Feb 12, 2021
ABILENE & TAYLOR COUNTY HOUSING REPORT
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EXTREME COLD WEATHER EXPECTED TO RESULT IN RECORD ELECTRIC USE IN ERCOT REGION
The Electric Reliability Council of Texas (ERCOT) is expecting record electric use as a result of the extreme cold temperatures that have already reached much of the ERCOT region.
 
“This statewide weather system is expected to bring Texas the coldest weather we’ve experienced in decades,” said ERCOT President and CEO Bill Magness. “With temperatures rapidly declining, we are already seeing high electric use and anticipating record-breaking demand in the ERCOT region.”
 
Consumers can monitor grid conditions in real time by following ERCOT on Twitter (@ERCOT_ISO) and/or by downloading the ERCOT mobile app available on Google Play and in the Apple Store.
 
On Monday, Feb. 8, ERCOT issued an Operating Condition Notice (OCN) for extreme cold weather expected in the ERCOT region Thursday, Feb. 11 through Tuesday, Feb. 16. Subsequently, ERCOT issued an Advisory on Feb. 10 and a Watch on Feb. 11 for extreme cold weather. A Watch is the third level of communication issued by the ERCOT control room in anticipation of potential tight grid conditions.
 
Generators have been asked to take necessary steps to prepare their facilities for the expected cold weather, which includes reviewing fuel supplies and planned outages and implementing winter weatherization procedures. The grid operator is also working with transmission operators to minimize transmission outages that could reduce the availability of generation or otherwise impact the ability of the system to serve demand.
 
Based on the current load forecast, and if temperatures continue to decline, ERCOT could set a new all-time winter peak demand record Monday morning, Feb. 15. The current winter peak demand record is 65,915 MW set on Jan. 17, 2018 between 7 and 8 a.m. 
SMALL BUSINESS OPTIMISM FELL IN JANUARY
Small business optimism, as measured by the National Federation of Independent Businesses (NFIB), fell for the third straight month in January. Small businesses’ outlook on the economy has eroded as COVID-19 cases have risen in recent months. Despite their cloudy outlook, small businesses are still hiring and planning to hire in the coming months.

By the numbers: NFIB’s survey for small business optimism fell to 95 in January, down from 95.9 in December. As recently as September and October it was 104, which was where it stood in February 2020, prior to the pandemic. Clearly, rising caseloads have weighed on small businesses.
Details: The NFIB index is composed of 10 subindexes. Four of them stood still, two increased, and four fell in January. The biggest contributor to the index’s overall decline was those businesses that expect the economy to improve over the next six months. A net -23% of small businesses surveyed see the economy improving (38.5% see it getting better compared to 61.5 that see it getting worse). This is a concerning result because the economy should improve as vaccinations increase and case levels drop.

But… Even though businesses are souring on the economy they are hiring. 33% of small businesses have openings, the same amount have positions open that they cannot fill, as many businesses have added jobs the last three months as have decreased employment, and 58.5% plan to increase employment in the next three months. Finding qualified applicants is still the number one concern of small businesses.

Bottom line: Hopefully the downturn in small businesses’ outlook is driven by recent problems with the virus and not something they see coming down the road that other observers are missing. Most data point to a strong economic surge by the middle of this year once case levels fall more because of broader vaccination levels and the reopening of bars, restaurants, and other services that have been closed or at reduced capacity for nearly a year.

—Curtis Dubay, Senior Economist, U.S. Chamber of Commerce
COVID TEST KITS AVAILABLE TO ABILENE EMPLOYERS
On Jan. 22, 2021, Texas Governor Greg Abbott issued a statewide directive asking local Chambers of Commerce to work with state emergency management officials to make COVID-19 Rapid Test kits available to employers.

The Abilene Chamber of Commerce has agreed to serve as a test kit distributor on a first-come, first served basis. Each test kit will contain 40 tests and can be administered by the employer in the event a suspected infection exists in the workplace which will in return allow employees to resume work more safely and quickly.

“From the Chamber’s perspective, it is our hope that by indicating a downward trend among those tested we may see a more rapid and full reopening of our local economy,” said Doug Peters, President & CEO of the Abilene Chamber of Commerce. “Testing through use of these free test kits is entirely voluntary.”

Learn how you can participate here.
ABILENE CHAMBER TO HOST ECONOMIC OUTLOOK
To help you with the economic uncertainty and to help forecast recovery, your Chamber in partnership with America’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Texas Tech, is pleased to bring you an Economic Outlook Seminar on March 2 featuring renowned economist Dr. Mark Dotzour.

Dr. Mark G. Dotzour is a real estate economist who served for 18 years as Chief Economist of the Real Estate Center at Texas A&M University in College Station. He has given more than 1,600 presentations to more than 295,000 people and has written over 90 articles for magazines and journals. His research findings have appeared in the Wall Street Journal, USA Today, Money Magazine and Business Week.

Prior to Dr. Dotzour, we’ll hear from local business leaders on what the local economy has been up to from different representatives of our economy: Jon Loudermilk, Homes By Design; Mike Fernandez, Texas National Bank; Jessica Adams, Vagabond Pizza; Nathan Lowry, Big Country Title; and David Smith, America's SBDC at Texas Tech. From the housing market, to oil and gas, to real estate, to retail, to banking these individuals know their stuff and we’re pleased they’ll be able to join us to help share more on what has been happening in their area of our business community.

While uncertainty still lingers, there’s still a lot to be hopeful and thankful for. We hope you’ll take advantage of this opportunity to learn first-hand what the economic outlook for our area looks like on March 2, 2021. Thanks to our partners America's SBDC at Texas Tech, Big Country Title, Homes by Design, Texas National Bank, Funeral Directors Life, Lawrence Hall - Abilene, the Abilene Industrial Foundation, and the Development Corporation of Abilene for supporting the event.

Click here to purchase tickets.
You don't want to miss these upcoming events for
your business.

FEB 17 GOVERNOR'S SMALL BUSINESS WEBINAR: UPDATES ON THE NEW ROUND OF PPP FUNDING Join us for the next Governor's Small Business Webinar for an update on the new round of Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) funding and other recovery resources through the U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA). Our panel of experts, including senior executives from the SBA and Small Business Development Centers, will provide up-to-date information on the PPP application process, loan forgiveness and other pandemic assistance for Texas small businesses and entrepreneurs. The virtual event will also feature a live Q&A with our expert panel. Register here.

FEB 17 BUSINESS EDGE: FOCUED ON SOLUTIONS Business Edge is an opportunity for business professionals at all levels to discuss topics in a small group with other professionals. This webinar will be held during lunch (12PM - 1PM) with Eide Bailly  providing an overview of a topic and the rest of the participants providing input through idea generation and sharing. This is designed for the business professional who is solution-focused and is energized by small group dialogue. Register Here.

FEB 18 BUSINESS BEFORE AFTER HOURS Before you head out for the day, tune in to the zoom link found here from the comfort of your at-home office or office as we meet to end the day on a positive note making business connections at Business Before After Hours! This zoom meeting will begin at 4:00 PM. Links and more information here.

FEB 23 AYP AND THE DALLAS STARS Your AYP Committee is actively looking for ways to bring value to your membership and are excited to bring you an opportunity to hear from Executive Vice President, Business Operations and General Counsel for the Dallas Stars National Hockey League - Alana Matthews. Join us at 11:00 AM on zoom. Click here for more information.

FEB 24 AND MARCH 31 ONE MILLION CUPS Are you an entrepreneur? Are you searching for a way to connect with other entrepreneurs to discover solutions for your small business needs? The Abilene Chamber of Commerce and McMurry University Center for Free Enterprise and Entrepreneurship are excited to bring the Abilene community - 1 Million Cups! Join us at 9:00 AM to discuss common problems, and potential solutions all entrepreneurs may face. Click here for Feb 24 information.

FEB 24 MICROSOFT 365 PRODUCTIVITY & PLANNING Get the most out of your Microsoft 365 applications! In this training we’ll show you how to use the tools available in Microsoft 365 to maximize your business’s productivity and organization. This virtual webinar event is free and open to the public. Register here.

FEB 25 TABLE FOR 10 LUNCH EVENT Abilene Young Professionals presents our newest networking opportunity - Table for 10. Join us at 12:00 PM noon at Betty Rose's Little Brisket for conversation and networking! Click here to sign up.

FEB 25 TABLE FOR 10 EVENING EVENT Abilene Young Professionals presents our newest networking opportunity - Table for 10. Join us at 5:30 PM to meet new people and enjoy great food, with an appetizer on the house thanks to our partner at Betty Rose's Little Brisket! Click here to sign up.

MARCH 2 2021 ECONOMIC OUTLOOK To help you with the economic uncertainty and to help forecast recovery, your Chamber in partnership with America’s Small Business Development Center (SBDC) at Texas Tech, is pleased to bring you an Economic Outlook Seminar on March 2 featuring renowned economist Dr. Mark Dotzour. Please join us at 10:30 AM via zoom. Click here for more information.

MARCH 6 ABILENE ZOO At 10:00 AM the Abilene Zoo will host its Grand Opening of the Madagascar Exhibit. Click here to set a reminder.

MARCH 24 SECURITY AWARENESS Did you know your team is your first line of defense when it comes to your business’s cybersecurity? Learn how to boost your defenses by training your team on Security Awareness. This virtual webinar is free and open to the public. Register here.

MARCH 25 & 26, APRIL 1 & 2 ELEMENTS OF SUCCESSFUL PHILANTHROPY VIRTUAL TRAINING SERIES The Friends of the Texas Historical Commission are leading this series on development training suited for large and small organizations from any discipline with limited development staff. They will highlight the best practices while facilitating dynamic group interactions to help attendees build and strengthen their fundraising "tool-kit" so they can more effectively and sustainably achieve their mission. Click Here to learn more and Click Here to Register Now.