Fast Lane

Business Briefs, December 2015, Fast Lane, Fast Lane

Business briefs: December 2015

BOWLING GREEN

Construction has begun on Bilstein Cold Rolled Steel’s new manufacturing plant at the Kentucky Transpark in Bowling Green. The Germany-based company is investing $130 million to build the 250,000-s.f. facility, which will serve the company’s North American automotive industry customers. The Bilstein plant will bring 110 new jobs to Warren County.

CORBIN

The name of a Quarter-Horse racetrack being built in Corbin by the Keeneland Association has been changed from Thunder Gap to Cumberland Run due to licensing issues, according to a report by the Corbin News Journal. When complete, Cumberland Run will feature a 1,723-foot track with barn facilities, grandstand and entertainment center as well as six out parcels for commercial development and a tract for a hotel. The track will offer 10 to 15 live racing dates as well as year-round simulcasting and instant racing.

DANVILLE

Kimball International Inc., which designs and manufactures office furniture, is expanding its operations in Danville to help meet increased demand for its National Office Furniture and Kimball Office brands. The expansion will add 40 jobs to the existing 190-member workforce.

Caterpillar Inc. has announced that it will close its undercarriage components facility in Danville, where it produces parts for track-type tractors used in construction and mining. The closure is part of a global restructuring effort first announced in September, when the company stated that it would be eliminating 10,000 jobs as a result of three consecutive years of significant sales declines. The closing will impact approximately 75 positions, 25 of which will be moved to East Peoria, Ill.

ERLANGER

The number of passengers traveling out of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) in October 2015 increased 21.8 percent compared to the same month last year. The figure represents the fourth consecutive month CVG has reported passenger growth of 20 percent or greater. New low-cost carriers Allegiant and Frontier Airlines account for the largest increase in year-over-year passenger volumes. The two carriers now represent more than 20 percent of the local traffic and are helping bring down the average airfare as reported by the Department of Transportation.

FLORENCE

Florence-based Southern Air Inc. has added two additional freighters to its fleet, including a fifth Boeing 777 and a fifth Boeing 737-400. The additions bring the carrier’s total to 10 aircraft in operation for DHL  Express, a leading international air express shipping and logistics provider that has operated its principal Americas hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport since 2009.

HEBRON

Online printing company GotPrint is expanding its operations in Hebron with the addition of 32,000 s.f. of space and the purchase of a new printing press. GotPrint is a subsidiary of California-based Printograph Inc., which employs more than 450 people at three U.S. facilities (California, Texas and Kentucky) and one in the Netherlands. The Hebron facility, which employs approximately 100 workers, produces 40 percent of the company’s revenue, printing brochures, business cards, calendars, greeting cards, banners and other items. The expansion will add 15 new jobs to the Hebron workforce.

GRAVES COUNTY

A 15-acre site in Graves County’s Hickory Industrial Park has been certified as a “Build-Ready Site,” becoming the sixth site in the state to receive the designation. The Build-Ready certification means a site includes a pad 50,000 s.f. or greater (expandable to 100,000 s.f. or more), utilities are extended to an edge of the site, and the necessary permits and studies are in place, including water, building, phase-1 environmental, archeological, historical and geotechnical. Kentucky’s other Build-Ready sites include tracts in the Highland Glen Industrial Park in Barren County, the Bluegrass Crossings Regional Business Centre in Ohio County, the 4 Star Regional Industrial Park in Henderson, and two in Bowling Green’s Kentucky Transpark.

LAWRENCEBURG

Florida Tile Inc., a manufacturer of porcelain tile, is investing more than $25 million to expand its operations in Lawrenceburg. The project, which will create 61 new jobs, will allow Florida Tile to add manufacturing lines and equipment at its existing manufacturing plant and add 215,200 s.f. to its distribution center. Florida Tile was founded in Florida in 1954 but has been headquartered in Lexington since 2010.

General Cable Industries, a Highland Heights-based company that is one of the world’s largest wire and cable manufacturers, is expanding its operations in Lawrenceburg to accommodate the closing and relocation of company manufacturing facilities in Massachusetts and Illinois. The operations being relocated to Lawrenceburg primarily involve data communication cables, including specialty and fiber products. General Cable is investing more than $2.5 million in the expansion and plans to add 54 new positions in Lawrenceburg to support the project.

LEXINGTON

City National Bank of West Virginia has completed its purchase of three American Founders Bank locations in Lexington. The $6.5 million purchase, which was announced in June 2015, adds approximately $145 million in deposits and $119 million in loans. With the purchase of the three Lexington branches, City grows to $3.8 billion in assets and operates 85 banking offices in West Virginia, Virginia, Kentucky, and Ohio.

Louisville-based EAP Restaurant Concepts is expanding its popular Joella’s Hot Chicken restaurant to Lexington. Joella’s – the newest restaurant addition to the EAP portfolio, which includes BoomBozz Craft Pizza & Taphouse and Manny & Merle – puts its own spin on Nashville’s classic hot chicken, taking traditional Southern-fried chicken and adding various spice blends. The company is also planning to introduce Joella’s into the Indianapolis and Cincinnati markets.

Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale, which immediately followed the track’s successful inaugural hosting of the Breeders’ Cup World Championships on Oct. 30-31, saw sales increase 6.34 percent over 2014. The 12-day November event saw 2,575 horses sold and brought gross sales of $218,959,400, the highest gross since the November sale record of $340,877,200 set in 2007. The median price of $30,000 was just below the $35,000 posted in 2014.

The board of directors of the Lexington Center Corp. has unanimously voted in favor of pursuing an expansion and replacement of the Lexington Convention Center, located in downtown Lexington. The LCC Board and VisitLex, the community tourism and convention bureau, are now seeking the support of the General Assembly to increase the hotel occupancy tax in Fayette County by 2 percent and requesting a $75 million grant in support of the project’s capital budget.The proposed convention center plan does not include any additional renovations to Rupp Arena, which is already undergoing a $15 million video/audio/tech upgrade.

The central Kentucky entrepreneurial community created 280 new jobs and raised $50.6 million in capital funds in fiscal year 2015, according to figures released by the Lexington Venture Club. The companies, employing a total of 952 people, reported an average salary of $76,929 for full-time jobs.

LOUISVILLE

Louisville-based PharMerica Corp., a national provider of institutional and specialty pharmacy services, has acquired Luker Pharmacy Management for an undisclosed price. Luker provides comprehensive pharmacy management services to hospitals and other healthcare facilities, primarily in Texas.

Delivra, an email marketing service provider, celebrated the opening of its expansion into the Louisville market by donating an email marketing software package valued at $5,000 to 23 Louisville-area nonprofit organizations. “Providing immediate assistance to those committed to the city of Louisville and its residents is the ideal way to celebrate our expansion,” said Neil Berman, CEO of Delivra. “Our team looks forward to establishing meaningful, longstanding relationships with the organizations’ marketers to educate and assist in their efforts to increase cause awareness.” The Indianapolis-based company opened its Louisville office this fall, citing the city as an “ideal market” for expansion due to its prominent industries of retail, e-commerce, and business and financial services.

Plans to build a $28.6 cultural arts and entertainment district near downtown Louisville got a boost in November as the Kentucky Tourism Development Finance Authority granted preliminary approval to provide up to $7.1 million in tax rebates to the Paristowne Point Preservation Trust. The three anchors for the project include Louisville Stoneware, a performance venue operated by the Kentucky Center for the Arts, and Goodwood Brewery. The authority also granted preliminary approval to Rabbit Hole Distilling LLC, which is proposing a $12.7 million entertainment facility that will include a distillery, tasting room, gift shop and event space. That project could receive up to $3.2 million in tax rebates.

Louisville-based Bowie Resource Partners has entered into an agreement to purchase the El Segundo and Lee Ranch mining complexes in New Mexico and the Twentymile mining complex in Colorado from Peabody Energy Corp. for $358 million in cash. The deal creates the largest bituminous coal producer in the western United States. The acquisition will nearly double the size of BRP’s production output to 25 million tons per year, generating top line revenues of $1 billion annually. With the acquisition, BRP will operate five mining complexes in Colorado, New Mexico and Utah, employing over 1,700 people.

Almost Family Inc., a Louisville-based provider of home health nursing services, has acquired the Black Stone Operations in Ohio in a $40 million transaction. Black Stone, which provides in-home personal care and skilled home health services in western Ohio, has 2015 revenues approaching $50 million. Almost Family CEO William Yarmuth said the combined companies will create what they believe to be the largest senior-focused home health provider in the Ohio. The combined revenues in the state are expected to surpass $120 million annually.

PADUCAH

The Paducah Riverfront Redevelopment Project has been awarded $1.5 million in state funding to help transform the community’s Ohio River shoreline. The grant will help fund a project that includes completion of a land mass in the river and construction of a floating service dock where boaters can take on fuel, water and other supplies and have sewage safely disposed. The $8.1 million project is part of a larger riverfront plan that includes a public park, landscaping, plazas and a pavilion.

PIKEVILLE

With $3.2 million in funding from the federal government and the Appalachian Regional Commission, plans are moving forward to build a $4.5 million telecommunications training facility in eastern Kentucky that will support the state’s efforts to implement statewide high-speed broadband service. The funding will support construction of the Broadband and Technology Education Center on the Pikeville campus of Big Sandy Community and Technical College. BSCTC is contributing $1.2 million to the project. The training program is designed for certifications in telecommunications installation and maintenance with options to continue into an associate’s degree program of study. Training will also be available to upgrade existing employee skill sets.

The University of Pikeville-Kentucky College of Optometry has received approval from the Accreditation Council on Optometric Education to begin student recruitment, selection and admissions for its inaugural class for the fall of 2016. Sixty students will be admitted per class for a total of 240. There are currently no other colleges of optometry in Kentucky, West Virginia, Virginia, North Carolina, South Carolina or Georgia.

ROCKCASTLE COUNTY

Rockcastle Regional Hospital is adding 67,000 s.f. to its respiratory care center, a project that will make it the largest freestanding ventilator facility in the country, according to information released by the hospital. The expansion, which is expected to be complete by spring 2017, will add 28 new ventilator beds, bringing the total to 121. The growth will also create 85 new full-time jobs, 62 of which will be professional, licensed positions such as nurses and therapists. The new jobs will bring the total number of employees at Rockcastle Regional to 730.

SHEPHERDSVILLE

In response to shifting demographics, McKendree University has announced that it is relocating its Louisville campus to the College and Career Center at Bullitt Central High School in Shepherdsville. “Shepherdsville and the greater Bullitt County region have experienced significant growth in population, business and industry in recent years,” said Christian Blome, executive director of McKendree University’s Kentucky campuses. “The migration of business and industry and the changing needs of the area’s adult students now reveals that Shepherdsville is where we can best continue to serve the region.” In addition to its Louisville location, McKendree – which has its main campus in Lebanon, Ill. –  also has a campus in Radcliff, Ky.

WILLIAMSTOWN

The Ark Encounter, a massive replica of Noah’s ark that is being built in Williamstown, will open to the public July 7, 2016, according to officials with Answers in Genesis, the ministry group that is overseeing the project. In addition to announcing the project’s opening date, Answers in Genesis President Ken Ham said that the majority of the funding for the Ark Encounter’s first phase has been raised — about $80 million of the $91.5 million needed. The Ark Encounter is projected to produce some 20,000 jobs over the next 10 years and is is expected to bring up to 2.2 million visitors a year, resulting in a $4 billion economic impact over the next decade.

WILMORE

Asbury University has received a $4.5 million donation that will be used to fund student scholarships and help build a planned $25 million Collaborative Learning Center that will house science laboratories, classrooms offices and a 300-seat auditorium. The donation from the parents of an Asbury graduate comes just shortly after the university announced in June that it had received an $8 million gift from an Asbury alumnus, the largest donation in the school’s history.

STATE

Frost Brown Todd, a regional law firm that has offices in Florence, Lexington and Louisville in addition to locations in surrounding states, has launched a new affiliate to assist government entities and borrowers in creating financing solutions for projects in infrastructure, economic development and redevelopment, real estate, healthcare and public-private partnerships. David A. Rogers, who has been named president of FBT Project Finance Advisors, said the new affiliate will also focus on securitizations, P3 transactions and advising municipalities and borrowers on derivative structures.

Louisville Gas and Electric Co. (LG&E) and Kentucky Utilities Co. (KU) issued a request for information in November to gather information about developing individual solar energy facilities that they would own and operate for interested business and industrial customers. “We have had a number of business and industrial customers approach us about building and operating a solar array specifically for their business, and we believe it is another opportunity for us to directly meet the energy needs of our customers,” said John P. Malloy, vice president of customer services.” A formal bid process will take place to name the solar partner and each project will be subject to Kentucky Public Service Commission approval.

December 2015, Fast Lane, Fast Lane

Fast Lane: December 2015

Bowling Green: Auto industry growth drives $57M Kobe Expansion, 112 jobs

Kobe Aluminum Automotive Products, a supplier for the automotive industry, is investing $57 million to expand its facility in Bowling Green.

The company is constructing a 116,000-s.f. addition that will provide the capacity for substantial equipment upgrades to help meet anticipated growth in the coming years.

Based in Kobe, Japan, KAAP develops lightweight aluminum parts that contribute to the overall reduction in vehicle weight, which helps lower fuel consumption and emissions. KAAP began production in Bowling Green in 2005 and has expanded its operations five times since then. The company’s Bowling Green workforce has grown to 368, with an additional 112 jobs being added to support the upcoming project.

Construction on the latest expansion is scheduled to begin this month with a projected completion of October 2016.

Bowling Green: $261M expansion at Bowling Green Metalforming means 450 more auto sector jobs

Bowling Green Metalforming LLC is investing more than $261 million over the next four years to expand its automotive supply operations in Bowling Green, where it produces vehicle body and chassis assemblies for original equipment manufacturers, including General Motors and Ford Motor Co.

The company plans to add more than 450 new jobs to support the expansion.

The project includes a 260,000-s.f. addition to the company’s current facility and equipment purchases to support recently awarded contracts for heavy stamping, robotic assembly and the coating of chassis and other parts. The expansion’s economic impact is expected to top $800 million in the next decade.

Bowling Green Metalforming is a division of Cosma International, an operating unit of Magna International Inc. Since first breaking ground in Warren County 11 years ago, the company has completed five expansion projects, representing a total investment of approximately $244 million. Those projects have resulted in a 950,000-s.f. facility, staffed by a workforce of more than 1,000 employees.

“It’s difficult to overemphasize just how significant the Bowling Green Metalforming expansion will be for our region,” said state Sen. Mike Wilson, of Bowling Green. “This is one of the largest corporate expansions southcentral Kentucky has seen in the last decade.”

Lexington: City council votes to up minimum wage to $10.10 over 3 years

The Lexington Urban County Council has approved raising the city’s minimum wage to $10.10 an hour over the course of the next three years.

The ordinance passed by a vote of 9-to-6.

The first phase of wage increases goes into effect July 1, 2016, when the Lexington minimum wage will go to $8.20 an hour.

The new ordinance exempts tipped employees and agricultural workers.

Lexington becomes the second city in Kentucky to raise its minimum wage above the federal minimum of $7.25 an hour. Louisville’s metro council voted to raise its minimum wage last December, and after a series of legal challenges the wage increased to $7.75 in July. The Louisville minimum wage will increase to $9 an hour over the next three years.

There is a suit challenging the validity of the Louisville wage hike before the state Supreme Court.

Louisville: Grupo Antolin to open two auto supply plants in louisville

Grupo Antolin, one of the largest global manufacturers of interior components for the automotive industry, has announced plans to locate two facilities in Louisville.

The family-owned company, which is based in Spain, currently employs nearly 350 people at its plant in Hopkinsville and says the two new locations in Louisville will help meet a projected increase in demand for its products. More than 200 new jobs are being added as a result of the expansion.

Founded in 1950 in Burgos, Spain, Grupo Antolin began as a mechanics garage and has since grown into a multinational company with more than 160 facilities in 26 countries, employing more than 28,000 people.

The company specializes in the development, design and manufacturing of interior components for the automotive industry, including doors, seats, lighting and instrument panels. The company provides parts for more than 300 vehicle models, with one out of every four vehicles manufactured worldwide featuring Grupo Antolin parts.

Louisville: Ford to invest$1.3B, add 2,000 jobs at Kentucky truck plant

Ford Motor Co. is investing $1.3 billion and adding 2,000 new jobs at the Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville to support the launch of the all-new 2017 Ford F-Series Super Duty truck.

The announcement is the biggest individual economic investment in Kentucky history.

Kentucky Truck Plant produces F-250, F-350, F-450 and F-550 Super Duty pickups and chassis cabs, as well as Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator.

The investment – which will include a new body shop, facility upgrades and retooling to build the new aluminum-bodied truck – is the latest in a string of projects Ford has undertaken over the last couple of years. In 2014, the company invested $80 million to increase production at Kentucky Truck in order to meeting growing customer demand while another $129 million was invested to support production of the Lincoln MKC luxury crossover vehicle at the Louisville Assembly Plant. This latest announcement brings Ford’s investment in the commonwealth to more than $1.5 billion over the course of two years.

Kentucky Truck Plant, which opened in 1969, now employs close to 4,400 people and covers 6 million s.f., making it one of Ford’s largest plants in the world.

Louisville: Electronic toll system being implemented for new bridges

When the Ohio River Bridges Project connecting Louisville and Jeffersonville, Ind., is complete next year, an electronic system will be implemented to collect tolls – with no toll plazas, no coin buckets and no waiting in line.

The Kentucky Public Transportation Infrastructure Authority has been approved for membership in E-Zpass Group, which operates a common electronic toll payment system in 15 other states. With the E-Zpass system, vehicles pass through tolling gantries that are monitored in two ways: via onboard electronic transponders that send signals to monitors and video cameras that record license plates from overhead gantries.

The lowest rates will be charged to motorists using a transponder, which allows for tolls to be automatically debited from an established account. Higher rates – because of higher administrative costs – will be charged for motorists who must be tracked by video camera identification of their license plates. Motorists without a prepaid account will be sent an invoice, mailed to the address tied to their license plate.

An E-ZPass transponder, which will cost about $15, is one of two transponder options for future users of the Louisville-Southern Indiana Ohio River Bridges. The transponder can be transferred between vehicles and will work for any and all E-ZPass systems.(E-ZPass Group has 26 member agencies in 15 states, including five of the seven states bordering Kentucky: Illinois, Indiana, Ohio, West Virginia and Virginia. Toll roads in those states include the Illinois Tollway system, West Virginia Turnpike, Ohio Turnpike, Indiana Toll Road and the Chesapeake Bay Bridge-Tunnel.) The other option is a decal-sticker “local” transponder that can be obtained at no cost but will work only on the local crossings. The local transponder cannot be transferred between vehicles.

The toll rates will range from $1 to $4 for two-axle passenger vehicles, $5 to $7 for medium trucks and $10 to $12 for heavy trucks.

Midway:  New American Howa plant in midway to supply TMMK, add 54 jobs

American Howa Kentucky Inc., a Bowling Green-based manufacturer of interior products for the auto industry, is building a new facility in Midway that will create 54 new full-time jobs.

Construction of the 60,000-s.f. plant will allow AHK to supply the Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky facility in nearby Georgetown with headliners for the Toyota Camry.

AHK currently operates one Kentucky facility in Bowling Green, employing 179 full-time workers. That facility produces dash insulators, sunshades, headliners and other automotive interior products.

The company first announced the Bowling Green facility in 2007 and expanded it in late 2008, adding 24 jobs. In 2011, the company expanded once again, adding 86 jobs and 56,000 s.f. to the 138,000-s.f. facility.

Nicholasville: Growing Alltech to buy Canadian animal nutrition company

Alltech, a global animal nutrition company headquartered in Nicholasville, has entered into an agreement to acquire 100 percent of the outstanding shares of Masterfeeds Inc., a leading commercial animal nutrition company in Canada.

“This is a crucial time in agriculture, and Canadian farmers are facing ever-increasing pressures, including the continued drive to produce more with fewer resources,” said Dr. Pearse Lyons, founder and president of Alltech. “Masterfeeds provides the on-farm support that is critical to Canada’s farmers and ranchers. This new opportunity will enable more efficient delivery of superior animal nutrition and tailored feeding programs, supported by robust scientific research.”

Masterfeeds further strengthens Alltech’s presence in Canada by creating one of the country’s largest animal nutrition offerings. Alltech, Masterfeeds and EMF Nutrition, another Alltech-owned Canadian company, employ approximately 700 Canadians, operating 25 feed manufacturing and premix facilities, nine retail locations and seven distribution centers in a business spanning the entire country.

Masterfeeds, an 86-year-old company that has a history of research and innovation, will continue to be headquartered in London, Ontario, Canada, and led by its current chief executive officer, Rob Flack. Alltech’s own entity, Alltech Canada, will remain headquartered in Guelph, Ontario, serving the entire Canadian feed industry.

Alltech has seen rapid growth in the last several years: The company has tripled its sales in the last three years and is on target to achieve $4 billion in sales within the next few years. Since 2011, Alltech has completed 13 acquisitions, with the Masterfeed purchase representing its 14th acquisition.

The combined Alltech/Masterfeeds company will have a presence in 128 countries and more than 4,700 employees worldwide.

Russellville: Logan Aluminum rolls out growth plan, will add 190 jobs

Logan Aluminum is expanding its operations in Logan County, where it produces rolled aluminum sheets for beverage cans.

The expansion will add 190 new jobs at Logan, which currently employs more than 1,000 and ranks as one of the county’s largest employers.

In conjunction with Tri-Arrows Aluminum (TAA), Logan Aluminum is expanding its recycling/new ingot casting facility to provide additional capabilities and increased capacity at its rolling mills, scalping and preheating operations.

The ingot casting facility will include a new 280,000-s.f. building on the existing plant site to produce approximately 600 million pounds of cast ingot annually. An additional 68,000-s.f. expansion will accommodate new equipment that will allow the plant to produce heavier-gauge material, allowing for expansion into other products, including automotive sheet.

Production of the heavier gauge sheet is expected to begin next year; production of casting ingots will start in early 2018.

State: Kentucky’s Unemployment rate falls to 4.9%, lowest in 14 years, wages rise twice as fast as U.S.

Kentucky’s preliminary October 2015 unemployment rate dipped to 4.9 percent, the lowest unemployment rate the state has reported since May 2001, when it was also 4.9 percent.

The state rate for October 2015 was slightly less than the U.S. seasonally adjusted jobless rate in October of 5 percent.

“The Kentucky labor market has shown steady resilience for well over a year. When the unemployment rate hovers at around 5 percent – or lower as is the case this month – there is strong upward pressure on wages,” said economist Manoj Shanker, of the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training (OET). “During 2015, average weekly wages have increased by 4.8 percent, more than twice as fast as the national average.”

In a separate federal survey of business establishments that excluded jobs in agriculture and people who are self-employed, Kentucky’s seasonally adjusted nonfarm employment increased by 5,800 jobs in October 2015 from the month before, and jumped by 31,800 positions since October 2014.

“Hiring has been brisk across all major sectors. Despite the faltering global market, job growth in Kentucky’s private sector has been strong,” said Shanker. “Key factors like low energy prices and near-zero inflation have helped Kentucky’s goods-producing industries.”

State: SBA Seeking nominations for Kentucky small business awards

The U.S. Small Business Administration’s Kentucky District Office is accepting nominations for its 2016 National Small Business Week Awards, including the prestigious Small Business Person of the Year award.

The Kentucky Small Business Person of the Year for 2015 was Scott Shinn, president and CEO of Sustainment Solutions Inc., a veteran-owned small business located in Lancaster, Ky.

In addition to Small Business Person of the Year, the Kentucky District Office also has 2016 small business awards, including Home Based, Minority, Veteran and Woman Small Business of the Year, as well as Financial Services, Small Business and Media Advocate of the Year, and Young Entrepreneur.

The Kentucky Small Business Person and Small Business Exporter of the Year will compete nationally and be recognized in May 2016 during National Small Business Week in Washington, DC.

Award details, including eligibility, information requirements and evaluation criteria, as well as nomination procedures, can be found at on the SBA Kentucky District Office website, sba.gov/ky or at awards.sba.gov/. Small business owners or advocates can self-nominate.

The deadline to receive nomination packages is 3 p.m. ET, Jan 11, 2016. Nominations should be submitted online at awards.sba.gov/ or delivered directly to the Kentucky District Office, depending on the award. Postmarked or hand-delivered packages should be sent to SBA’s Kentucky District Office, 600 Dr. M.L. King, Jr. Place, Room 188, Louisville, KY 40202.

State: Report ranks Ky’s business  climate among top three in nation

A succession of expanding businesses, new facility openings, thousands of new jobs and efforts by economic developers statewide helped Kentucky place third nationally in the 2015 Business Climate Ranking by Site Selection magazine.

Kentucky leapt from eighth place last year – the largest increase of any state in the 2015 ranking – to achieve its highest position ever. The Bluegrass State placed first in the ranking’s new plants-per-capita category and ranked fourth in the 2014 new plants-per-capita category. Overall, only two points separated third-place Kentucky (582) from second-place North Carolina (584). Georgia took first place with 601 points.

Site Selection delivers expansion-planning information to 48,000 executives of fast-growing firms. The annual business-climate ranking is based on a survey of corporate site selectors who are asked to rank states based on their recent experience of locating facilities there, considering existing workforce skills, state and local taxes, transportation and utility infrastructure, and land/building prices and supply.

Their responses account for 50 percent, while the remaining 50 percent is based on performance in Site Selection‘s annual competitiveness ranking; total new plant database compliant facilities in 2014; total new facilities in 2014 per capita; total 2015 new projects year to date; total 2015 projects year to date per capita; and state tax burdens on both mature firms and new firms, according to the Tax Foundation and KPMG Location Matters analysis.

Fast Lane, Fast Lane

Fast Lane: November 2015

ASHLAND: AK Steel idles 800 workers, says foreign mills dumping in U.S.

AK Steel has announced that it intends to temporarily idle the blast furnace and related steelmaking operations at its Ashland steel mill, beginning in December. The move will impact up to 800 of the facility’s 940 employees.

The Ohio-based company cited “challenging domestic market conditions” as the reason behind the decision and said that if market conditions do not improve, the idling could last more than six months.

“We are taking this necessary step due to the onslaught of what we believe are unfairly traded imports of carbon steel that have been flooding our shores,” said AK Steel Chairman, President and CEO James L. Wainscott. “These imports have substantially reduced order intake rates, production rates, shipment volumes and selling prices. We will continue to closely monitor market conditions and run our overall operations as efficiently as possible to continue to meet our customers’ needs.”

AK Steel, along with other domestic steel companies, has filed anti-dumping and counter-vailing duty trade cases with the International Trade Commission with respect to coated, cold-rolled and hot-rolled carbon steel products in an attempt to combat foreign imports.

Ashland Works produces carbon steel slabs as well as hot-dip galvanized and galvannealed coated steels. The hot-dip galvanizing line – which primarily services automotive customers – will not be idled.

The company said it has enough steelmaking capacity at its other plants to meet customer requirements and does not anticipate any interruptions in shipments to its customers.

CORBIN: Decline in coal cited in CSX decision to close corbin rail shops

The CSX rail company announced in October that it is closing its mechanical shops in Corbin, a decision that will affect approximately 180 active CSX employees. That figure represents approximately 50 percent of the total CSX workforce in Corbin.

The shops at Corbin are primarily used to maintain, inspect and service locomotives and rail cars for coal trains moving from central Appalachia to the eastern United States. The decision to close the mechanical shops is tied to the significant decline in the region’s coal traffic.

CSX is also closing its train operations in the East Tennessee town of Erwin, citing the same issue. Approximately 300 Erwin employees will be affected in that shutdown.

The company said that a “combination of low natural gas prices and regulatory action has significantly decreased CSX’s coal movements over the past four years, with more than $1 billion in coal revenue declines during that time.”

The Corbin rail yard will remain open and train operations there will continue, with approximately 100 engineering and transportation employees remaining to support and manage yard traffic and a small number of mechanical employees remaining to support train operations.

CSX said Corbin will continue to be an important part of its network for the movement of automobiles, consumer products and other freight.

Many Corbin employees affected by the closing will be eligible for jobs in higher-demand areas on the CSX network, the company said.

ELIZABETHTOWN: TMS AUtomotive to add new $5M facility in Bowling Green

Elizabethtown-based TMS Automotive is investing $5 million to locate a facility at the Kentucky Transpark in Bowling Green, creating 38 new jobs.

TMS Automotive offers industrial clients a variety of specialized services, including parts washing; rust inhibitor applications; parts sorting; packaging; warehousing and distribution; and minor contract assembly.

Adding a facility in Bowling Green will put TMS Automotive in closer connection with Bowling Green Metalforming and Cannon Automotive, allowing those businesses to curtail shipping costs.

With TMS Automotive’s Elizabethtown location operating at full capacity, the additional facility also will allow the company to take on a much larger demand for products.

TMS Automotive has served Kentucky since 2007 as a distribution provider and materials handler for automotive parts.

Farmington: Innovative fishery turns invasive carp into export product

State and local officials gathered in Graves County on Oct. 6 to celebrate the opening of Blue Shore Fishery, a new Kentucky company that is turning the area’s invasive carp problem into the foundation of a wholesale foods business.

Blue Shore has invested more than $1.3 million in a former catfish-processing facility that will be used to process Asian carp caught by local commercial fishermen from rivers and lakes throughout Western Kentucky. Asian carp were initially brought to this country to clean up algae but have since created a severe problem, overpopulating and crowding out native fish.

Blue Shore will use the locally caught carp to create surimi, a product used in crab sticks, fishcakes and other foods. The company plans to sell to wholesale markets in the U.S. and overseas, particularly Asia.

The operation brings 66 new jobs to the community.

Blue Shore also operates two other facilities in Kentucky: RCB Fish Co. in Ledbetter and Fin Gourmet in Paducah, a research and development operation.

GEORGETOWN: 1st U.S.-Made lexus rolls off the line; toyota capacity now 550,000 cars annually in Ky

Community and state leaders joined Toyota officials in Georgetown on Oct. 19 to celebrate the unveiling of the first Lexus to be built in the United States.

Toyota Motor Manufacturing Kentucky’s (TMMK) production of the luxury-model Lexus ES 350, the top-selling Lexus sedan worldwide, is creating 750 new Kentucky jobs and represents an investment of $360 million.

The expansion of the Toyota Georgetown plant will enable TMMK to produce approximately 50,000 Lexus vehicles a year. In addition to the Lexus ES 350, the Georgetown facility – which is Toyota’s largest manufacturing facility outside Japan – also produces the Toyota Camry, Camry Hybrid, Avalon and Avalon Hybrid, as well as 4-cylinder and V6 engines. With the addition of the Lexus model, the plant’s capacity increases to more than 550,000 per year. With the additional personnel added to handle the Lexus production, the Georgetown plant now employs more than 7,500 people.

Since opening the Georgetown plant in 1988, Toyota has been a major player in helping to build Kentucky’s thriving automotive industry. The Bluegrass State is currently home to more than 470 automotive-industry companies that employ nearly 86,000 people.

LOUISVILLE: UPS will invest $310M, add 300 jobs at sorting center

United Parcel Service Inc. (UPS) is investing nearly $310 million in an expansion project that will triple the size of its ground package sorting facility in Louisville and nearly double package processing rates.

The expansion will add another 300 jobs to the company’s staff in Louisville, where it currently employs nearly 21,000 people.

Company officials said the 580,000-s.f. expansion is in response to an increase in both e-commerce and traditional retail package volume.

Construction will begin in 2016 and is expected to be complete by 2019. The project will not affect pickup and delivery operations, UPS officials said.

The Atlanta-based company opened its Centennial hub in Louisville in 2008 and the facility has become a vital point in the UPS express network, with 2 million packages moving through the city each day to destinations in more than 220 countries and territories around the world.

The hub facility provides pickup and delivery operations for customers in Louisville and surrounding counties and serves as a transfer point for trailers moving to destinations beyond Kentucky. It also supports end-of-runway express service due to its proximity to the UPS Worldport facility.

LOUISVILLE: Yum! spins off its Chinese operations into separate company

The board of directors for Louisville-based Yum! Brands has unanimously approved a move to make the company’s China division a separate entity, creating two individual, publicly traded companies. Yum! is the parent company of KFC, Pizza Hut and Taco Bell.

Though it will be a separate company, Yum! China will operate as Yum! Brands’ largest franchise, operating under a franchise agreement with predominantly Chinese leadership.

“Over the years, we built our company’s global structure outside of China based on a franchise model that generates stable earnings, high profit margins, low capital investment and strong cash flow conversion,” said Yum! Brands Chairman David Novak. “At the same time, our China business, which has been predominantly equity-owned, generates substantial operating cash flow annually, with tremendous ability to invest in its own growth.”

Yum! was one of the first American quick-serve restaurants to enter the China market, opening its first KFC store there in 1987. Yum! China now operates approximately 6,900 restaurants in over 1,000 cities and Yum! says that with China’s consuming class expected to double from 300 million in 2012 to more than 600 million by 2020, Yum! China has the potential to grow to 20,000 restaurants in the future. The business is on pace to open some 700 new locations in 2015.

However, Yum! has been dealing with fallout from reports last year that it was using tainted meat at some of its KFC locations. That issue scared off many consumers and the company’s third-quarter earnings fell below analysts’ estimates for the China division.

STATE: Financial problems force Kentucky health cooperative to close; 51K Kentuckians affected

Faced with significant financial losses and decreased federal funding,
Kentucky Health Cooperative Inc., a nonprofit health insurance company serving all 120 Kentucky counties, announced in October that it will be closing and no longer offer health insurance plans on kynect, Kentucky’s health insurance marketplace.

“In plainest language, things have come up short of where they need to be,” said Kentucky Health Cooperative interim CEO Glenn Jennings.

The shutdown leaves some 51,000 Kentuckians searching for other insurance options. Open enrollment for 2016 healthcare coverage began Nov. 1.

KHC was formed in an effort to provide more choices in healthcare coverage under the Affordable Care Act (ACA). Kentucky’s co-op – and others like it in states across the nation – has been subsidized by federal money but the recent announcement of a risk corridor reimbursement to the nation’s co-ops of just 12.6 percent (or, for Kentucky, a payment of $9.7 million, from a starting number of $77 million), led to an unavoidable outcome, Jennings said.

That same outcome is being seen in other states as well. As of Oct. 22, Kentucky’s was one of nine state co-ops formed under the ACA to close and that list could very well grow. According to a report from the U.S. Health and Human Services Department released this past summer, only one of the 23 co-ops across the nation (Maine) made money last year.

State officials emphasized that seven carriers are continuing to sell plans on kynect: Aetna, Anthem, Baptist Health, CareSource, Humana, United Healthcare and WellCare. Two insurers, Anthem and United Healthcare of Kentucky, will offer plans to residents in all 120 Kentucky counties.

STATE: Ky’s apprentice program adds 8th chapter, now has 112 companies

The Kentucky Federation for Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME), a partnership of manufacturers and colleges that have teamed up to address the shortage of technically skilled workers in advanced manufacturing, has added a new chapter in the western region of the state.

Through the KY FAME West Chapter, advanced manufacturing technician courses will be provided at Madisonville Community College, Hopkinsville Community College and West Kentucky Community and Technical College in Paducah.

Local companies in the region that are participating in the launch include: Wacker Chemical, R. RAD North America, Briggs & Stratton, Centrifugal Technologies, Baptist Health Madisonville, Vanderbilt Chemical, Progress Rail Services, Hibbs Electromechanical, Air Relief, Integrated Metal Solutions, MVP Group International, International Automotive Components, MRCOOL, ACE Compress Services and GE Aviation.

“I have seen the energizing effects that the mere opportunity of forming a chapter of KY FAME in west Kentucky has brought, and it makes me very optimistic for the future of our region and the commonwealth as a whole,” said Ryan Senter, president of Hibbs Electromechanical and president of the new chapter. “With industry in the driver’s seat, the KY FAME program has enhanced the collaboration between industry, education and government in combining technical education, soft-skills training and career preparedness that will have wide-ranging, positive benefits for students, Kentucky companies and entire communities.”

STATE: Baptist Health will expand and rebrand its health insurance plan

Baptist Health has announced a significant expansion of its health-insurance business with the introduction of new insurance plans for both the Medicare Advantage and individual markets.

For more than 20 years, Baptist Health operated Lexington-based Bluegrass Family Health, covering nearly 80,000 members in Kentucky and parts of adjoining states in the traditional commercial market, offering insurance through employers. In May, Bluegrass Family Health announced that it would be rebranding as Baptist Health Plan and would be headquartered in Lexington. (Baptist Health’s corporate headquarters are located in Louisville.)

Baptist Health Plan’s new Medicare Advantage plan is now available to Medicare beneficiaries in 33 Kentucky counties. The new Baptist Health Plan Select, designed for people who don’t qualify for Medicare and don’t receive coverage through their employer, is being offered in 29 Kentucky counties and is available on kynect, Kentucky’s online health insurance exchange. (Interested parties can also enroll in the program offline.)

The new plans will go into effect in January 2016.

Fast Lane, Fast Lane, October 2015

Fast Lane: October 2015

Catlettsburg: EN Engineering opens $2.8M office; 80 jobs coming

EN Engineering has opened a new $2.8 million facility in Catlettsburg that will bring 80 new jobs to the Boyd County area, with annual salaries ranging from $50,000 to $70,000.

EN Engineering, headquartered in Illinois, provides comprehensive engineering, consulting, design, integrity management, corrosion protection and automation services to energy and industrial clients, including natural gas and oil transmission and distribution companies, as well as petroleum refineries. The company currently employs more than 100 workers in Kentucky, where it has had a presence since 1994. The expanded 24,000-s.f. facility in Catlettsburg will enable the company to expand its engineering capacity to better serve the tri-state region of Kentucky, West Virginia and Ohio.

EN Engineering currently operates 13 offices throughout the country and has more than 800 employees.

Clarkson: Kelley beekeeping builds a buzz with expansion, 50 new jobs

A Clarkson company that manufactures beekeeping products is expanding its operations there, bringing 50 new jobs to the Grayson County community.

Kelley Beekeeping has purchased 20 acres for the construction of a 100,000-s.f. manufacturing plant and showroom for its products, which are sold to hobbyists, small businesses and commercial markets around the world. The project represents an investment of nearly $7.5 million.

The company, which was founded in 1924 and has operated in Grayson County since 1952, produces more than 3,000 beekeeping products, including specialty supplies such as woodenware units for keeping hives, protective clothing, honey extraction equipment and a variety of bees.

The expansion will accommodate continued growth for the company, which has added jobs overall but also sees seasonal swells, most recently to 110 employees.

The company has become a tourist attraction in the region as well. Currently, more than 300 people visit the operation each weekend in the spring and every September the community celebrates its ties to the beekeeping industry with the annual Clarkson Honeyfest.

Covington: Ashland and Valvoline split into two public companies

Ashland Inc. announced on Sept. 21 that it is proceeding with plans to separate its Valvoline unit into a separate company, creating Ashland and Valvoline as two independent, publicly traded entities.

The new Ashland will focus on providing specialty chemicals for the industrial market while Valvoline will focus on the engine and automotive maintenance business.

William Wulfsohn will serve as chairman and CEO of the new Ashland following the separation, while Luis Fernandez-Moreno, currently senior vice president of Ashland and president of Ashland’s Chemicals Group, will be chief operating officer of the new company. Kevin Willis, currently senior vice president and chief financial officer of Ashland, will serve in the same capacity in the new Ashland.

At Valvoline, Wulfsohn will serve as non-executive chairman following the separation, and Sam Mitchell, currently senior vice president of Ashland and president of Valvoline, will serve as CEO.

The separation will be completed as soon as practicable, company officials said, but not less than a year’s time. The company intends for the separation, which is subject to final board approval prior to completion, to be tax-free for Ashland shareholders. Immediately following the separation, Ashland shareholders will own shares of both the new Ashland and Valvoline.

In July, Ashland announced that it was investing nearly $35 million to construct a new Valvoline office building in Lexington to bring employees there under one roof.

Jeffersontown: ADP Launches $26M expansion to consolidate locations

ADP LLC, a provider of retirement and benefit administration services, is investing nearly $26 million plans to grow its operations in Jeffersontown.

The company currently operates multiple facilities in Jefferson County and plans a significant renovation of its 160,000-s.f. facility on the Bluegrass Parkway in Jeffersontown in order to consolidate its operations at one location.

ADP, a subsidiary of Automatic Data Processing Inc., was founded in 1949 and has become a comprehensive global provider of cloud-based human capital management solutions that include human resources, payroll, tax and benefits administration and other services. The New Jersey-based company generates nearly $11 billion in annual revenue and serves more than 630,000 clients worldwide.

The company significantly grew its Kentucky operations through the acquisition of SHPS Inc. in 2012. The purchase expanded ADP’s overall footprint in the commonwealth to nearly 950 employees. The company also has operations in Covington and Lexington.

The Jeffersontown expansion is expected to be complete within a year and will create an additional 35 jobs.

Jeffersontown: Location makes area a good fit for online tux company

A new e-commerce tuxedo rental business plans to open a distribution and customer service facility in Jeffersontown that will create new 80 jobs.

Generation Tux is a subsidiary of zTux, a company founded by George Zimmer, the founder and former CEO of Men’s Wearhouse. The company provides customers with an online tutorial outlining how to obtain their tuxedo measurements. Those figures are then used to tailor the tuxedo specifically for the customer, who will receive the tux, shirt, shoes, cuff links and cummerbund or belt shipped to them free of charge seven days prior to their event. Customers have three days to return the items, again free of charge. Costs average around $150.

Should a customer find that the fit needs adjustments, the company will either send a replacement garment or make arrangements to have an alteration done by a local tailor.

“Generation Tux is just the type of innovative e-commerce company Louisville is looking to attract,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “With our central location, world-class UPS Worldport headquarters and our thriving logistics and e-commerce sector, Louisville has the environment that will help George Zimmer’s new company succeed.”

Fischer also noted that because of the company’s tech and coding needs, Generation Tux has partnered with Code Louisville – a program that teaches computer coding to young adults in the area – to mentor students and grow their software talent locally.

Lexington: Innovative Mattress Solutions moving HQ and 52 jobs from West Virginia to Lexington

Innovative Mattress Solutions, which operates in Kentucky as Sleep Outfitters, has announced plans to relocate its corporate headquarters from West Virginia to Lexington.

The company is investing nearly $2.4 million in the move, which will bring 52 new jobs to Lexington. The positions will range from operations, financing and information technology to marketing, human resources and sales.

IMS was founded in 1983 by Louisville native and University of Kentucky graduate Kimberly Brown Knopf, who opened the company’s first store in South Charleston, W. Va. The company has since grown to 155 stores in six states (West Virginia, Ohio, Kentucky, Tennessee, Alabama and Indiana) that operate as Mattress Warehouse, Sleep Outfitters and Mattress King.

IMS plans to move into the Lexington facility that previously served as headquarters for Tempur-Pedic (now Tempur-Sealy International Inc.). The facility includes warehouse distribution space that will provide IMS with a larger distribution facility for its Lexington operation, which has seen sales growth exceed the capacity of its current space.

The company has already announced plans to give back to its new headquarters community through a partnership with Tempur Sealy: The two companies are donating more than 40 Tempur-Pedic mattresses, foundations and bed frames to a local women’s shelter.

Louisville: Trilogy Health Services being bought by Griffin-American healthcare reit in $1.1b deal

Trilogy Health Services, a Louisville-based provider of senior healthcare services, has agreed to be acquired by Griffin-American Healthcare REIT III Inc. for approximately $1.125 billion via a joint venture with NorthStar Healthcare Income Inc.

Under the terms of agreement, Griffin-American will own 70 percent of the joint venture and will act as its manager, with NHI owning the remaining 30 percent.

Trilogy’s management team will continue to be led by the company’s founder and chief executive officer, Randy Bufford, and will maintain an investment of approximately $24 million. The Trilogy name will be retained and the company’s headquarters will remain in Louisville.

Bufford founded Trilogy in 1997 and has overseen the company’s growth into a leading owner-operator of 96 senior healthcare campuses throughout Indiana, Ohio, Michigan and Kentucky. The campuses offer a range of care, including assisted living, memory care, independent living and skilled nursing services. Trilogy’s operations also extend to the institutional PCA Pharmacy with four locations, and a rehabilitative services company, Paragon Rehabilitation. The company employs over 13,500 associates across all business lines.

Ron J. Jeanneault, chief executive officer and president of NorthStar Healthcare, noted that Trilogy has a “strong track record of delivering results.”

“Trilogy’s properties have a low average age, strong occupancy rates and a high-quality mix which, coupled with their robust development pipeline, creates an exciting addition to our portfolio that will continue to grow over time,” said Jeanneault.

The sale is expected to close by the end of the year.

Owensboro: Hollison growth cited as example of entrepreneurial success

A food safety solutions company that got its start with the Kentucky Innovation Network is investing nearly $1.2 million to expand its operations in Owensboro. The expansion will add 34 new jobs.

Hollison LLC was founded in 2005 and provides innovative sampling technology that gives food manufacturers a greater ability to detect contamination – biological, viral and chemical – before a product is shipped. By testing products, as well as the environment around the products, Hollison is able to identify potential risks within a much shorter time frame and more accurately than similar technology. The company will lease a 30,000-s.f. facility and purchase equipment needed to manufacture technology and facilitate further research and development.

Hollison is among the first clients to get its start with the Kentucky Innovation Network at the idea stage and remain involved with the network each step of the way throughout its growth and approval for state incentives.

Hollison was also the first client to locate in the Owensboro Centre for Business and Research business incubator, giving the company access to equipment and lowering initial costs, which contributed to the company remaining
in Kentucky.

“Hollison’s story is an American success story – that a creative individual with a bright idea and a lot of hard work can achieve remarkable things,” said Joe Berry, director of the Owensboro Kentucky Innovation Network office.

Somerset: Entrepreneurship awards honor region’s top business owners

The 2015 Excellence in Entrepreneurship Awards program recognized southeastern Kentucky’s top small business owners and entrepreneurs in September at The Center for Rural Development in Somerset.

The EIEA program promotes and recognizes the region’s business people who exemplify entrepreneurial spirit by creating and managing a successful business venture or nonprofit organization in Southern and Eastern Kentucky. This year’s winners were:

• Young Entrepreneur: Aaron Roberts, owner of Yard Farmers LLC, Somerset. Roberts started Yard Farmers, a complete grounds maintenance company, in 2005 at the age of 15 with one tractor and a bush hog. Ten years later, Roberts has six full-time employees and picked up one of his largest contracts ever in 2014, managing grounds maintenance for a 14,000-acre facility in central Kentucky.

• Not-for-Profit Entity: Eric Loy, chief executive officer/medical director, Cumberland Family Medical Center Inc., Burkesville. Cumberland Family Medical Center originated from a grassroots effort to provide better healthcare delivery to one of the most underserved areas of Kentucky. Today, the medical center is a thriving community healthcare network with 25 clinic locations, approximately 60 medical providers and 300 employees.

• Start-Up Business: Lidia Godbey, owner/fitness instructor, Turn It Up Dance & Fitness Studio, Somerset. Godbey started her dance and fitness studio in 2013 with a simple goal to unite the community through dance.

• For-Profit Business: Garry Conley, owner/president, Minuteman Press of London. Conley launched Minuteman Press in 2004 with one offset press. Eleven years later, the business continues to grow and has added wide-format posters and banners, promotional products, and direct mail to its growing list of customer services.

State: UK, UofL get $3.76M to create new micro/nanotechnology center

The University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville have received a $3.76 million National Science Foundation (NSF) grant to create a national center of excellence in micro/nanotechnology. The grant is one of just 16 awarded to more than 100 colleges and universities across the country that were competing for the funding.

UK and UofL are joining a new national network that will make university facilities, tools and expertise in nanoscale science, engineering and technology available to outside users.

The collaboration, said UK Provost Tim Tracy, “will establish our campuses and our commonwealth as hubs of next generation advanced manufacturing.”

Eight key nanotechnology and advanced manufacturing facilities at UK and UofL will provide a collaborative center for academia, small businesses and industry to “build miniature solutions for applications in healthcare, energy, security and beyond,” said Todd Hastings, director of the UK Center for Nanoscale Science and Engineering and UK College of Engineering professor.

The five year grant will be used to: enhance and upgrade advanced manufacturing equipment at UK and UofL research facilities, add staff to help train and support up to 500 additional external users, provide seed money for research projects in key advanced manufacturing areas, and engage more minorities and women in nanoscale science, engineering and technology.

“The next generation of commercial, medical, and industrial products will contain embedded tiny sensors and miniature wireless communication electronics,” said Kevin Walsh, director of UofL’s Micro/Nanotechnology Center. “New manufacturing technologies will need to be developed so these smart products can be made quickly, reliably and economically. UofL and UK are tackling those challenges.”

State: Ky small businesses getting more help to boost export trade

Small businesses throughout the commonwealth will be getting more state assistance to help them market their products worldwide, thanks to a $400,000 grant awarded to Kentucky by the U.S. Small Business Administration.

The SBA’s State Trade Export Promotion (STEP) program is designed to increase the number of small businesses that begin to export and to increase the value of exports for small businesses that already conduct international business. The latest grant is the fourth round of funding offered through the program. Kentucky previously received a $300,000 grant in 2014; a $276,000 grant in 2012; and $427,000 in 2011.

Kentucky uses the funds to lower the cost for small businesses wanting to participate in international trade missions, sales trips and subscription services provided by the U.S. Department of Commerce. The funds also assist companies with international marketing campaigns, export trade show exhibits, training workshops or other export initiatives.

The STEP grant directly aligns with the goals of the Kentucky Export Initiative, which was launched in 2010 to streamline and elevate the state’s efforts to help Kentucky businesses reach global markets. Since KEI launched, Kentucky exports have grown by more than 42 percent – compared to the national average of approximately 27 percent.

Fast Lane, Fast Lane, September 2015

Fast Lane: September 2015

The new Lake Barkley bridge, which will feature a basket-handle arch design, will have four travel lanes and a 10-foot pedestrian-bicycle path.

The new Lake Barkley bridge, which will feature a basket-handle arch design, will have four travel lanes and a 10-foot pedestrian-bicycle path.

Cadiz: Lake Barkley Bridge project drives improved tourism, commerce

Construction is now officially underway on a bridge to span Lake Barkley, the second part of the much-anticipated twin bridges project for Lake Barkley and Kentucky Lake that will improve travel safety for the area, which draws thousands of visitors each year.

The $128.3 million project will result in a four-lane bridge to carry U.S. 68/KY80 traffic and serve as the eastern entrance to the Land Between the Lakes National Recreation Area.

The new bridge will replace the Henry Lawrence Memorial Bridge, a narrow, two-lane structure built in 1932 that long ago ceased to meet design standards for modern volumes and vehicles such as recreational vehicles and freight carriers.

The new Lake Barkley bridge is expected to be open to traffic by October 2017. The new Kentucky Lake bridge is expected to be ready for traffic in December 2015, with completion in 2016.

Frankfort: Buffalo trace opens New $20M Automated distribution center

Buffalo Trace Distillery has completed the construction of its revolutionary new 83,000-s.f.  distribution center, which uses satellite technology to store and retrieve pallets of finished goods.

Buffalo Trace Distillery is believed to be the first spirits supplier to use this system, called an automated storage and retrieval system (AS/RS).

The $20 million investment at Buffalo Trace is part of parent company Sazerac’s $71 million investment in the state of Kentucky at its three distilleries: The Glenmore Distillery in Owensboro is receiving a new 223,00- s.f. distribution center that should be completed later this year or early 2016, and the Barton 1792 Distillery in Bardstown added new equipment to improve production capacity.

Buffalo Trace also recently completed a 5,500-s.f. expansion of its visitor’s center, which includes event space and four tasting bars.

Hebron: DHL Hiring 200 more at CVG to keep up with e-commerce growth

DHL is continuing to invest in its hub at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport to ensure that it has the capacity needed to meet the demands of future growth generated by the international shipping and global trade.

A $108 million investment announced this summer will create 50 new jobs when it is completed in late 2016, but in the near term, DHL is hiring 200 part-time and full-time staff to keep up with expected volume growth, including the traditional surge seen at year-end.

International e-commerce is one factor in the future growth that DHL anticipates. Current forecasts predict U.S. volume of online sales will grow nearly 38 percent from 2014 to 2017. E-commerce volume in the Asia Pacific region, already the world’s largest business-to-consumer e-commerce market, is expected to nearly double by 2017. The growth outlook for Latin American e-commerce is also strong, with a 30 percent gain by 2017.

The CVG hub, one of three DHL global hubs, connects the United States to the DHL global network spanning Asia, Europe and the Americas. Processing approximately 50 million international shipments annually, the CVG hub handles shipments bound for the United States, Canada, Mexico and Latin America.

“Our partnership with DHL is one of the important relationships we have at the airport,” said Candace McGraw, chief executive officer, Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport. “The additional cargo traffic generated by DHL allows CVG to keep costs low and stable.”

Hebron: PSA is opening full-service aircraft maintenance base at CVG

PSA Airlines, a Dayton, Ohio-based company that is a wholly owned subsidiary of American Airlines, is preparing to open a full-service maintenance base at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG).

PSA has been utilizing a third-party vendor at CVG to supplement the maintenance being performed at its own facilities, but a growing fleet has resulted in the need for an additional maintenance base location. Earlier this year, PSA announced that would receive 24 new Bombardier CRJ-900 NextGen aircraft that will operate under the American Eagle brand, in addition to 47 CRJ700s that are being transferred to PSA. The company is on track to have 150 jets by 2017.

“Having our own maintenance base at CVG will significantly enhance our ability to more efficiently support the maintenance requirements for the rapidly growing fleet of large RJ (regional jet) aircraft,” said PSA Vice President of Maintenance and Engineering Kevin Reinhalter. “It has been the intention, and desire, to carry out this work with our own staff of professionals.”

The CVG facility will have space to simultaneously accommodate up to five CRJ-900 aircraft and the company is currently hiring airframe and powerplant maintenance technicians, store clerks, and supervisory and managerial personnel for the CVG base.

Tech upgrades at Rupp Arena will enable the facility to accommodate more concerts and other events.

Tech upgrades at Rupp Arena will enable the facility to accommodate more concerts and other events.

Lexington: Rupp arena to get $15M tech upgrade with wi-fi and HD Video

Rupp Arena is getting a $15 million technology overhaul that will include a new center-hung video, audio and scoreboard array, wireless Internet for fans, and major structural improvements so that the venue can attract more concerts and major events.

Work on the upgrades is already underway and will be executed in phases over the next 17 months so that arena programming will not be interrupted.

The board of directors authorized installation of LED ribbon boards on the upper arena fascia at a cost of $800,000, provided by Rupp’s media partner, Learfield Sports. The ribbon board will be installed and functional for the upcoming UK basketball season.

Other improvements will include the installation of new venue video production equipment, bringing the system to an HD level, and replacing the four corner LED screens with HD screens.  The project will be completed during December between UK games so fans will experience the upgrades as they occur.

The center-hung audio/video scoreboard will be installed during the summer of 2016 and completed in time for the 2016-17 UK men’s basketball season. Upgraded Wi-Fi will also be installed before the 2016-17 season as well as improvements to the roof’s steel support structure. Arena officials said upgrades to the roof structure are needed as concerts and other productions have increasingly gotten larger and heavier.

The $15 million improvements will be financed through the sale of Lexington Center bonds, which will be conducted in early 2016. The bonds will not require guarantee of the Lexington-Fayette Urban County Government.

Louisville: GE’s $100M Investment in Louisville plant represents its largest launch in 20 years

The new washers being built by GE Appliance in Louisville feature high-performance settings and specialty cycles to treat stains.

The new washers being built by GE Appliance in Louisville feature high-performance settings and specialty cycles to treat stains.

General Electric is investing more than $100 million in a new top-load washer design and expanded manufacturing capability at its laundry plant in Louisville. The investment represents the largest laundry launch for GE in 20 years.

“While frontload washers have surged in popularity the last decade, the traditional topload washer is 75 percent of washer sales and remains the most popular style of washer in the U.S. today,” said Peter Pepe, general manager for clothes care at GE Appliances.

The investment is part of a larger $250 million investment in the Louisville plant that was announced earlier this year and comes despite the fact that GE Appliances is being acquired by Electrolux in a $3.3 billion deal announced last September.

Russell County: 2 more rural towns in ky get new gigabit internet service

Joining Russellville in Logan County, which launched its own municipal gigabit service in late 2013, two rural communities in Russell County – Jamestown and Russell Springs – are new gigabit Internet communities in Kentucky and join just a few dozen communities across America to now offer super-fast Internet speeds.

The new service, named Lightspeed G, provides download speeds of 1Gbps, which is 100 times faster than Duo County’s standard Internet service. As a result, Russell County businesses that need to access cloud resources and download and transmit large data files will experience immediate results.

Duo County Telecom, a regional telecommunications provider, has completed installing major portions of a new fiber-optic network that will be available to both businesses and residential customers in Russell County.

“We are excited by what we are seeing develop in the handful of communities nationwide that offer gigabit Internet services and look forward to pursuing what it can mean right here in Russell County,” said Tom Preston, executive vice president and CEO of Duo County Telecom. “Lightspeed G provides an economic development tool that will enable our existing business sectors like automotive manufacturing and healthcare to grow their reach and scope of operations.”

Richmond: Ashland CTC Becomes 4th EKU 2+2 aviation program partner

Aircraft with an Eastern Kentucky University logo are becoming a frequent site at the Ashland Regional Airport, thanks to a new agreement between EKU and Ashland Community and Technical College (ACTC).

EKU currently offers the nation’s only Federal Aviation Administration-approved “1,000-hour power” 2+2 degree pathway to aviation careers – enabling students to earn a two-year associate degree at a community and technical college and then complete their bachelor’s degree in aviation from EKU and earn their pilot credentials, all without leaving Kentucky. The program really took off in 2013, when the FAA granted special authority for EKU aviation-professional flight graduates to take the Restricted Airline Transport Pilot (R-ATP) check ride at 1,000 hours, instead of waiting for the previous 1,500 hours.

The partnership with ACTC is the fourth such agreement EKU has inked with community and technical colleges around the state in an effort to prepare pilots for the 500,000 openings expected over the next 20 years. The university already has similar agreements in place with community and technical colleges in Hazard, Middlesboro and Owensboro and hopes to blanket the state – and even the nation – where community and technical colleges are co-located with a regional airport. EKU already has a 2+2 agreement in process in Central Oregon Community College.

Wickliffe: Verso will idle paper mill, cut 300 jobs as demand crumples

Citing a drop in demand and a change in its industry’s net trade balance, Verso Corp. announced in late August that it is reducing production capacity at its paper plant in Maine and plans to indefinitely idle its paper mill in Wickliffe, Ky. The changes are slated to go into effect beginning in October.

Officials with the Memphis-based company said Verso’s decision to reduce its production capacity was driven by several factors. North American coated paper demand is in secular decline, down 4.7 percent in the first half of 2015, following declines of 3.4 percent and 4.3 percent in 2014 and 2013, respectively, according to stats from the Pulp and Paper Products Council.

In addition, they say, the effects on U.S. producers have been made significantly worse by a change in the net trade balance due to the strengthening of the U.S. dollar relative to foreign currencies, which has resulted in increased foreign imports from Asia, Europe and Canada and decreased U.S. exports. In addition, high operating costs in Maine, especially high energy costs and local property taxes, were contributing factors.

The Wickliffe Mill has one machine with the capacity to produce 280,000 tons of coated paper and 30,000 tons of dried market pulp. The indefinite idling of the Wickliffe Mill will result in the lay-off of approximately 310 employees. The production cuts in Maine will eliminate another 300 jobs.

Eastern Kentucky: Promise zone efforts to create development, jobs are now beginning to pay off

Within the past 18 months, more than $200 million in funding has been identified for projects over the next five to seven years in Kentucky’s Promise Zone of Bell, Harlan, Letcher, Perry, Leslie, Clay, Knox and part of Whitley counties. The funds come from a combination of federal grants, private foundations, federal loans, private investments and other sources of money from outside the Promise Zone.

The Promise Zone Initiative empowers federal agencies to partner with local communities and businesses in creating jobs, increasing economic security, expanding educational opportunities, building private investment and improving public safety.

Kentucky Highlands Investment Corp. is coordinating and managing the process, but there are 55 Promise Zone partners — ranging from the private sector to local governments to nonprofit organizations. USDA is the lead implementing federal agency for the Kentucky Promise Zone.

Investments already are being made in areas such as education; medical facilities; college and career readiness; online information technology degree and certificate programs; workforce training; health and anti-drug initiatives; and housing and energy-efficiency projects. Some highlights include:

Almost $20 million from USDA for a pilot project to help Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) participants find jobs and ultimately work toward self-sufficiency.

$30 million in private investment by Keeneland Racing Association to build Thunder Gap on the Corbin Bypass. It is expected to create about 2,000 jobs and $10 million in tax revenues over the next five years with 100 to 150 permanent jobs.

More than $44 million in grants for education projects that support a college-going culture and mental health initiatives.

An announcement that Kowa Kentucky Inc. will open a facility in Corbin to manufacture surface treatment for automotive suppliers and create 30 jobs. It is the first North American plant for Kowa and the first Japanese company to locate in the Promise Zone.

Co-investment from the state and federal governments in local companies such as Phillips Diversified, which is headquartered in Manchester. KHIC completed two loans last year with Phillips Diversified –  one loan in partnership with the Economic Development Cabinet and the other with USDA to create about 40 jobs.

State: New authority created to run statewide broadband project

Gov. Steve Beshear signed an executive order last month creating the Kentucky Communications Network Authority (KCNA) and its governing board to manage the KentuckyWired open-access broadband network.

The goal of the project is to create high-speed Internet connectivity throughout the entire state to enhance economic development and workforce and educational opportunities while sustaining Kentucky’s economy.

“Broadband, like electricity, water and sewer, is now an essential service but has been too expensive for private carriers to build out a high-speed, high-capacity network across the entire state,” Beshear said. “With KentuckyWired, or the I-Way, an open-access network, the state will be responsible for building out the middle portion of a fiber network, similar to our interstate system of roads.”

Over the next two to three years, more than 3,000 miles of fiber infrastructure, often referred to as the “middle mile,” will be built.

“In nearly every ranking of broadband capacity and adoption, Kentucky ranks at or near the bottom,” Beshear said. “The potential to tap into the global economy, compete for higher paying jobs, collaborate with researchers across the globe, take classes online, or access increased medical care make KentuckyWired one of the most important infrastructure projects for all of Kentucky.”

Eastern Kentucky will be the first priority region for the broadband project.

August 2015, Fast Lane, Fast Lane

Fast Lane: August 2015

STATE: Aetna Plans to acquire Humana for $37b; says it will retain ‘significant presence’ in Louisville

After weeks of speculation that an acquisition was in the works, Humana Inc. announced on July 3 that it had agreed to a merger with Connecticut-based Aetna to create a new healthcare organization.

Aetna will acquire all outstanding shares of Louisville-based Humana for a combination of cash and stock valued at $37 billion or approximately $230 per Humana share based on the closing price of Aetna common shares on July 2. The transaction is expected to close next year.

In a joint statement, the companies said the combined entity “will help drive better value and higher-quality healthcare by reducing administrative costs, leveraging best-in-breed practices from the two companies – including Humana’s chronic-care capabilities that measurably improve health outcomes for larger populations – and enabling the company to better compete with more cost-effective products.”

The merger brings together Humana’s growing Medicare Advantage business with Aetna’s diversified portfolio and commercial capabilities to create a company serving the most seniors in the Medicare Advantage program and the second-largest managed care company in the United States. Aetna Executive Vice President Shawn M. Guertin said the merger will create savings of $1.25 billion annually in 2018, enabling the company to offer more affordable products.

Though integration plans are still in progress, the companies have announced that Aetna will make Louisville the headquarters for its Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE businesses and will maintain a significant corporate presence in Louisville.

With nearly 14,000 employee and contractors, Humana is one of the largest employers in the state. Though no details have been released, Humana CEO Bruce Broussard said the combined company will maintain – and possibly increase – its employment levels in Louisville.

The combined company will have projected 2015 operating revenues of approximately $115 billion, approximately 56 percent of which is tied to government-sponsored programs (including Medicare and Medicaid).

STATE: KY’s Small-Business funding draws 5 new high-tech companies

Five high-tech businesses – two of which are based out of state but are relocating to the commonwealth – have been awarded more than $1.5 million as part of a program that is seeing continued success in attracting small, technology-based businesses to Kentucky.

The funds are made available through Kentucky’s competitive Small Business Innovation Research (SBIR) and Small Business Technology Transfer (STTR) matching funds program. Since the program’s inception in 2006, the state has matched all or parts of federal SBIR/STTR awards received by Kentucky-based companies. Out-of-state companies are also eligible for funding, should they decide to relocate to Kentucky. The program has grown substantially since 2006 and has led to an increase in the number of companies pursuing SBIR/STTR grants and out-of-state businesses relocating to the state to capitalize on the funding opportunity.

The companies receiving awards in the second quarter of 2015 include:

Gismo Therapeutics, Inc. (Fayette County), which recently moved from New York to Lexington, is developing a class of small molecule therapeutics to disrupt the inflammation cycle of rheumatoid arthritis.

Hera Testing Labs (Fayette County) is developing laboratory and animal tests to make the drug development process more accurate, cost effective and predictive.

Lakota Technical Solutions Inc. (Howard, Maryland) is developing a software-based tool to more accurately and efficiently simulate electronic warfare scenarios.

TherapyX Inc. (Jefferson County) is relocating to Louisville from New York and is developing a novel drug delivery system for a gonorrhea vaccine.

TutorGen Inc. (Campbell County has created LOGIC (Linkage Objects for Generalized Instruction in Coding) to help bridge the gap for new students trying to learn coding.

EASTERN KENTUCKY: program will recruit dentists to eastern Kentucky by forgiving student loans

Kentucky has launched a dentist recruitment program aimed at promoting sustained oral health and well being in Eastern Kentucky.

The new loan forgiveness program is supported by $500,000 in state funds and is available to recent graduates who are establishing or joining a new private practice or purchasing an existing practice in a designated distressed county. Priority will be given to dental students from Eastern Kentucky wishing to return to practice in the designated geographic area.

According to the Kentucky Department for Public Health, Kentucky ranks 41st in annual dental visits; 45th in the percentage of children with untreated dental decay; and 47th in the percentage of adults 65 and older missing six or more teeth.

The dental schools at the University of Kentucky and University of Louisville will administer the program, providing two to five awardees $100,000 each for a two-year commitment. According to the American Dental Association, dentists completing dental school now come out with a debt of around $280,000.

“Many of our UK and UofL dental graduates from the Appalachian counties want to return home to practice – but high levels of student debt complicate their decisions about starting a practice in rural Kentucky,” said M. Raynor Mullins, associate director of the Kentucky Oral Health Research Network. “This new program will help a new cohort of dental graduates return home to serve and realize their dreams.”

BOWLING GREEN: Procom heating will move operations to KY from China

ProCom Heating Inc., a California-based company that specializes in vent-free gas heating appliances, has announced plans to relocate its China-based manufacturing facility to Bowling Green.

ProCom has had a sales/customer service office in Bowling Green since 2012 and currently employs a staff of 14 full-time workers. The company is now planning a $19 million expansion that will add approximately 310,000 s.f. to its existing Bowling Green facility and plans to move all of its manufacturing and assembly from China to the U.S.

The expansion is expected to create 37 new jobs.

The expansion will take place in three stages, starting with the addition of a 140,000-s.f. manufacturing facility in 2016. ProCom will then add approximately 30,000 s.f. of office space in 2017 before completing the project with another addition that will be used for warehouse space. The expansion as a whole will take ProCom’s Bowling Green facility to more than 440,000 s.f.

HEBRON: Allegiant to establish airline base of operations at CVG

Allegiant Travel Co. has announced plans to establish a base of operation at the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport, beginning in January 2016.

The Las Vegas-based commercial air carrier will base up to three 156-seat Airbus 319 aircraft at CVG, creating more than 90 local jobs for pilots, flight attendants and airport service personnel.

Allegiant announced that it is also adding five additional weekly flights to its fall and winter schedule, increasing frequencies to some of its most popular destinations from CVG. The expansion includes extended service to Savannah/Hilton Head through Nov. 29 as well as additional flights to Las Vegas, Fort Lauderdale and Tampa Bay/St. Petersburg.

Allegiant started service from CVG in February 2014 with four weekly flights to two destinations and has since grown to more than 35 weekly flights to 11 destinations. In February 2014, Allegiant carried approximately 2,800 new monthly passengers; it now averages more than 25,000 new passengers per month. That growth has made CVG the fastest-growing market in Allegiant’s 16-year history and pushed its employment level at CVG to nearly 100.

“The Greater Cincinnati area has quickly become one of our strongest markets with a demonstrated demand for low-cost vacation travel,” said Jude Bricker, Allegiant’s senior vice president of planning. “The establishment of an aircraft base at CVG will further increase the efficiency of our operations, while continuing our drive to be Cincinnati’s leading low-fare carrier.”

HENDERSON: Big rivers will sell power wholesale to offset smelters loss

The Kentucky Public Service Commission has approved a settlement that permits Henderson-based Big Rivers Electric Corp. to sell wholesale power to several customers in Nebraska to help offset the costs incurred by the loss of two of its major customers.

In the last two years, aluminum smelters in Hawesville and Sebree stopped purchasing power from Big Rivers, having been approved by the PSC to purchase power on the open market.  The two smelters at one time accounted for about two-thirds of Big Rivers’ load and revenue. Since October 2013, the PSC has twice approved rate increases that allowed Big Rivers to maintain financial stability following the loss of the smelters.

Big Rivers is owned by the three distribution cooperatives that serve about 112,000 customers in 26 counties in western Kentucky. The customers include about 20 large industrial facilities.

Because the loss of the smelters left Big Rivers with excess electric generating capacity, the utility has shuttered one power plant and has sought opportunities to sell power to outside customers on the open market.

LEXINGTON: UK Moving forward with plan to build more residence halls

The University of Kentucky board of trustees has approved the next phase of the university’s on-campus housing revitalization that will bring the to-date total of beds delivered or under development to 6,504.

Memphis-based EdR, a leading developer of collegiate housing, will provide financing, oversee development and construction and be responsible for maintenance and management while UK provides residence life services.

Scheduled for completion in 2017, University Flats will be composed of a seven-story building that will provide separate living communities for upper-level undergraduate students, and graduate and professional students. The complex will provide 771 beds in 312 apartments in various styles and sizes from studios to four bedrooms, each with furnishings and a full kitchen.

The largest on-campus housing development in American public higher education to date, UK’S revitalization began in spring 2012, when UK and EdR formalized a partnership and broke ground on the first phase – a 601-bed community dedicated to UK’s Honors program and students – that opened in August 2013. Since then, EdR and UK have opened new communities each year: In 2014, five buildings with 2,381 beds opened; three buildings with 1,610 beds are on schedule to open this summer. On schedule to open in 2016 are two buildings with 1,140 beds.

“Our public-private partnership with EdR has helped transform our housing in record time while allowing us to focus UK’s financial and human resources on other capital projects, namely, our new academic science building, medical campus and state-of-the-art student center, ” said Eric Monday, UK’s executive vice president for finance and administration.

LEXINGTON: Major engineering firm adding 100 more jobs downtown

Belcan, an engineering services and technical staffing provider, is adding 100 jobs in Lexington as part a $1.2 million expansion there.

Belcan is planning to lease an additional 15,000 s.f. in Lexington’s Vine Center to accommodate the increased number of engineers needed to support one of its newest customers, Pratt & Whitney, a commercial and military aerospace gas turbine engine supplier. Belcan initially opened its Lexington office in 2005 to service a growing aerospace contract with Sikorsky Aircraft Corp.

Headquartered in Cincinnati, Belcan was founded in 1958 by Ralph G. Anderson, an engineering graduate of the University of Kentucky. The company now has more than 6,000 employees in 49 locations around the world and is a major supplier of engineering, project management and technical staffing solutions to a wide array of industries.

LEXINGTON: New York Private equity firm acquires Fazoli’s restaurants

Fazoli’s, a Lexington-based quick-service Italian restaurant chain, has been sold to Sentinel Capital Partners for an undisclosed price.

Sentinel is a private equity firm headquartered in New York that invests in promising companies at the lower end of the middle market.

“Fazoli’s has consistently outperformed its competitors and will be a very strong addition to our restaurant portfolio,” said John McCormack, a partner at Sentinel. “The business has demonstrated robust financial performance and recently built impressive momentum. Fazoli’s is positioned as ‘affordable fast casual’ and combines the strengths of the fast-casual, quick-service and full-service formats, which is a competitive differentiator and also provides resilience during economic downturns. We are highly impressed with Fazoli’s’ management team and look forward to working closely with them to drive future growth.”

“Our new partnership with Sentinel is an exciting move for us, and we plan to benefit from their deep investment experience in the restaurant sector,” said Fazoli’s CEO Carl Howard. “We have been engaged in a very exciting and successful period of investment, innovation and growth during which we sharpened the focus of our brand strategy, optimized and upgraded our menu, and expanded our geographic profile.”

Founded in 1988, Fazoli’s now has 213 locations across the United States. Last year, the company expanded its concept to include 11 locations at travel centers and opened its first campus location at Texas Tech University. This year, it has been testing an expanded menu, introduced table service and unveiled a contemporary new restaurant design.

LOUISVILLE: LG&E/KU OPens gas fired  power plant; cuts coal reliance 13 percent

After more than two years and 2 million construction hours, Louisville Gas and Electric (LG&E) and Kentucky Utilities Co.’s (KU) new 640-megawatt natural gas combined-cycle generating unit – known as Cane Run Unit 7 – is now operational.

The unit, which is the first of its kind in the state, generates electricity through two gas turbines and then uses the exhaust heat from those units to generate steam and produce additional electricity using a steam turbine.

The unit replaces the bulk of 800 megawatts of coal-fired generation as the company retires 13 percent of its energy production from coal-fired units in response to stricter federal carbon emission mandates.

To offset the costs associated with the new unit, the Kentucky Public Service Commission approved an increase in the base rates charged to Kentucky Utilities’ electric customers and LG&E natural gas customers, which went into effect July 1. While the monthly basic service charge remains unchanged, the per-kilowatt charge has been modified to provide additional annual cost-recovery revenues of $125 million for KU. A residential LG&E electric customer, using an average of 984 kWh per month, will see a 10-cent decrease in their overall monthly bill. A residential LG&E natural gas customer, using an average of 57 Ccf per month, will see an increase of $1.23 per month. A KU residential customer, using an average of 1,200 kWh per month, will see an increase of $8.98 per month.

LOUISVILLE: Metro council winS suit; minimum wage in city rises to $7.75

Effective July 1, Louisville’s minimum wage increased to $7.75 per hour after a court ruled that the metro government has the authority to establish a minimum wage for the city.

In December, the Louisville Metro Council passed an ordinance to raise the minimum wage within city limits to $9 an hour, up from $7.25, over the next three years. Later, a number of organizations, including the Kentucky Restaurant Association, filed a suit to have the ordinance voided, claiming the body did not have the legal authority to raise wages above that set by the Kentucky General Assembly.

Jefferson County Circuit Court Judge Judith McDonald-Burkman sided with the metro council.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said the ruling will help Louisville families.

“I’m pleased the court has upheld my right to enact a minimum wage, as well as other local governments,” Fischer said. “The Metro Council and I took this step last summer to provide working families a higher minimum wage because we know that many struggle to pay for housing, food, clothing and medical care.  Today’s favorable ruling will have a real impact on many Louisville families.”

The decision could have implications in Lexington, which is considering raising its city’s minimum wage as well.

LOUISVILLE: Kitchen incubator space fosters start-up food businesses

Community Ventures, a Lexington-based nonprofit corporation, has begun renovating a former restaurant in Louisville to create Louisville’s first kitchen incubator.

Also known as culinary incubators, kitchen incubators are dedicated to fostering early-stage catering, retail and wholesale food businesses. Members are given the opportunity to jump-start their food business with a fully licensed and outfitted commercial kitchen, support services, advice and programs to help build their business.

Louisville’s new kitchen incubator, Chef Space, will occupy the former Jay’s Cafeteria and will provide commercial kitchen space and business support services for up to 50 food-related early-stage businesses. The 13,000-s.f. site will also house a retail outlet and meeting spaces that will be open to the community.

Chef Space will be led by Johnetta Roberts, president, and Chris Lavenson, vice president. A late October opening is planned.

Current Issue, Economic Development, Fast Lane, March 2015, Special

Kentucky Takes 2014 Governor’s Cup

gov cupKentucky’s record-breaking 2014 economic development efforts are gaining national notice. The commonwealth placed first nationally in Site Selection magazine’s annual Governor’s Cup rankings for new and expanded industry activity per capita in 2014.

Site Selection editor Mark Arend came to the state Capitol from Atlanta on March 3 and presented the Governor’s Cup trophy to Gov. Steve Beshear at a happy ceremony.

“Winning the prestigious Governor’s Cup is a true honor,” Beshear said. “Kentucky works extremely hard to build and maintain relationships with our companies, and we go the extra mile to support their plans for growth. The Governor’s Cup speaks to the dedication of everyone in this state who’s working to build Kentucky’s economy, grow jobs and create success for our industries, our communities and all Kentuckians.”

site selection coverIn addition to the Governor’s Cup, Site Selection recognizes top metropolitan and micropolitan areas for their economic development successes. The Top 10 Metro Areas Ranking includes Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky (ranked third) and Louisville (ninth) in the top tier category (population over 1 million), and Bowling Green (fourth) in the tier three category (population less than 200,000).

In the commonwealth’s portion of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky metro area in 2014, there was $224 million of investment by expanding or locating companies. Northern Kentucky Tri-County Economic Development Corp. reports 23 companies announced projects in the Boone, Campbell and Kenton County region and that 2,087 new direct jobs are projected as a result.

“Northern Kentucky Tri-ED facilitated significant growth in target industries, such as advanced manufacturing, e-commerce/logistics and technology, in 2014,” Tri-ED President and CEO Dan Tobergte said. “Automotive suppliers, advanced manufacturers and other existing industries contributed significantly to Kentucky’s success in 2014.”

Kentucky had 10 communities make the magazine’s Top Micropolitans list. Those communities include: Paducah, Danville, Campbellsville, Frankfort, Glasgow, Mount Sterling, Maysville, Madisonville, London and Fulton/Union City.

The Louisville metro area improved seven spots from the year before and made the largest jump of any metro area in the Top 10 to achieve its ninth ranking among metro areas with populations over 1 million – Louisville secured 31 company expansions, relocation and business development projects, which represented more than 5,000 new jobs and $1 billion in investments during 2014.

“This ranking is further evidence that we have a solid game plan for job creation and it’s producing strong results,” Mayor Greg Fischer said. “We still have much work to do, especially in the area of wage growth, but clearly businesses of all kinds are recognizing our strategic advantages and strong quality of life.”

Last year, Kentucky announced more than 350 new location and expansion projects, which are projected to create nearly 15,000 jobs and more than $3.7 billion in new investment. That is the most business investment in Kentucky since the state started recording investment data nearly 30 years ago.

Kentucky is at its lowest unemployment rate at 5.7 percent in seven years – down from 10.7 percent in 2008. Nearly 70 percent of the state’s announced new investment and jobs came from existing Kentucky businesses.

“Though we still have plenty of work to do, this is a very exciting time for Kentucky’s economy,” said Secretary Larry Hayes with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. “More and more companies are seeing the value of doing business in the commonwealth, and the ones that are already here are growing. Winning the Governor’s Cup shows that what we’re doing to help businesses succeed is working.”

Site Selection has rated the states annually since 1978. ■

Advanced Manufacturing, Current Issue, Economic Commentary, Economic Development, Education, Fast Lane, Faster Lane, Features, Features, March 2015, One-On-One, One-on-One, Technology, Workforce Development

One-on-One: Kentucky auto manufacturing finds its voice

Tatman 81414-4

Dave Tatman was recently named as the inaugural executive director of the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association. He also serves at Western Kentucky University as associate vice president for advanced manufacturing. Tatman retired after a 34-year career at General Motors, where he most recently served as plant manager for the Corvette Assembly Facility in Bowling Green. During his time at the Bowling Green plant, Tatman led five consecutive model-year launches and oversaw a $131 million investment to upgrade the plant and equipment, adding 350 new jobs, to produce the all-new 2014 Corvette Stingray, which was named as the NA Car of the Year in January 2014. Tatman, who holds a bachelor’s degree in science, industrial and systems engineering from Ohio State University and a master of business administration, corporate policy from Michigan State University, recently co-authored a book on leadership entitled “Building Cathedrals – The Power of Purpose.”

Ed Lane: In April 2014, Gov. Steve Beshear announced the formation of a new entity, the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association (KAIA). The association has a 12-person board of directors and is chaired by Larry Hayes, secretary of the Cabinet for Economic Development. Secretary Hayes in July announced your selection as the executive director. You have been in your new position about eight months. What are your specific duties as executive director of the KAIA?
Dave Tatman: Let’s step back to March 2014, when I retired from Corvette (as manager of GM’s Bowling Green Assembly Plant). I decided to retire because my family and I wanted to stay in Kentucky. I had a terrific 34-year career at General Motors; I loved every minute of it. There are some challenging times, as you well know, but the Corvette plant had been my 13th GM location, and I didn’t want to have a 14th. My wife and daughter and I had fallen in love with Kentucky. I chose to leave General Motors, without a real clear plan for my next career steps. But I had this notion that I wanted to work on a little larger scale. I had enjoyed tremendous success with General Motors, capped off by the incredible launch and success of the new Corvette Stingray.
I was starting to explore some options when I got a phone call from Secretary Hayes. He congratulated me on my GM retirement and then asked what my next steps would be, and I said I wasn’t sure. He said he had an idea. And so that began our conversations, even before the announcement had been made about the (formation of) KAIA. On the first of July, I started full-time as executive director with the association. It was very important to the governor and the KAIA board of directors that the organization be seen and perceived as industry-driven. The KAIA fit perfectly into what I wanted: to work on a larger scale. My charge, at the direction of our board of directors, is to build the KAIA into a common voice for the auto industry in Kentucky. The industry is vital to the economy of the commonwealth, but prior to last summer Kentucky really didn’t have an organization that represented the state’s auto industry.

EL: What are the primary missions of the KAIA?
DT: The KAIA has established four objectives. The first is branding. The auto industry doesn’t have a brand in Kentucky. When the governor goes to speak to the conferences in Germany, they’ll often scratch their heads and say, “Kentucky?” When I talk to groups around the state and the country about Kentucky being the third-largest state in terms of automotive production, they’re like, “Really?” So we need to brand the industry and demonstrate that Kentucky is a great place to operate an automotive business.
The KAIA’s second objective is advocacy – to be a voice for the auto industry. This is actually a very comfortable position for me because I understand the life of my colleagues in the industry throughout Kentucky. The fact is, the pace of the automotive business is such that managers rarely have time to look beyond today or tomorrow. And the issues that we face as an industry in terms of our opportunities for growth and overcoming obstacles to expansion are issues a plant manager doesn’t address because he doesn’t have time. You worry about it, but it never gets to the top of your to-do list. I spent 34 years running operations.
I know how to run a factory. I know I ignored important objectives during that time because they were outside the four walls of my plant. I didn’t have to worry about “that” issue; I was hoping somebody else was doing that. Well, I’m doing that now for the automotive industry. That’s the advocacy piece.
toyotas-crew Our third objective is leadership. Because auto manufacturing lacked a common voice as a Kentucky industry, it never really stood up as an industry and said, here’s our perspective. (It didn’t answer questions about) what does the automotive industry think about this?
The fourth and final objective, and really probably the one I spend the most of my time on, is workforce development. The biggest challenge we face in the automotive industry is having talented workers ready to take the jobs that are becoming available. And so that’s how I spend a lot of my time. I’m in middle and high schools; I’m at colleges and universities; I’m in the community and technical schools, working to ensure that exceptional occupational opportunities of our industry are known.

EL: How big is Kentucky’s automotive industry?
DT: The automotive industry in the state of Kentucky is comprised of about 460 different manufacturing plants, employing almost 90,000 employees. It’s a huge impact. It exports over $5.5 billion worth of automobiles and automotive products every year. In 2014, the state of Kentucky built over 1.2 million light vehicles and passenger cars. When you think about that in the context of things, that puts Kentucky third, behind only Michigan and Ohio. The epicenter of the automotive business is moving south, and Kentucky is right in the heart of that growth area and has the ability to take advantage of its central U.S. location.

EL: Is the KAIA underwriting a state auto industry economic impact study?
DT: The KAIA has partnered with UofL’s Urban Studies Institute to do an economic impact study for the automotive industry in Kentucky. It’s very similar to the study UofL did for the distilling industry – primarily the bourbon industry – that they released last fall. We want to fully understand that (dollar and job) multiplier effect of the auto industry. Is it four, is it nine, is it 12? There are a lot of jobs created for every job created in an auto manufacturing plant. We want to understand the metrics of economic development growth as it compares to neighboring states and to our competition. So we’re going to use that study to conduct nine regional workshops throughout the state in the spring and summer. Eighty of Kentucky’s 120 counties have some form of automotive business in them.

EL: Is the move to the South partly because of right-to-work?
DT: That’s a great question. I expected to talk about right-to-work today. I tend to agree with Gov. Beshear’s position. Right-to-work is very much a sensitive political issue today. We’re seeing the debate going on. About 25 of the 50 states now have some right-to-work legislation. We’re seeing the debate in Wisconsin right now. Michigan and Indiana both chose to go right-to-work recently. It is a tool for economic development. I think it was a very attractive issue for a lot of the European and Asian automakers who have located in the South. But in our state, we find both union and nonunion firms working very effectively.
I’ve got members on both sides of the equation, so I don’t take a firm stance on right-to-work. I say, let’s leave it to the legislature; see what the government decides to do about it. There are potentially companies who won’t consider Kentucky because it is not a right-to-work state, and I suppose – but I don’t know for a fact – the reverse could be true as well, that there are companies who located here because Kentucky does welcome unions. The evidence suggests that Kentucky’s done a tremendous job of attracting businesses in spite of a lack of right-to-work legislation.

Tatman-Vette-textEL: How was your working relationship with unions when you worked for GM?
DT: I worked 34 years in a union environment, and I never found a union official that I couldn’t work with. At the end of the day, we’re just a couple of people trying to make a living for our families. You approach it that way and you don’t say, “You’re wrong and I’m right.” Collaboration is the name of the game, so I’m not overly pro-union or right-to-work. I think both concepts can peacefully coexist, as they have in Kentucky for a long time.

EL: Does the free-market system equalize prices and wages in the auto industry? If you are a manufacturer and nonunion, you have to pay competitive wages to attract quality employees.
DT: Yes, especially in this environment of scarce labor. You know, we’re seeing that happen all the time. Walmart, for heaven’s sake, raised its minimum wage. All the guys at McDonald’s and Burger King are starting to scurry, and we just heard yesterday that Target is raising its wages. It is so interesting that states are having a debate on (raising their) minimum wage. Meanwhile, free market forces have taken over, and employers are starting to respond.

EL: Even though Ford had been manufacturing cars and trucks in Kentucky since 1913, do you think Toyota locating in Kentucky 30 years ago was especially important because it was a catalyst to expand the state’s automotive industry? At the time, the state’s economy was weak and population growth was static because not that many people were inmigrating to Kentucky, and some were outmigrating because they didn’t have jobs.
DT: Certainly Toyota deciding to build its operations in Georgetown was a huge benefit for the state of Kentucky. I congratulate all the leaders who recruited Toyota. Georgetown is now one of Toyota’s largest manufacturing facilities in the world and, of course, Toyota is going to launch the new Lexus there. But moreover, Toyota has exercised terrific corporate citizenry in the time they’ve been here in Kentucky. As Toyota worked to develop infrastructure, it also worked to develop relationships with government and jurisdictional entities, and Toyota has brought other businesses with them.
crossoverThere’s a huge incentive and impetus in the automotive industry to locate supplier plants in proximity to assembly plants. And as we move further in the technology of vehicle assembly, the original equipment manufacturers, or OEMs, do less and less in their plants utilizing their employees and rely more and more on service providers. So that industry is growing as well. Toyota has been here about 30 years; GM has been in Bowling Green about 30 years; Ford has been in Louisville over 100 years. Those OEMs are the foundations upon which Kentucky has built a terrific base of automotive business.

EL: How will the KAIA be funded?
DT: Upon founding the KAIA, each board member was regarded as a founding member. Our board is comprised of the three OEM members, a member from the Kentucky Economic Development Cabinet (Hayes as chairman) and eight other significant suppliers. And each of these firms primed the pump for the KAIA with a founder’s fee. And every member pays annual dues, so as the KAIA grows, dues revenue grows. And we’ll continue to see additional funding from special events and sponsorships to auto-related events that will continue to propagate the organization.

EL: What is your relationship with Western Kentucky University?
DT: At the same time that I was having conversations with the state and the KAIA, I was approached by WKU to talk about how the university could leverage my background, skills and experience to further auto industry relationships with the university. And so I work on a very limited part-time basis for WKU, connecting the dots in the south-central Kentucky region, in WKU’s region of influence, to try and ensure that when industries seek university assistance or partnerships, I can help facilitate that.

EL: Would WKU provide specialized training for people in the automotive industry, or would that be specifically through the Kentucky Community and Technical College System, which created the successful Advanced Manufacturing Technician program?
DT: It could be all of the above. One of the things we’re having a lot of discussion about is that there’s this very significant aluminum business development in south-central Kentucky and up along the Owensboro corridor, and the industry needs materials science and metallurgical engineering. The University of Kentucky is now setting up a terrific program in those areas, but short-term certification training is also needed, so WKU is focusing on that. The relationships that are most leverageable for an educational institution like WKU or UK or the University of Louisville are those collaboratively working with the auto industry on applied research. The auto industry doesn’t have the time, resources or desire to do a lot of research for research’s sake, but universities do, and they’ve got terrifically talented great young minds available. Those kinds of partnerships and industrial relationships have been developing for a long time and continue to develop in a significant way.

F-150EL: One of the highest priority issues for the auto industry is workforce development. What are some of the training programs available for persons who are interested in an auto manufacturing career?
DT: You’ve hit on a really critical issue here in Kentucky. Our situation, in terms of workforce readiness, is quite frankly no different than we see in other auto manufacturing centers around America. I heard all about it in South Carolina (in late February). Toyota and GM have been here about 30 years, which is the duration of a normal automotive career path – 30 or 35 years. Employees are now starting to retire. Job openings are also occurring because the auto business is globally expanding – the North American market is continuing to expand unbelievably – it hasn’t been that long ago 9 million cars a year were built in North America; now the industry is looking at building 18 million cars this year.
So not only is there increased auto sales, but we have a huge attrition of (retiring) employees also going on. The auto industry has a significant crisis on its hands with having people ready for these jobs. So I applaud the efforts of the Kentucky Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education (KY FAME). KY FAME is spreading statewide out of a program that was started in Georgetown by Toyota and the Bluegrass Community and Technical College. It’s a five-semester cooperative internship educational experience where the student goes to school two days a week full-time – and this is not two or three classes; they go from 8 a.m. to 5 p.m., a full work day – and they work three days a week. And after five semesters, students graduate with a dual-tracked apprenticeship now that allows them to become skilled maintenance technicians.
The skill sets that Kentucky FAME also teaches include problem solving, teamwork, and many other so-called softer side skills. Those are very important in the world that we work in today. I would venture to guess there are very few automotive employees in the state of Kentucky who don’t work in small groups, working on problems that their group faces. So all of those dynamics are in play as well.
There are a number of companies involved in FAME; it’s been around for about 13 years. In a conversation at a KAIA event in October 2014, I was talking with some of our members up in Northern Kentucky, which is a hotbed for some German auto (parts) manufacturers. At this event, we discussed what’s going on in Georgetown at the KCTCS school there, and the idea to start copying and pasting that training program around the state. So now we’ve got this terrific initiative going on with Kentucky FAME: A chapter is now operating in Northern Kentucky at Gateway Community College; in Louisville, Ford has a program at Jefferson Community College; a chapter is planned in Elizabethtown.
Much like Toyota, Ford had been working on this effort for a while, and the domestic big three have had a long history of apprenticeship programs. General Motors had stepped away from them for a long period of time because its auto production was shrinking; GM still had all these employees, so it didn’t have any need to train new employees. Well, now all of a sudden GM is saying, oh my gosh, we need qualified employees. If Ford were to graduate apprenticeships into regular skilled trades type of work, those employees could transfer under the provisions of the Ford UAW international agreement to other Ford plants around the country.

KFAM-EdBdEL: You started your career at GM as a college intern and retired from the company in 2014 as the plant manager of GM’s Corvette plant in Bowling Green. Are you a “poster boy” for a career in advanced manufacturing?
DT: I certainly was blessed with a terrific 34-year career at GM. I actually was selected in my sophomore year of college, in a competitive interview process, to be what was then called a “GM scholar,” where GM paid for my tuition and books and gave me a summer internship my last two years of school. So that set me on the path that said maybe this was a potential career. There was no obligation to go to work for GM when I graduated. I interviewed – it was a very good time to graduate; I had a number of offers – but I found myself comparing the other offers to the job I was going to do at GM. In some respects my career path at GM could be considered a case study. I got my master’s degree at night; I worked all day and went to the University of Michigan at night, and GM paid all my tuition and books for that degree.
That certainly facilitated my learning and knowledge of business systems. And things progressed from there. If one chooses that kind of career today, that’s certainly a typical or potential career path that may require sacrifices. You’d better be prepared for moving your family, working in a number of different locations, and that would usually include some international locations. I worked in three different countries: Canada, the U.S. and Brazil. And I moved my family five times. The four-year degree, starting with a business or engineering degree, and then working your way up, is absolutely a clear career path. But as I said, not everybody is motivated that way. When you look at a trillion-dollar student debt problem in this country, maybe college isn’t the right answer for everybody. Successful is a relative definition. Success could be having a satisfying career in advanced manufacturing that allows you to provide a quality lifestyle for your family.

EL: Since a limited number of the general public has actually been inside an “advanced manufacturing auto plant,” is there a perception about working in an auto plant that does not reflect reality?
DT: Absolutely! That’s a big problem. Not only do auto employers need to convince elementary, middle and high school students of the attractiveness of auto manufacturing jobs, but they’ve got to convince their parents of that as well. The Corvette plant is open to the public for tours every day that it runs cars. There are four public tours a day. In many ways, that was the only impression of GM and of automotive manufacturing that many people would ever get. Now Toyota does tours, and Ford does some limited tours, so there are those opportunities, but it was very important to me that whoever came in the door to see our plant walked away saying that it was a clean plant, well-lit, with workers fairly tasked with the jobs they have to do, that they’re ergonomically sensitive, that all those kinds of things were true.
That’s the manufacturing world we work in today. Now there are some tough jobs in manufacturing; don’t get me wrong. But by and large, the auto industry has elevated the whole scheme of things in manufacturing to where the jobs are good jobs. It will probably take another generation of workers until the perception that manufacturing is ‘dark, dirty and dangerous’ is completely eliminated. Employers expect you to come to work every day, to stay drug-free, to be at work on time, and to work until the end of the shift. But what’s wrong with that? That’s just a good work ethic.

EL: What are the pay ranges (for new trainees to highly experienced workers) in auto manufacturing jobs?
DT: It varies a lot from company to company. Probably the bottom end is around $15 an hour, and the top end can be north of $30, plus overtime. Plus Ford and GM both have, as part of their national agreements with the UAW, a profit-sharing plan that kicks in extra money. It’s a pretty good compensation package with benefits.

EL: Do you have a closing comment?
DT: As I said, I woke up every day and was excited to go to work at GM. I am so blessed to have a second career chapter that is equally exciting and fun for me. For 34 years I was confined to the four walls of a factory; I could hardly leave for lunch, and my life went in 6-second increments. So I’m enjoying very much the opportunity to travel the state, to get into different suppliers and automotive companies, to talk and to learn what really is on people’s minds. A huge amount of the automotive supplier business is done by very small firms. There are also some megaplayers in the supply business, as big as the OEMs, but the reality is that there are a lot of small shops around the state that, prior to the KAIA’s formation, never knew how they could get their voices heard. Well, there’s a way now, and I love being the person to talk to about Kentucky’s auto industry. ■

2015 Issues, Business Briefs, Business Briefs, Economic Development, Fast Lane, Features, February 2015

Fast Lane — Business Briefs

bigstock-Fast-lane-road-sign-stretch_smBOWLING GREEN

■ A 20th anniversary celebration, the opening of a new motorsports park and the international media attention resulting from a sinkhole that swallowed eight prized Corvettes resulted in a banner year for the National Corvette Museum in terms of attendance for 2014. The museum saw 251,258 visitors in 2014, well exceeding its previous record of 200,900 in 1999, the year of the museum’s fifth anniversary.

■ Bluegrass Supply Chain Services has invested more than $5 million to consolidate its three Bowling Green locations into one centralized corporate office and warehouse. The new facility provides an additional 160,000-s.f. of space, which will allow the company to serve several new customers. Founded in Bowling Green in 2002, Bluegrass Supply Chain Services offers warehousing, quality support, light assembly and transportation management services to automotive and food industry customers over a four-state region, with approximately 60 percent of its business serving customers outside the state. The company currently has 24 full-time workers and plans to add 55 employees as a result of the expansion.

CALVERT CITY

FLBB_Estron 2Estron Chemical Inc., a company that supplies products for the paint, coatings, adhesive and cosmetics industries, is investing nearly $5 million to build a new global process design and manufacturing support center in Calvert City, where it has been producing specialty polymers and resins since 1981. The new 10,000-s.f. plant – double the size of the company’s current facility – will accommodate equipment needed to support the company’s functions while also providing additional lab space.

DANVILLE

■ The Danville campus of Bluegrass Community and Technical College (BCTC) will add an advanced manufacturing technician program beginning this fall. The AMT program originated through collaboration between Toyota Motor Manufacturing and BCTC in 2010 to meet Toyota’s anticipated need for industrial maintenance employees with multidisciplinary technical skills and knowledge. In 2014, the Georgetown-based program expanded to include more than a dozen additional sponsoring companies in central Kentucky.

EDGEWOOD

FLBB_St-ElizabethHealthcareLogo 2St. Elizabeth Healthcare and St. Elizabeth Physicians are building a 75,000-s.f. medical office facility in Dearborn County, Ind., that will serve as a multi-specialty center as well as an expanded primary care office for St. Elizabeth Physicians’ Hidden Valley doctors. The new building is expected to be open by early 2016.

ELIZABETHTOWN

■ A new company, Atlas Development Group, has been launched to provide engineering consulting, technology development and OEM manufactured products to the firearms and ammunition industry. The company’s consulting services include a full range of product development expertise including design vetting, mechanical design and engineering, industrial design, materials and coating engineering, product testing and manufacturing implementation. The founders, a group of five former Remington Arms engineering professionals, plan to have 20 to 30 employees within 18 months.

FLORENCE

■ Gateway Community and Technical College is adding an associate degree program in supply chain management this year as a result of input from the newly formed Northern Kentucky Logistics Consortium. The consortium was formed last year by Gateway and a group of 22 industry leaders to develop a career pathway to guide and prepare workers for supply chain careers. The consortium developed the pathway by analyzing skill gaps, employment pipeline needs, and educational

HEBRON

■ The Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) has partnered with the American Heart Association and Medpace to create walking routes throughout the airport that allow both passengers and airport employees to burn some calories while waiting for their flights or taking a work break. Walking routes are marked in baggage claim, Concourse A, Concourse B and the tunnel connecting passengers from security to the concourses and include water-bottle filling stations along the walking routes. Passengers can find information about the walking routes at the CVG information booths and online at cvgairport.com.

■ Branson AirExpress will begin flying out of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) beginning May 7. The discount carrier will offer nonstop flights between CVG and Branson, Mo., with connections to New Orleans and Cancun, Mexico. The flights will be operated by Orange Air, utilizing MD-83 aircraft. The flight service will be offered three days a week, departing CVG on Mondays, Thursdays and Saturdays and returning on Wednesdays, Fridays and Sundays.

HIGHLAND HEIGHTS

■ Northern Kentucky University and the NKU Chase College of Law have added a new “3+3 Accelerated Law Program.” The program will allow high-performing students to earn bachelor’s and juris doctor degrees in six years rather than the traditional seven.

LEXINGTON

FLBB_WilsonEquipment 2■ Wilson Equipment Co. has purchased the assets of Louisville-based Bale Equipment Solutions, an acquisition that expands the Lexington-based company’s footprint into Louisville, Elizabethtown and southern Indiana. Wilson is now the authorized full-line dealer of Case Construction Equipment and is operating out of the former Bale Equipment locations in Louisville and Elizabethtown. Financial details of the transaction were not disclosed.

■ Kentucky-American Water Co. has received authorization from the Kentucky Public Service Commission to replace its 90-year-old filtration facility in Lexington, saying a new facility is the most cost-effective way to address the old building’s structural and operational problems. The estimated cost of the new facility is $15.6 million, according to Kentucky-American. The utility can seek rate recovery of the facility’s costs in a future rate case. Kentucky-American serves about 126,000 retail and nine wholesale customers in central Kentucky, with most of the retail customers in Lexington.

■ Cypress Residential Group has joined the Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate franchise network and will now operate as Better Homes and Gardens Real Estate Cypress. The firm remains under the leadership of principal broker Nick Ratliff and co-owners Kim Soper, David Graves and Brian Lubeck, and will serve Lexington, Georgetown, Paris, Nicholasville, Versailles, Richmond, Winchester, Frankfort, Mount Sterling and Danville.

LEXMARK LOGO■ Lexington-based Lexmark International Inc. has acquired Claron Technology Inc. for $37 million. The Toronto-based company is a leading provider of medical image viewing, distribution, sharing and collaboration software technology, and will become part of Lexmark’s Perceptive Software division.

■ Keeneland has announced that its April Two-Year-Olds in Training sale has been put on hiatus for 2015. “The ‘boutique sale’ model has become increasingly difficult to construct,” Keeneland President and CEO Bill Thomason said. “The April sale lacks a critical mass of horses, a key factor which makes our September Yearling, November Breeding Stock and January Horses of All Ages sales so successful. We will suspend the April sale this year and continue to review its viability in years to come.” The April sale has been held since 1993.

■ Thompson Street Capital Partners, a private equity firm based in St. Louis, and Tom Wimsett, founder and managing partner of Wimsett & Co., a Louisville payments consulting firm, have partnered with management to acquire Lexington-based EchoSat Communications. EchoSat is a developer and provider of technology solutions for the transmission, translation and security of vital payment data. The company operates a high-speed secure payment gateway (SPG) network with a particular focus on the petroleum and convenience store end markets. Terms of the transaction were not disclosed.

LOUISVILLE

■ American Airlines is discontinuing its three weekday nonstop flights between Louisville and New York’s LaGuardia Airport, effective March 29. American launched the service last spring, but the route only averaged about 40 passengers per day, which was less than the airline had originally anticipated. Delta plans to add a fourth weekday flight between Louisville and LaGuardia to compensate for the dropped flights, beginning April 7.

■ Kellco Precision Machine & Tool is planning to move from its Louisville location to a new 15,000-s.f. facility in southern Indiana. The new facility in Floyd County will be 50 percent larger than the company’s existing building and the company plans to add 15 employees to the existing 11-member staff to support an anticipated 30 percent to 50 percent increase in orders over the next three years.

■ A new bourbon certification program has been launched to educate Louisville’s hospitality staff and promote the state’s distinguished bourbon culture. After completing one of the Stave & Thief Society’s quarterly workshops to become a “certified bourbon steward,” workers will be able to “explain the city’s rich bourbon history, discuss Kentucky brands and guide customers to the ideal choice for their palate.”

■ Beam Suntory has announced plans to open a new visitors experience later this year in Louisville’s Fourth StreetFLBB_Bourbon.jpeg 2 entertainment district, on street level below the company’s Louisville offices. The Jim Beam Urban Stillhouse will include a small working distillery, a bottling line, a tasting experience and a variety of branded merchandise for sale.

■ Louisville-based Kindred Healthcare Inc. has completed its previously announced acquisition of Centerre Healthcare Corp. for a purchase price of $195 million in cash. Centerre currently operates 11 inpatient rehabilitation hospitals with 612 beds in partnership with some of the nation’s leading acute-care hospital systems through joint ventures. Centerre has two additional hospitals with a total of 90 beds under construction and scheduled to open in 2015, and a pipeline of additional potential hospitals in various stages of development.

■ The Kentucky Transportation Department has announced that Louisville’s new downtown bridge will open in January 2016, at least three months ahead of schedule. At that time, both directions of I-65 traffic will be moved to the new bridge and the Kennedy Bridge will be closed to allow for extensive repairs that will extend the life of that bridge.

FLBB_GE-KeurigBrewing_System_3 2■ General Electric has introduced a new refrigerator that will include a Keurig K-cup brewing system for making coffee. The new line – which represents an industry first – will be produced at the company’s Louisville plant. The refrigerator will have a suggested retail price of $3,300 and will be available in the third quarter of 2015.

MURRAY

■ Murray-based Paschall Truck Line is adding a new 4,000-s.f. facility in West Memphis, Ark., that will house operations offices and a drivers’ service area that features a break area, showers, laundry facility, game room and TV room. The company currently operates a truck maintenance facility in West Memphis, in addition to its truck maintenance facility in Murray. In addition to its Murray headquarters, the employee-owned company has eight satellite terminals, located in Indiana, Tennessee and Texas.

STANFORD

■ Due to steady growth over the past several years and plans to create new products, Lincoln Manufacturing (LML), a metal stamping manufacturer that produces parts for the automotive industry, is expanding its operations in Stanford. The company currently employs a staff of more than 100 and plans to add 20 new jobs in order to start a third shift at the plant. LML, which began as a joint venture with Japan-based Toshin Co. in 1995, is a supplier to some of the world’s largest manufacturers. In 2002, Lincoln separated from its Japanese parent company and is now solely owned by Sugimura.

STATE

■ A state-level accountability report shows that Kentucky’s colleges and universities exceeded targets for total degree and credentials conferred, graduate degrees and degrees and credentials for STEM+H (science, technology, engineering, math and health) during the 2012-13 academic year. The campuses also exceeded goals in the number of transfers from the Kentucky Community and Technical Colleges to four-year campuses and for the percent of total credits earned online. In total, the state made progress or met goals on 14 metrics, held steady on three and lost ground on nine.

■ Kentucky has moved closer to meeting its legislative goal of having at least one National Board Certified Teacher (NBCT) in every public school with the National Board for Professional Teaching Standards’ announcement that 200 Kentucky teachers have achieved the prestigious certification. Kentucky ranked sixth in the number of teachers in 2014 earning national board certification, which demonstrates that teachers have attained the knowledge and skills necessary to prepare students for 21st-century success.

FLBB_BourbonTrailLogo 2■ Visitors fascinated with Kentucky bourbon continue to pour into the state, boosting bourbon-related tourism records to all-time highs. The historic Kentucky Bourbon Trail tour, which showcases nine of the state’s legendary distilleries, set a new milestone with 627,032 visits in 2014. That shatters 2013’s record of 571,701 for a 10 percent increase. In the last five years, bourbon-related tourism growth has averaged 62 percent.

■ Kentucky and its flagship university have been selected to help establish a $259 million federal initiative to help develop better composite materials and technologies for use within the automotive, wind turbine, and compressed gas storage industries. Joining Kentucky and UK as founding partners of the Institute for Advanced Composites Manufacturing Innovation are the University of Tennessee, Oak Ridge National Laboratory, National Renewable Energy Laboratory, Purdue University, Michigan State University, University of Dayton Research Institute and their respective states. UK’s research will focus on producing low-cost, high-strength carbon fibers for lightweight composite structures for improved vehicle energy efficiency.

INDIANA

■ OMR Automotive, an Italy-based tier 1 supplier for the Fiat Group, plans to locate its North American headquarters in Speedway, Ind., bringing 60 new jobs to the area. The company is investing $10 million to build a 43,000-s.f. facility and has already purchased another 2.5 acres nearby for future expansion. The new facility will house the company’s machining and assembling of automotive components for engines, transmissions and chassis and is expected to be operational by the end of the year.

■ Sirmax, an Italian company that produces plastic compounds and resins, is investing more than $25 million to build a 14,000-s.f. facility in Anderson, Ind., on a site previously owned by General Motors. Founded in 1964, Sirmax produces and supplies plastic compounds and resins used in the automotive, home appliance, electrical and furniture industries and is the second largest independent polypropylene compounder in Europe. The new facility will bring 50 new jobs to Anderson.

OHIO

DS-Logo Color■ The Cincinnati-based law firm of Dinsmore & Shohl LLP has merged with Huddleston Bolen LLP, one of the oldest law firms in West Virginia. The merger adds 40 attorneys and a staff of 56 to Dinsmore, making it the fourth-largest law firm in West Virginia with more than 75 attorneys practicing in five offices. With the merger, Dinsmore now has 575 attorneys and locations in 18 cities throughout Colorado, Illinois, Kentucky, Ohio, Pennsylvania, Washington D.C. and West Virginia.

■ Columbus, Ohio-based coal company Oxford Resource Partners has been acquired by Westmoreland Coal Co. for $30 million in cash. Oxford is one of central Ohio’s 20 largest public companies but has struggled financially in recent years. Colorado-based Westmoreland is one of the country’s oldest independent coal companies, with operations dating back to 1854. The new company will operate as Westmoreland Resource Partners.

TENNESSEE

Interstate - Yamaha 2■ Yamaha Jet Boat Manufacturing USA Inc. is expanding its operations in east Tennessee, adding more than 36,000 s.f. of production and office space at its production facility in Vonore, near Tellico Lake. Yamaha, the largest manufacturer of 19-foot to 24-foot sport boats in the United States, is investing more than $17.7 million in the project, which will create 150 new jobs. The plant currently has a staff of approximately 370 employees. The company plans to have the new location operational by late 2015, with production slated to begin in mid- to late 2016.

■ Nashville is one of four Southeast cities that will be getting Google’s ultra- high-speed Internet service. Google Fiber, which provides speeds of 1 gigabit per second, will also be moving into Atlanta, Charlotte and Raleigh-Durham. The service was originally launched in Kansas City nearly five years ago and has since expanded to Provo, Utah, and Austin. No official timeline has been announced for the newest expansions.

WEST VIRGINIA

■ Diamond Electric, a Japan-based company that supplies ignition coils to Ford, Chrysler, Toyota and Subaru, is relocating its North American headquarters from Michigan to Eleanor, W. Va., home to the company’s largest production facility. Diamond currently employs approximately 335 workers in West Virginia; the headquarters relocation will add 10 to 15 positions in Eleanor. In addition to the U.S. and Japan, Diamond has operations in five other countries across the globe.

Economic Development, Fast Lane, Healthcare, Workforce Development

Kindred healthcare to create up to 500 jobs

Louisville, Ky. – Kindred Healthcare is planning a $39.5 million expansion of its corporate headquarters in Louisville that is expected to create up to 500 full-time jobs.

Kindred-healthcare-louisville-expansion-500-jobsKindred plans to construct a six-story, 142,000-s.f. building adjacent to the company’s corporate headquarters on South Fourth Street. The new facility will house Kindred’s support center operations, national training center, Kindred University and an employee wellness clinic. Construction will begin early next year with the building expected to be operational in 2017. The new facility also will bring Kindred employees from across the U.S. to Louisville for seminars, educational programs and company meetings.

Kindred is a healthcare services company that through its subsidiaries, operates transitional care hospitals, inpatient rehabilitation hospitals, nursing and rehabilitation centers, and provides contract rehabilitation services and home health and hospice care. Once it completes a merger with Atlanta-based Gentiva Health Services Inc. in early 2015, Kindred will become one of the largest healthcare companies in the U.S., providing jobs to more than 100,000 people in 47 states. Kindred currently has nearly 2,500 employees in Louisville.

“It is exciting and gratifying to see a homegrown company continue to expand and become the national leader in its healthcare sector,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “Kindred’s expansion and development of Kindred Square is a major investment in our downtown, creating a new headquarters building for our skyline and a major anchor for South Fourth Street. Their growth plans, including the creation of so many new jobs, underscores this company’s confidence in Louisville and solidifies our best-in-the-world status as the leader in lifelong wellness and aging care.”