to universities in Chile.

Throughout his career, Juan’s work has been distinguished by various awards and recognition, which are too numerous to list. 

Juan holds both a bachelor’s degree and a master’s degree in mechanical engineering from UTEP.
The Railroad Commision of Texas (RRC) recently hired Alkesh Amodwala as its first chief data officer. 

Amodwala brings more than 15 years of experience in supply chain development, business intelligence, analytics and data governance/strategy to the RRC from the private sector. 

He leads a new team in the RRC’s Information Technology Services Division focusing on data projects. The 10-member team consolidates experts in the agency and is working on data initiatives as well as supporting the work of the agency’s ongoing development of a map of the electric grid supply chain. 
The Live Oak City Council selected Glen Martel as its next city manager. He will succeed City Manager Scott Wayman who is retiring. 

Martel most recently served as assistant city manager at Missouri City, Texas, and as a brigadier general-assistant adjutant general for the Nevada Air National Guard. Before that, he was assistant director of project management/business development for an engineering firm in Reno, Nevada. 
The city of Boerne promoted Steve Perez to police chief, effective February 26. Perez has been serving as interim assistant police chief since the retirement of Police Chief Jim Kohler in October. 

After serving in the U.S. Army as a mechanized infantryman, Perez began his law enforcement career in 1998 with the Alamo Community Colleges District Department of Public Safety. In 1999, he joined the city of Boerne as a police officer. 
Gov. Greg Abbott announced these appointments and reappointments from January 28-February 3:

Texas Council for
Developmental Disabilities 
Juan Carlos Lopez - Edinburg
Meridith Silcox - Splendora
Argonne National Laboratory and Economic Development Administration - National Economic Resilience Data Explorer (NERDE)
Dozens of public-sector jobs are available. Click here to view all job openings and guidelines for job submissions to SPI. New jobs added this week:

  • Texas State Securities Board – Financial Examiner I (2 positions)

  • Texas Department of State Health Services – Tobacco Prevention & Control Manager

  • Texas Department of Information Resources – Network Specialist VI (Senior Network Engineer)

  • Texas Health and Human Services Commission – Management Analyst IV

  • Texas Health and Human Services Commission – Research Specialist III

  • Texas Health and Human Services Commission – CCL Inspector III

  • Texas Health and Human Services Commission – Management Analyst I

  • Texas Lottery Commission – Accountant V

  • Texas Comptroller of Public Accounts – Administrative Assistant IV

  • Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs – Systems Analyst

  • Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs – Program Specialist

  • Texas Water Development Board – Flood Data Team Lead (Data Analyst IV)

  • Texas Water Development Board – Executive Assistant III

  • Texas Legislative Council – Legislative Office Consultant I

  • Texas Legislative Council – eLearning Designer and Trainer

  • Office of the Texas Governor – Public Safety Office Support Specialist (System Support Specialist II)

  • Office of the Texas Governor – Data Clerk (Clerk III) Part Time
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