Perfect Turning Machine Turns Out Wonderfully

Kathy and Sonny Porter have been involved in the Perfect Turning Machine business for 15 years. Sonny used his hands-on know-how to develop his own components. They are used in land surveying instruments, firearms, and aerospace, along with manufacturing items for other businesses.

Sonny began his business journey in Greeley, Colorado, and then moved to Cheyenne, Wyoming. Several years ago he purchased a building and moved his machine shop to Kimball, Nebraska.

In 2011, Sonny had the opportunity to purchase the rights to the Borzit System, a small ground-boring machine used by landscaping companies putting in underground sprinklers. It can also be used to drill shallow water wells, etc.

Perfect Turning had been manufacturing the components before buying the rights to the machine and manufacturing it. Kathy learned about REAP and was directed to our Panhandle office. She got in touch with me to see if REAP could help secure funding to purchase the Borzit System.

I met with Sonny and Kathy, and we put together a business plan. The Porters used that to complete their loan application. REAP financing enabled Sonny and Kathy to purchase the system from Colorado and move it to their operation in Kimball.

Borzit System sales have seen some growth, but Sonny says the firearms component manufacturing has grown substantially. He predicts this growth will triple in 2013. The Borzit Product and the firearm components are shipped all over the United States.

The manufacturing business uses services and products of several local Kimball businesses. Besides Sonny and Kathy, Perfect Turning has two other full-time employees and one part-time employee.

Last year Sonny purchased an additional CNC lathe machine and has another one on order. Plans for more expansion are underway. Both Kathy and Sonny attribute help from REAP as instrumental in growing their business!

Perfect Turning Machine Shop
Kathy & Sonny Porter
Kimball, NE Read more about Perfect Turning Machine Turns Out Wonderfully

  • Small Business

Rural Monitor: Be Un-apologetically Rural

I was catching up on the great content from DailyYonder.com and I came across an interesting item in their Thursday Roundup from earlier this month. It was a quick note about the seemingly low opinion of rural America held by Adam Orth, the former director of Microsoft's games division. It came out during a Twitter exchange you can read about in detail here.

In short, the exchange was about the concern some have surrounding a product that may require an always on broadband connection. This can be a difficult to accomplish in rural places, and this was pointed out. At the mention of the small cities of Blacksburg, Virginia, and Janesville, Wisconsin, Orth wrote, "Why on earth would I live there?"

Orth's implied anti-rural and small town America attitude is a problem. You can witness the attitude other places too, such as in the ways small town life is depicted in film and television. In a more meaningful way, rural communities experience this via education legislation that favors the needs of urban schools over rural. The larger problem, however, is that this implied anti-rural attitude often exists most deeply within those residing in rural America.

Visiting small towns often invokes a series of apologies. "Sorry, we don't have _________." "We only have __________." Rural Americans need to be un-apologetically rural.

Let’s stop apologizing for what we lack and start bragging about what we have. Rural people’s ingenuity and tinkering ability mean we can make and fix just about anything. Urban, suburban, or rural: no matter. We’re proud of our unique contribution. Read more about Rural Monitor: Be Un-apologetically Rural

Newsletter

Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act Introduced in Congress

The Center for Rural Affairs applauds the reintroduction of the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. This cross-cutting initiative will help the next generation of farmers and ranchers enter agriculture and take advantage of emerging markets. Rep Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Tim Walz (D-MN), Chris Gibson (R-NY) and Collin Peterson (D-MN) reintroduced the act in the House of Representatives. Tom Harkin (D-IA) took the lead in the Senate.

We’re delighted to see these members of Congress acknowledge the need for creativity in the Farm Bill to address beginning farmer and rancher issues. With this bill and the farm bill debate this year, we are going to invest in creating a new generation of farmers and ranchers. We commend Rep Fortenberry, Sen Harkin and the other sponsors.

Their legislation is smart, cost-effective public policy that will create jobs and invest in the future of rural America. It addresses key obstacles that often prevent beginning farmers and ranchers from getting their operation started.

The Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act contains multiple crucial provisions, including:

  • Reauthorizing the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Development Program, a beginning farmer and rancher training and support initiative. It would provide $20 million in annual mandatory funding through 2018 to help meet growing demand for the program, and include a new priority on agricultural rehabilitation and vocational training programs for military veterans, as well as food safety training.
  • Devoting $20 million in annual funding for the Value Added Producer Grants Program. It will retain the priority for projects benefiting beginning farmers and ranchers as well as a set-aside of program funding for these projects.
  • Creating savings and enhancing lending provisions that help beginning farmers and ranchers access credit and establish a pattern of savings.
  • Providing conservation incentives to assist beginning farmers and ranchers and socially disadvantaged farmers and ranchers to establish conservation practices and sustainable systems on their farms and ranches.

Creating a new generation of family farmers and ranchers is a long row to hoe, but there are proven strategies that create real opportunities for beginners. And the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act was written to invest in those strategies and help new farmers and ranchers overcome barriers and take advantage of emerging markets.

The bill is smart, cost-effective public policy that will create jobs and invest in rural America’s future through training, mentoring, business planning and other services for farm and ranch startups. It will also fund the highly effective Value Added Producer Grants program with emphasis on projects benefiting new farmers and ranchers. Read more about Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act Introduced in Congress

Newsletter

Golden Opportunity on Wind Energy in Nebraska Unicameral

April is the windiest month on the calendar, caused by the change of seasons. And the winds of April are a good symbol of the growing support for wind energy in the Unicameral and across Nebraska.

LB 402, legislation written to help overcome years of missed opportunity by removing barriers to wind energy development, came to the floor for opening round of debate on April 25. The bill would provide incentives to develop Nebraska’s considerable wind resources in the right way - a way that enables rural Nebraskans to share in the wealth and small business opportunities that development creates.

While all this spring snow makes it feel like we’re still waiting for that change of seasons, our long wait for a change in the way we produce and consume electricity may be coming to an end.

LB 402 builds off of the Community Based Energy Development (C-BED) program Governor Heinemann signed into law in 2007. The bill make it easier to qualify under the C-BED program, boosting participation and making it easier to bring investment into rural communities by encouraging the use of Nebraska materials when developing a new project, and encouraging developers to hire Nebraska citizens to do the work.

Amendments to LB 402 would also encourage wind developers to invest in Nebraskans themselves through an Employee Stock Ownership Plan. These plans provide an ownership stake in the projects the employees help create. On average, participants receive 5% to 12% more in wages and have almost three times the retirement assets as do workers in comparable companies, keeping money from local projects here in Nebraska.

By supporting local investment and giving local workers a share in the profit, we can have the best of both worlds: clean, affordable energy and communities that are stronger because of it.

Iowa and South Dakota use wind to generate over 23% of electricity. In Kansas and Colorado, over 11% of energy is generated using wind resources. In Wyoming this number is close to 9%. A total of 14 states, the majority of which have wind resources inferior to ours, generate at least 5% of their electricity using wind power. Nebraska has yet to hit the 4% mark.

Their rural communities have grown. Their schools have improved. Their property taxes have decreased. So have electric rates. All while watching community wealth dramatically improve. That’s because state and local governments throughout the Upper Midwest and Great Plains have enacted policies that level the playing field, remove tax barriers to wind energy development, and create an environment that encourages energy independence.

We urge prompt action on LB 402. Read more about Golden Opportunity on Wind Energy in Nebraska Unicameral

  • Clean Energy
Blog (deprecated)

Women Entrepreneurs Conference Abuzz with Networking

What do you get when you have an event targeting entrepreneurial women? Lots of sharing of ideas, inspiration, and information! That’s what took place at the Women Entrepreneurs Conference held at the YWCA of Grand Island on March 20, 2013.

Marketing tips and advice came from Ann Martin of idea bank marketing in Hastings. Ann shared great information about customer service. You know how important first impressions are, right? Think of the voice that answers the phone at your business. Then carry that enthusiasm and service to your online and social media marketing.

Karen Linder, Linspiration, Inc., shared her wisdom on Ladies Who Launch. Karen delved into the characteristics of successful women entrepreneurs, using examples from her book, “The Women of Berkshire Hathaway.” You could purchase the book for future inspiration and encouragement – and a great read!

We also addressed the Affordable Care Act. Sean McGuire presented straightforward information about specifics business owners will need to know as the law moves forward. Find out more at healthreformexplained.com. (See the all the Center's reports on the Affordable Care Act here, including one on What It Means for Small Business.) 

Odee Ingersoll represented the Nebraska Business Development Center. He talked about planning for business succession. Keeping rural businesses prospering is a key to building healthy rural communities. Are you preparing for your businesses’ succession/transition phase?

One of the best steps to take when you start a business is talking to those who have “been there, done that.” Three panel members talked about their career progressions. Panel members were: Alison Martin, Two Paw Pets, Inc. and The Tail Waggin, Grand Island; Margaret Kring, My Fair Lady’s Fashions, Holdrege; and Tonja Broadwell, Kelly Supply/KDSI, Grand Island. They answered questions from the audience and willingly shared from their experiences.

New information, support and encouragement, and networking throughout the day = a great conference. We’re planning a repeat next year, so stay tuned!

Thanks to the YWCA of Grand Island and the Small Business Administration Nebraska District Office for partnering with the REAP Women’s Business Center to host this event. Read more about Women Entrepreneurs Conference Abuzz with Networking

  • Small Business
Newsletter

REAP Newsletter Spring 2013

Energy Efficiency for Small Business
Small businesses typically spend 30% more of their operating costs on utility bills than large firms in the same industrial classification. Energy is seen as “the cost of doing business.” But those “fixed” costs can be reduced. Energy efficiency projects help improve your businesses’ cash flow and bottom line. Read more about REAP Newsletter Spring 2013

REAP Friend of the Year 2012

Rex Nelson was awarded as the REAP Friend of the Year for 2012. His leadership with the McCook Economic Development Corporation (MEDC) has benefitted entrepreneurs and REAP micro businesses throughout South Central Nebraska. Rex serves as the Executive Director.

Since 2008, I've held monthly office hours with MEDC in McCook. Even with a location change, Rex made sure space was available in the restored Keystone Business Center for consultants such as REAP.

Rex, together with MEDC’s Director Angela Allen and Administrative Assistant and former Business Coach Sue Shaner make referrals, take monthly appointments, and help to advertise REAP’s monthly office hours. It’s hard to overstate the importance of this.

These monthly visits to the Keystone Business Center give REAP an opportunity to work with other entities housed there such as MidPlains Community College and the Nebraska Business Development Center. The building also has a training room adjacent to the office where REAP has partnered on various trainings.

The McCook Economic Development Corporation knows REAP’s mission and works with us to assist businesses in their region. It’s a win-win combination! Read more about REAP Friend of the Year 2012

Energy Efficiency for Small Business

Small businesses typically spend 30% more of their operating costs on utility bills than large firms in the same industrial classification. Energy is seen as “the cost of doing business.” But those “fixed” costs can be reduced. Energy efficiency projects help improve your businesses’ cash flow and bottom line.

The Nebraska Business Development Center has a new program to help small businesses save energy. NBDC can provide energy efficiency screenings, find financing opportunities for energy efficiency improvements, and quantify energy savings. A grant from the Small Business Administration makes the assistance possible.

Here are a few tips to help your small business (selected from our flier, Ernie-the Energy Saver).

Lighting

  • Use more efficient lighting. Lower heat-producing lamps reduce direct energy costs and reduce heat load. Replace incandescent lamps with compact fluorescent lamps.
  • Try lower light levels for computer work. Older offices may have been designed for higher light levels required for “pen and paper” tasks. Keep existing lamps clean to get maximum output.

HVAC – Heating Ventilation & Air Conditioning

  • Turn it off when it isn’t needed. Typically, this is the biggest user of energy. Use a programmable thermostat to adjust the temperature. Run the system less and with more efficient temperature settings (warmer in summer, cooler in winter). Each degree of higher temperature can save about 3% in cooling costs.
  • Maintain your system. Keep the filters and heat-transfer surfaces clean. Contract for biannual maintenance to assure the system is working in top order.
  • Upgrade equipment to a more efficient system. There are many incentives for ground-source or even air-source heat pumps. Consult with an HVAC contractor or engineer to design a more efficient system.
  • Use ceiling fans. Their use can reduce air conditioning 3-5 degrees in the summer. Reverse direction in winter to push warm air down. Open windows in the spring and fall as outside conditions allow. Eliminate direct sunlight in summer. Daylight is good, direct sunlight is bad.

Building Envelope – Weatherization

  • Stop infiltration of outside air into your building. The building envelope is the building “shell” and includes the walls, windows, outside doors, foundation, floor, roof, and skylights.
  • Plug or fill cracks or leaks with caulking and weather stripping. Typically there are gaps around windows, doors, and utility switches/outlets.
  • Add insulation to ceiling, walls, and foundations. This reduces heat transfer.
  • Control humidity. In the summer, the temperature can be slightly higher if the air is around 50 percent relative humidity. In winter, the temperature can be slightly lower if the air is around 30-40 percent relative humidity.

Office Equipment, Hot Water

  • Laptops use less power than desktop computers, flat screen LCD monitors use less power than traditional CRT monitors and are more environmentally friendly. Inkjet printers use less energy than laser printers.
  • Eliminate “phantom” loads. This keeps equipment in the “ready” mode. Use power strips to completely shut down energy consumption of equipment not in use. If equipment has energy-saving software, be sure to enable it. “Sleep” modes use less power than “ready” modes.
  • Hot water temperature is often set too high, and the tank and pipes are not insulated. The amount of water used can be reduced by installing aerators or low-flow devices. Fix leaks and maintain the system.

By Jean Waters, University of Nebraska at Omaha, jwaters@unomaha.edu for the Spring 2013 issue of the REAP Business Update. Read more about Energy Efficiency for Small Business

  • Small Business
Newsletter

Food, Farms, Jobs and Economic Growth

Recently, Senator Sherrod Brown (D-OH) and Representative Chellie Pingree (D-ME) introduced the Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act in the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives. The sponsors worked diligently to write commonsense legislation that addresses the infrastructure challenges and informational barriers that family farmers and ranchers face in their efforts to develop local and regional food systems.

By overcoming these barriers and making smart investments that will expand business and marketing opportunities for family farmers and ranchers as well as increase consumer access to local, healthy foods, this legislation will help create jobs and economic growth on America’s country roads and small town mainstreets.

The Local Farms, Food and Jobs Act is comprehensive, touching seven major Farm Bill sections - from credit and crop insurance to research, nutrition and rural development. Many provisions were included in either or both the Senate-passed and House Agriculture Committee-passed farm bills in 2012.

Moreover, the bill would invest just over $100 million annually, including funding for several vital sustainable agriculture programs that were left high and dry when the Farm Bill extension passed as part of the fiscal cliff legislation in the waning hours of the last Congress.

That investment is small in overall farm bill terms – roughly one-tenth of one percent of total farm bill spending – but big in helping a growing sector of the food system flourish, while creating jobs and lasting economic benefits to family farmers, ranchers, consumers and America’s rural cities and small towns. Read more about Food, Farms, Jobs and Economic Growth

  • Farm PolicyFarm Bill
Weekly column

Democracy should work in Nebraska

Nebraska's nonpartisan Unicameral is a refreshing relief from partisan trickery and gridlock in Washington. For generations, Nebraskans have put good governance ahead of party loyalty, with legions of state Senators crossing political and ideological lines to find solutions to challenges facing the state.

The recent debate over a bill to provide health insurance coverage to an estimated 54,000 low-income, working Nebraskans is stalled after an unusual display of petty politics and opposition stall tactics.

The bill, LB 577, represents a compromise that has the support of a clear majority of state Senators - Democrats, Republicans and Independents. The bill’s lead sponsor is a Republican, and a recent poll showed that 55% of Nebraska adults support the expansion of Medicaid as provided by LB 577.

Sensing strong support in the Legislature and across the state, opponents have taken the unusual step of filibustering the bill, demanding a supermajority of 33 votes to cut off debate and refusing to allow an up or down vote on the issue.

Nebraskans send 49 Senators to Lincoln to make decisions, not just when it is easy, not just when it is popular, but when the stakes are high and the outcome controversial. And we call on them now to let LB 577 have a fair vote. A handful of Senators should not stand between a majority of Nebraskans’ desire to provide health care coverage to over 54,000 of our low-income, working friends, neighbors and family members.
  Read more about Democracy should work in Nebraska

  • Rural Health
Weekly column

Banking on Carbon: Policy Considerations for Carbon Payments and Sequestration in Agriculture

The climate is changing at a quickening pace as a direct result of human activities. Our actions cause increasing amounts of atmospheric greenhouse gases that trap solar energy, driving increasingly severe and frequent heat waves, droughts and strong storms. Read more about Banking on Carbon: Policy Considerations for Carbon Payments and Sequestration in Agriculture

SBA Disaster Loans Available to Nebraska Small Businesses

Small, nonfarm businesses in all Nebraska counties except Richardson county are eligible to apply for low-interest federal disaster loans from the US Small Business Administration (SBA). The loans offset economic losses due to reduced revenues caused by drought conditions.

“SBA eligibility covers both the economic impacts on businesses dependent on farmers and ranchers who have suffered agricultural production losses caused by the disaster and businesses directly impacted by the disaster,” according to Alfred Judd, spokesman for the SBA.

Small, nonfarm businesses, small agricultural cooperatives, small businesses engaged in aquaculture and most private, nonprofit organizations of any size may qualify for Economic Injury Disaster Loans (EIDLs). These loans are up to $2 million and are intended to help meet financial obligations and operating expenses that could have been met had the disaster not occurred.

“Eligibility for these loans is based on the financial impact of the disaster only and not on any actual property damage. The loans have an interest rate of 4% for businesses and 2.875% for private, nonprofit organizations; a maximum term of 30 years; and are available to small businesses and most private, nonprofits without the financial ability to offset the adverse impact without hardship,” said Judd.

By law, SBA makes EIDLs available when the US Secretary of Agriculture designates an agricultural disaster. Secretary Tom Vilsack declared this disaster on April 10, 2013.

Businesses primarily engaged in farming or ranching are not eligible for SBA disaster assistance.  Agricultural enterprises should contact the Farm Service Agency (FSA) about USDA assistance made available by the Secretary’s declaration. However, in drought disasters nurseries are eligible for SBA disaster assistance.

Applicants may apply online using the Electronic Loan Application (ELA) via SBA’s secure website
 
Information and application forms are also available from SBA’s Customer Service Center by calling 800.659.2955 or emailing disastercustomerservice@sba.gov .

The deadline to apply for these loans is December 10, 2013. Read more about SBA Disaster Loans Available to Nebraska Small Businesses

Blog (deprecated)

Fostering the Next Family Farm and Ranch Generation

In the coming week, Representatives Jeff Fortenberry (R-NE), Tim Walz (D-MN), Chris Gibson (D-NY) and Collin Peterson (D-MN) will re-introduce the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act. Senator Tom Harkin (D-IA) will do the same in the Senate.

While there is no silver bullet for reversing America’s family farm and ranch exodus, there are proven strategies that create opportunities for beginners. And the Beginning Farmer and Rancher Opportunity Act was written to invest in those strategies and help new farmers and ranchers overcome barriers and take advantage of emerging markets.

Nurturing the next generation of family farmers and ranchers is a long row to hoe. And this bill is smart, cost-effective public policy that will create jobs and invest in rural America’s future through training, mentoring, business planning and other services for farm and ranch startups. It will also fund the highly effective Value Added Producer Grants program with emphasis on projects benefiting new farmers and ranchers.

Moreover, the bill creates saving and enhanced lending provisions that help beginners access credit and establish savings while providing incentives to assist them in establishing conservation and sustainable practices. The Center for Rural Affairs applauds the bipartisan sponsors of this legislation. Rural Americans will need to equal their courage and dedication to fostering the next family farm and ranch generation to ensure that the Farm Bill being written this year includes this policy and more that create genuine economic opportunity and a better quality of life throughout rural America. Read more about Fostering the Next Family Farm and Ranch Generation

  • Farm PolicyBeginning Farmer & Rancher
Weekly column

Rural Monitor: Lawyers Sparse in the Country

The New York Times reports, “Rural Americans are increasingly without lawyers.” This is despite the growing struggle for law school graduates to find employment and the reality that the population of rural America comprises about a fifth of the people.

Fredric Cozad, 86, is retiring in Bennett County, SD, and there will not be a lawyer within 120 miles of the county seat. | Photo by Matthew Staver for The New York Times

South Dakota passed a new law to help remedy this shortage of lawyers. The state will offer $12,000 annually to those who commit to live and work in rural areas for a minimum of five years. The Times notes this covers 90% of one year at the University of South Dakota’s law school. The law goes into effect in June and is modeled after similar federal programs that encourage healthcare professionals to practice in underserved areas.

You might be thinking, “Who needs more lawyers?” (And I can appreciate that sentiment.) The most compelling reason is the simple fact that a fifth of the American people are rural — a notably large portion of our population. Adequate legal representation for all keeps our democracy strong.

Legal representation is especially important as rural areas work to find their footing in today’s complicated economy. Just note the speed of change in the agricultural industry over the last 50 years. New areas of development like wind energy beckon. Landowners and communities have a real need for lawyers to ensure that agreements entered into are fair and profitable for all parties.

Another very practical reason for attracting and retaining lawyers in rural areas: it keeps money local! [Imagine “Shop Local” canvas tote bag now.] Paying for legal advice locally means that money is more likely going to be spent locally, which strengthens the local economy. The addition of another potentially engaged citizen strengthens our rural communities too.

So maybe now you’re thinking, “Who wants to work way out yonder in the backwoods/boondocks/middle-of-nowhere?” Well, we at the Center couldn’t disagree with this sentiment more. We love rural America, warts and all. It offers a rich professional landscape for lawyers and others. As rural South Dakota and 86 year-old lawyer Fredric Cozad told the Times, “The needs of the people are still there. There is plenty of work and opportunity.” There are wills, sales, disputes, and crime just like everywhere else.

For me, it’s the quality of stars at night that makes rural living wonderful. But perhaps the most compelling reason for young lawyers to move to rural America is the high quality of life we can offer with our room to stretch, quiet to think within, and affordable cost of living.

Who knows young lawyer reading this, maybe the Center’s hometown of Lyons, Nebraska, is just the place for you. Good Stars: check. Good people: check. An appealing brick Main Street for you to establish your practice on: check. An awesome nonprofit: check. Just give me a call with your move-in date and I'll show up with a strong back and a case of beer.

Click here to read the complete version of The New York Times article I mention. Read more about Rural Monitor: Lawyers Sparse in the Country

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