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Aetna and Humana to defend their pending merger in response to DOJ suit

HARTFORD, Conn. & LOUISVILLE, Ky. (Jul. 21, 2016) — Aetna and Humana Inc. today announced plans to defend the companies’ pending merger in response to a U.S. Department of Justice lawsuit seeking to block the transaction. A combined company is in the best interest of consumers, a Humana press release said, particularly seniors seeking affordable, high-quality Medicare Advantage (MA) plans.

According to the press release, the Aetna-Humana transaction offers more Medicare options in more regions. The companies will be able to expand their offerings to more geographies, creating more options for consumers. Aetna and Humana have the greatest number of Medicare Advantage plans rated four stars and higher, and will bring their best practices together.
These options will cost less. By making health care more efficient and effective, Aetna and Humana will eliminate waste and decrease costs for members. These options will come with new products, tools and services.

The press release added: There is robust competition in Medicare. Approximately 70 percent of Medicare beneficiaries elect to participate in traditional Medicare, administered by the government, and that option competes with MA plans administered by companies like Aetna and Humana. Seniors can choose from, or switch between, traditional Medicare and an MA plan every year, or change from one MA plan to another; data show many take advantage of these options. A combined company would serve only 8 percent of total Medicare beneficiaries.
Within MA, there is an abundance of choice for seniors, and built-in protections. In fact, 178 MA organizations offer plans, with 28 new organizations entering MA between 2012 and 2015 alone. Ninety-one percent of Medicare beneficiaries can choose from at least five MA options. Each of these plans faces rigorous government regulation to protect consumers and promote affordability.

To date, regulators in 18 of 20 states where change of control applications are required have approved the transaction, with remaining reviews underway.

Any perceived competition concerns can be addressed through divestitures. Though the companies do not believe divestitures are necessary, significant and well-established industry players have already submitted bids for MA assets in certain states that regulators may require to be divested. Such sales would lead to alternative offerings or new entrants in these areas, protecting competition and consumer choice.

According to the press release: A combined company will result in a broader choice of products, access to higher quality and more affordable care, and a better overall experience for consumers.

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Kenton County celebrating 40 years of parks and 20 years of recreation

Covington, Ky. (June 29, 2016) – Kenton County is recognizing its public parks at the 40/20 Celebration. The event will be held Sunday, July 17 at Middleton-Mills Park from 2-6 p.m. The public is invited to this free event.

The first parks, Pioneer Park and Richardson Road Park, opened in 1976. Lincoln Ridge, Middleton-Mills, and Doe Run Lake Parks came along in the years following. In 1996, the Recreation program was launched and has since included a number of successful, award winning programs.

There will be musical entertainment featuring The Hills of Kentucky, members of NKY Unplugged, and The Rumored. Dominach’s Taekwondo Academy will be providing a water slide from 2-5 p.m. to play and cool off.

Be sure to wear your swim suit. Mr. Cowpie will also be entertaining with his antics and Party Animals from 2:30-3:30 p.m.

Colonial Cottage will be grilling favorites and Culver’s is bringing its frozen custard treats. Boone County Parks will have a soft drink stand. Guests can bring their own picnic or make their picnic purchase on site.

Middleton-Mills Park is located at 3415 Mills Road., Covington. Directions: From I-275, take Exit 79 (Covington-Taylor Mill) and drive seven miles south on KY Hwy 16 to Mills Road. Turn left on Mills Road and drive about one mile to the park. The 40/20 Celebration will be held in Shelterhouse 2.

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Two teams meet the KAWC KR255 Endurance Race Challenge


Kentucky American Water employees (L-R) Nathan Clark, Mike Maggard, Trent Ellsworth, Eileen Burk and Brad Kinckiner. Eric Buelna, of Sea Squirrel, is in back.

Lexington, Ky., (June 28, 2016) – A team of four Kentucky American Water employees based in Lexington, Ky., and an individual from Hymera, Ind., both met the challenge of last week’s KR255 Endurance Race Challenge on the Kentucky River by completing the journey from Beattyville, Ky., to Carrollton, Ky., within 100 hours.

The Kentucky American Water team, River Raven, reached the Ohio River at Carrollton at 3 a.m. Saturday, June 25, while Sea Squirrel reached the finish line around 5 a.m. that day.

Kentucky American Water, along with Asbury University Center for Adventure Leadership in partnership with the Kentucky River Authority, teamed up to present the first KR255 – a 255-mile endurance canoe/kayak race along the Kentucky River from the river’s origins in Eastern Kentucky to its northernmost point where it flows into the Ohio River. The competition started at 8 a.m. on Tuesday, June 21. Competitors had exactly 100 hours to complete the course.

Kentucky American Water employees Eileen Burk, Nathan Clark, Brad Kinckiner, and Mike Maggard led the way throughout the entire competition, which started with six teams. Eric Buelna, of Sea Squirrel, stayed close behind, and was the second boat to complete the extreme race.

Paddlers could compete in the KR255 as solo participants, tandem teams or teams of three to four people. All were required to traverse around the 14 locks along the route, which were used as checkpoints throughout the course.

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MRGLSI 2016: How Louisville is on track to attract the workforce of tomorrow

MRGLSI-2016-300x402Looking for a job? According to the city’s recent numbers, Louisville might be the right place to start.

In fact, according to the most recent numbers from Greater Louisville Inc., the city now has 9,916 open jobs waiting to be filled – many in burgeoning new sectors like logistics, advanced manufacturing, healthcare, technology and the food industries.

They’re not the only ones reporting opportunities ahead. PNC Bank just declared the Louisville and Lexington markets “on fire” in its latest “Louisville Lexington Market Outlook,” saying the area is 5 percent above its pre-recession peak, compared to 2.5 percent nationally, with the area showing big gains in the professional education, healthcare and manufacturing sectors. Median household incomes have risen by about $1,000 in 2015, the report said, to $53,000 as the labor market has tightened to a 4.3 percent unemployment rate in 2015, down from 5.6 percent in 2014.

And this is just the beginning. According to Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, from January to December 2015, companies in the Louisville area (excluding Southern Indiana) made more than $2.3 billion in capital investments, which will result in an additional 7,000 jobs coming soon. Economic development officials expect net investments and employment growth to continue when Humana’s sale to Aetna is completed and UPS completes its expansion of its package sorting facility, among many other projects.

But the big question remains: Does Louisville have the available workforce to fill those jobs?

Building it, so they will come
Deanna Epperly-Karem, GLI’s vice president for regional growth, said building the well-educated, experienced workforce growing companies need will be one of the organization’s biggest challenges in coming years, and one it is determined to address.

“Right now as we speak, there are 8,800 professional jobs open in Louisville that require an associate’s degree or higher, not counting skilled labor jobs. Companies are expanding, baby boomers are starting to retire … yet we have not had the influx of people we need to fill those jobs. Our population growth has been small, at best,” Epperly-Karem said. “We need to look at all the options to get companies the right employees, at the right time, if we want to have an environment where companies can stay and grow in Louisville.”

In fact, the Louisville area’s population growth is on the upswing, with population expanding by 2.8 percent since 2010, but much of it happening in surrounding peripheral areas like Jeffersontown, Oldham County and the like, with Jefferson County staying flat. This puts Louisville on the low end of the range with its competitor cities.

During the same period, Cincinnati grew 1.6 percent, Indianapolis 4.4 percent, Columbus 4.9 percent, Oklahoma City 6.7 percent, Charlotte 7.4 percent and Nashville 7.3 percent, respectively. With an unemployment rate of 5.3 percent, (just below the national rate of 5.5 percent), the issue is not whether there are enough people in Louisville to fill the positions. The issue is whether Louisville has the people with the right training to take the positions, or whether Louisville can attract the right people into the market to fill them.
The secret to doing that, Epperly-Karem said, is to attack each potential market with specialized strategies – an effort that is key to her new position at Greater Louisville Inc.

“Our goal is to speed up growth and hiring, but to do that you can’t just have one overall effort,” Epperly-Karem said. “We have to address all the different ways qualified people could come to those open positions. There are the people already at expanding companies who can learn on-the-job for new roles. There’s qualified people we need to attract from nearby states, and also international candidates with specialized skills.

“Then there are the college students. We need to convince college students from the best universities to settle here, but we also need to convince college students already going to school in Kentucky that starting their careers in Louisville is the thing to do.”
These next few months, Epperly-Karem said, are being devoted to gathering community input and finishing a comprehensive, multiyear plan that will tackle the talent-attraction challenge head on. Meanwhile, new initiatives are underway or developing.


The Greater Louisville region is a major hub for advanced manufacturing activity, and like other business sectors, finding qualified people to fill the ample opportunities that are available can be a challenge.

Creating ambassadors
Some efforts, however, are already underway, none more so than GLI’s refreshed Ambassador program. Here, GLI is putting together a group of approximately 150 Louisville entrepreneurs, management leaders and community connectors to become ambassadors for the city.

Those who belong to the group will be updated with the latest and greatest success stories from Louisville as they happen, and be given training on how to talk about Louisville to other business leaders/potential recruits. Not only will this group be called upon to talk to potential incoming businesses, they will be asked to serve as mentors to business leaders who are ready to commit to relocating to or expanding in Louisville.

To support this effort, the existing liveinlou.com and workinlou.com websites are now in the process of being redesigned and combined into one Louisville Ambassadors website. The site will be a repository of everything someone locating to Louisville would want to know, combining a job opening database with information on neighborhoods, schools, cost of living, parks, arts, and food and entertainment, as a start.

With 150 officially trained ambassadors in the program, the website will bring in interest from an even larger group – those who want to say good things about Louisville to tell their friends and family.

While the idea of ambassadors has been tried before, this time extensive training and online materials will help them bridge the gap between merely being community cheerleaders and being true mentors to those looking to come here.

It was this kind of support that made the difference between leaving Louisville and staying for Alli Truttmann, founder and CEO of Wicked Sheets, a small company that is getting a big name for itself manufacturing and selling specialty bedding that wicks away moisture – a boon for people who have hot flashes or night sweats. Truttmann has the sheets sewn in Cincinnati, but all her logistics, fulfillment and headquarters functions are done here in Louisville.

“I originally came to Louisville to go to college, and I found the networking I was able to do was so effective I never wanted to leave. I came to see that Louisville is really as big or as small as you want it to be,” Truttmann said.

“It’s big enough to have tremendous resources for entrepreneurs and groups of professionals that are willing to donate their time to help you succeed. When all I had was an idea for a business, GLI stepped in with education and connections to accountants, lawyers and manufacturing experts that really helped me to understand the ‘how’ in putting my business together. And yet Louisville is small enough to be truly affordable, so you can afford to take a chance to grow a business.

“People here really know you and care about you, like they do in a small town,” she said. “I feel like I can accomplish anything here, and ultimately, that’s what attracted me to Louisville.”

Part of making sure the word gets out about Louisville is helping train the very people who are tasked with convincing new hires to come aboard – recruiters and human resource managers working in Louisville’s mid- to large-size companies.

Epperly-Karem said they are working on putting together education programs they can give to recruiters, along with connections to real estate listings and cost of living calculators, and other online tools for using with potential recruits.

She also hopes to capture the enthusiasm of Louisville’s diverse international community. GLI’s new Greater Louisville International Professionals group now boasts 2,000 members.

More than just a social organization, the group provides real mentorship and networking for people navigating the move to a new country and culture, and Epperly-Karem said she hopes to use them even more in the future as they recruit new companies, and tap into the international talent pool to help existing companies grow.

The University of Louisville, the Mayor’s Office and the U.S. State Department have even organized an exchange program bringing over college interns from sister city Montpellier, France, to work in local businesses in the areas of neurosciences, civil engineering, medicinal chemistry, management, engineering, and industrial studies for the summer – all an in attempt to introduce more people to the city.

Another part of that strategy will be visiting top research and technical schools in the United States and abroad. GLI plans to organize job fairs at these schools, as well as Kentucky universities, helping high-demand students see a future for themselves in Louisville. They plan to hook them up with job openings at top Louisville companies.

But beyond this, they also plan on talking about how the low cost of living in Louisville can help their salary stretch further, without having to give up any of the arts and cultural amenities found in a bigger city.

Selling Louisville’s swagger
By any objective measure, Louisville has certainly been racking up the “cool” points lately. Not only has the city been doing well on the more traditional business measures such as ranking #5, ahead of Atlanta, on the highly competitive Site Selection magazine “Best Metros for Economic Development” list, but the city has also been winning some impressive notice for its bourbon tourism and food culture.

The city was just named the “Best Destination Travel Experience” by the World Food Travel Association, an accolade earned from the city’s growth of its Urban Bourbon Trail, the opening of new tourist distilleries, the growth of NuLu and the progressive scheduling of music festivals and events that have been drawing people from far and wide to enjoy what Louisville has to offer.

Amenities like these make the difference to people who, in increasing numbers, are turning away from bigger cities to go for the short commutes, lower cost of living and overall better quality of life cities like Louisville can offer, according to Kevin Gibson, author of “100 Things to Do in Louisville Before You Die” and “Louisville Beer: Derby City History on Draft.”

“Louisville has a lot to offer. I think younger workers in particular would find the cost of living in Louisville agreeable, making it a great jumping off point for someone looking to live in a larger city,” Gibson said. “And for years I’ve said that Louisville has plenty of big-city amenities that would be attractive to young people: dining, night life, the arts, sports, a fantastic parks system, museums, a growing downtown district, a thriving waterfront.

“And yet, with all those amenities, we have a reasonable crime rate and even a hint of small-town closeness. People here still care where you went to high school. There’s always something going on in Louisville,” Gibson said. “We just need to figure out a way as a community, to show people that.”

Faster Lane, Uncategorized

Jobless rates down in 91 Kentucky counties in May 2016

FRANKFORT, Ky. (June 23, 2016) – Unemployment rates fell in 91 Kentucky counties between May 2015 and May 2016, rose in 24 counties, and remained the same in five (Letcher, Marshall, Menifee, Powell and Webster), according to the Kentucky Office of Employment and Training, an agency of the Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet.

May’s preliminary and April’s county unemployment rate charts (PDF)

Woodford County recorded the lowest jobless rate in the Commonwealth at 3.3 percent. It was followed by Oldham County, 3.4 percent; Fayette, Shelby and Spencer counties, 3.6 percent each; Boone County, 3.7 percent; Anderson, Campbell and Scott counties, 3.8 percent each; and Franklin, Jessamine, Owen, Warren and Washington counties, 3.9 percent each.

Magoffin County recorded the state’s highest unemployment rate at 15.6 percent. It was followed by Leslie County, 11.6 percent; Harlan County, 11.2 percent; Letcher County, 11.1 percent; Elliott County, 10.9 percent; Floyd County, 10.7 percent; Knott and Pike counties, 10.5 percent each; Clay County, 10.1 percent; and Lawrence County, 10 percent.

In contrast to the monthly national and state data, unemployment statistics for counties are not seasonally adjusted. The comparable, unadjusted state unemployment rate for the state was 4.9 percent for May 2016, and 4.5 percent for the nation.

Unemployment statistics are based on estimates and are compiled to measure trends rather than actually to count people working. Civilian labor force statistics include non-military workers and unemployed Kentuckians who are actively seeking work. They do not include unemployed Kentuckians who have not looked for employment within the past four weeks. The statistics in this news release are not seasonally adjusted because of the small sample size for each county. The data should only be compared to the same month in previous years.

Learn more about Kentucky labor market information at www.kylmi.ky.gov.

Faster Lane, Uncategorized

The Derby City Comic Con back in Louisville June 25-26

The Derby City Comic Con is thrilled to announce that we will be back in Louisville for our sixth year on June 25-26. The event will be held in the Kentucky International Convention Center and features celebrity guests and hundreds of locally and nationally known artists, exhibitors, and vendors of all things pop culture.

Last year’s event in Louisville drew over 4,000 attendees and this year should be even bigger. Attendees will have the chance to meet some of the comic industries’ biggest stars including the creator of The Crow, James O’Barr, and such industry heavy hitters as Jae Lee, Colleen Doran, and Iron Man legend, Bob Layton.

Derby City Comic Con also boasts appearances by the original black Power Ranger, Walter Jones and Ming Chen & Bryan Johnson of the hit show on AMC, Comic Book Men.

Also appearing will be wrestling legend and Louisville’s own, Jim Cornette.

On top of all of the amazing guests, this convention will feature hundreds of exhibits from local and nationally known comic artists including many of today’s hottest comic professionals. These professionals will amaze you with their artistic talents and stories from inside the comic industry.

The convention features hundreds of vendors of comics and collectible toys that range in price from $1.00 up to thousands of dollars. Many of these vendors will be selling items that you may not have seen since childhood and a walk through the convention floor is surely a walk down memory lane.

Whether you are a die hard, card carrying citizen of Geekville, or just a casual watcher of Big Bang Theory, this con will certainly have something for you. So, dust off your Superman costume and come join us for Louisville’s biggest weekend of all things awesome.

The show is open to the general public from 10 a.m. – 6 p.m. on Saturday, June 25 and 10 a.m. – 4 p.m. on Sunday, June 26. Discounted general admissions are available online at www.derbycitycomiccon.com. Tickets will also be available at the door both days at a cost of $20 for Saturday, $20 for Sunday, or $30 for the weekend.

For more information on the event or to schedule interviews with organizers or celebrity guests please visit the convention’s website at www.derbycitycomiccon.com or contact convention organizers Jarrod & Jaime Greer at 606-547-6643.

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Peacocks & Pearls women’s boutique to open at Lexington Green

cdbe6f02-e7af-4715-885e-5a3905608a52The Plaza at Lexington Green, one of Lexington’s newest retail destinations, is set to welcome its latest tenant, Peacocks & Pearls.

The new women’s boutique is slated to open late summer and will offer fun ladies’ clothing, accessories, jewelry and affordable fashion for women of all ages.

The Plaza at Lexington Green is a redevelopment of the former Lexington Green cinema building, located between Fayette Mall, Target, The Mall at Lexington Green and Hilton Suites Hotel. Paul Ray Smith, Executive Vice President and Jamie Adams, Senior Associate, represented Lexington Green, L.P. during the lease negotiations.

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Free water stations today for Muhammad Ali service

As Louisville residents and guests from around the world honor Muhammad Ali on Friday, Louisville Water will provide two complimentary water stations. Louisville Water will set up and staff its Louisville pure tap® to GO water stations at the Belvedere for those watching the live streaming of the memorial service. A second station will be located on the Yum! Center Plaza.

With temperatures expected to reach the 90s on Friday, Louisville Water worked with city leaders to make the Louisville pure tap® stations available. Those coming to the Belvedere to view a live stream of the service can bring a reusable bottle. Louisville Water will have compostable cups available at both locations.

Features, Uncategorized

The Cybersecurity Skills Gap


Hackers breached the computer database of retail giant Target in 2013, affecting 40 million customers’ data and costing the retail chain more than $116 million. It was the first large public breach, but others quickly followed. Today no company, large or small, is immune.

Importantly, as this number of computer breaches has skyrocketed, so has the need for experienced cybersecurity specialists. Job titles such as information security analyst are projected to grow as much as 18 percent by next year, according to the U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics – much faster than other jobs. In addition, the jobs pay well, with a median annual salary of $90,120 for those with a bachelor’s degree.

Filling these jobs will be difficult, however, according to many computer experts, including Amy Justice, senior security and compliance consultant for SDGblue LLC in Lexington, a professional information technology company specializing in security, network infrastructure, and technology and consulting services.

Two reasons dominate. First there is a skills gap.

“Many computer science majors learn scripting, programming and logging,” Justice said, “but they don’t graduate with the critical thinking skills needed to analyze risks.”

Second, those critical-thinking skills largely come with experience, and that experience today is mostly a catch-22, chicken-or-egg kind of thing.

“Employers look for and typically require around five years of experience for security engineers,” she said, “but potential employees find experience hard to come by since there are few internships.”

For example, Justice said SDGblue offered two internships recently. They had more than 50 applicants for the two positions.

James Walden, associate professor and director of the Center for Information Security at Northern Kentucky University, agreed.


Many big hacking targets remain

“The demand for cybersecurity has increased greatly in the last few years,” Walden said. “There have been a large number of public data breaches, many in retail and healthcare. There are also a lot of rumors about banking breaches. The next big hacking targets will be cars, medical devices and home security devices. Everything on the internet can be hacked.”

And a skills gap? “Definitely,” said Walden.

Computer science program “curriculum standards don’t require security courses yet,” he said. “Students can earn a degree in computer science without taking any courses in cybersecurity.”

Even so, several Kentucky schools are offering courses and certificates in cybersecurity designed to help students prepare for these jobs.

NKU has been offering a track in networking and security since 2005. The university also offers a minor in computer forensics and computer science, a graduate degree in corporate information, and in 2014 added an online certificate in online security.

The 18-hour certificate program covers information technology fundamentals – databases, operating systems, networking, programming – to provide a foundation for learning about the major areas of cybersecurity, including cryptography, secure programming, network security, authentication, access control, security policies and governance, and web security.

“While the certificate includes courses that overlap with majors in computer information technology, business informatics and computer science in the College of Informatics, it can be paired with any major,” Walden said.

The National Security Administration (NSA) and the Department of Homeland Security (DHS) has named NKU a National Center of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense Education.


Filling skills gap a national priority

The NSA and the DHS jointly sponsor the National Centers of Academic Excellence in Information Assurance/Cyber Defense programs. The goal is to reduce vulnerability in the national information infrastructure by promoting higher education and research in IA/CD and producing a growing number of professionals with IA/CD expertise in various disciplines.

For students, these designations offer several benefits. First, students attending designated schools are eligible for scholarships and grants through the Department of Defense Information Assurance Scholarship Program and the Federal Cyber Service Scholarship for Service Program. Secondly, employers recognize the value of these designations, giving students an edge when it comes to employment.

The University of Louisville is also a National Center of Academic Excellence in IA/CD Education.

UofL offers a graduate certificate in network and information security. The graduate certificate in network and information security is designed for advanced computer professionals as well as students majoring in disciplines other than computer engineering and computer science.

“The certificate gives masters’ students an advantage over other students looking for jobs,” said Roman Yampolskiy, associate professor of computer engineering and computer science at the UofL Speed School of Engineering.

UofL has a Cybersecurity Laboratory, which Yampolskiy directs. Lab members research a multitude of topics related to security of cyber infrastructure.

“The lab’s strengths include work in behavioral biometrics, game security, artimetrics (robot authentication), forensics, passwords and cryptography,” the professor said.

Eastern Kentucky University and Kentucky State University also offer degrees in cybersecurity.


Co-ops, internships, competitions

EKU offers a bachelor of science degree in network security and electronics; two BS/master’s programs in network security and electronics; two associate of applied science degrees in technology and computer electronics concentration; and a minor in computer electronics technology.

Students are encouraged to participate in the university’s cooperative education program in areas related to computer systems, networks, electricity and electronics. They work as interns in IT, computer support, help-desk, network, web development and electrical with local industries.

KSU also offers a certificate in information security. A computer science background isn’t required to earn the certificate. Students just need to complete 12-13 credit hours.

Students at all of the programs also learn through competitions, most notably the National Collegiate Cyber Defense Competition.

Three types of competitions prevail:

  • Time management – the pressure to perform against the clock
  • Infosec skills – practical applications of knowledge in live fire scenarios
  • Teamwork – the ability to work well with others.

According to their website, these competitions ask student teams to “assume administrative and protective duties for an existing ‘commercial’ network – typically a company with 50-plus users, seven to 10 servers, and common internet services such as a web server, mail server and e-commerce site.

Each team begins the competition with identical hardware and software and is scored on its ability to detect and respond to outside threats, maintain availability of existing services such as mail servers and web servers, respond to business requests such as the addition or removal of additional services, and balance security needs against business needs.

Throughout the competition an automated scoring engine is used to verify the functionality and availability of each team’s services periodically and traffic generators continuously feed simulated user traffic into the competition network. A volunteer team provides the ‘external threat’ all internet-based services face and allows the teams to match their defensive skills against live opponents.”

It is yet another way to prepare potential employees for a job in high demand.

“There is a huge shortage of people for these jobs right now,” said U of L’s Roman Yampolskiy. “Every company wants one. Every company needs one. There is nothing hotter in computer science.” ■


Debra Gibson Isaacs is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at editorial@lanereport.com.

Features, Uncategorized

Kentucky Artists Earn $1.9 Billion Annually

Nick Baute, in cap, and his partner Robert Ronk make their living operating Hound Dog Press, a full-service letterpress shop in downtown Louisville on historic machines from 50 to 125 years old.

Nick Baute, in cap, and his partner Robert Ronk make their living operating Hound Dog Press, a full-service letterpress shop in downtown Louisville on historic machines from 50 to 125 years old.

When you think of the arts industry in Kentucky, at first quaint school craft shows, gallery hops and hip designers might come to mind. The reality is that the arts and crafts business in the state is worth billions of dollars and accounts for more jobs than the commonwealth’s acclaimed automotive and aircraft manufacturing sectors combined.

One such career artist is Nick Baute of Louisville’s Hound Dog Press. Baute and his business partner, Robert Ronk, run a full-service letterpress shop in the heart of downtown. Business is going well, Baute said, partly due to the fact that in a digital age “people like to hold something printed in their hand. We touch every sheet of paper that we print on, so I think that world of doing it the old way is coming back around.”

Seven-year-old Hound Dog Press prints with historic units built from 1892 up to the 1960s. Both men attended the University of Kentucky as art majors, Baute said, and feel fortunate to have full-time jobs and a business in the art industry, especially in a time when most people want things printed quickly and cheaply.

“We feel really supported, especially in Louisville,” he said. “It’s a very supportive of small business here.”

Other artists, whether they run sustainable businesses in their chosen craft or not, are feeling the love, too.

The Kentucky Arts Council, led by Executive Director Lori Meadows, is working hard to get the state’s creatives the support they need. She and her colleagues are in tune with artists around the state, what they are producing and how much, and what their needs are. They know many by name.

“Kentucky certainly has a really strong arts heritage and has for generations,” Meadows said. “Particularly in things like craft and music and the literary arts. One of the things that we often hear from panelists that come in from out of the state is the fact that we don’t have the arts just in the major cities and more urban areas, but we really have things going on across the entire state. That doesn’t always happen in other states.”


Breaking down the numbers

In Kentucky, the creative industry collectively employs 108,498 people, according to a study the council commissioned. It found there are 60,504 direct jobs. There are another 11,708 direct creative jobs in non-creative enterprises, and 36,286 indirect jobs in the arts and crafts industry, mostly supply-chain-related.

“The study looked at four different sectors, within what we defined as Kentucky’s creative industry,” said Creative Industry Manager Emily Moses of the Arts Council. “Those are visual artists, which includes craft, performing artists, all of the design fields (including landscape, architecture, graphic design), and communication and media, which includes advertising.”

Creative work is the primary source of income for 31 percent of people who responded to the Arts Council’s survey, and 37 percent are also employed elsewhere. Nearly 20 percent were retired but still doing creative work.

“That number is many times larger than the proportion of self-employed people across all other industries in Kentucky,” Meadows noted.

These jobs account for 2.5 percent of Kentucky’s total employment and annual earnings of $1.9 billion. The average wage of a creative worker is $34,299.

An area not included is education and its art teachers, Meadows noted.

The council tracks sales partially through its annual three-day Kentucky Crafted: The Market event, “which has a wholesale and retail component. That makes us different from most other shows,” Meadows said.

Participating artists must be adjudicated into the Kentucky Crafted program annually. This year’s market took place in March in Lexington, and usually averages around $1 million in sales. Its 2015 economic impact was estimated at $1.3 million.

Programs like Kentucky Crafted and the Kentucky Arts Partnership help artists around the state thrive. The latter program provides money to support operations of 90 to 100 arts organizations across the state, including Lexington’s LexArts.

The Kentucky Arts Council awarded just over $1.4 million in 2015, supporting 607 full-time jobs, 974 part-time jobs and 1,980 contract-for-service positions. Recipient organizations generated federal tax revenue of $5.3 million, $1.45 million for the state, and $550,000 to municipalities and counties. The council’s support also helped recipients leverage nearly $62 million in other funds.


Business training offered

Those are big numbers but offer no guarantee of success to Kentucky artists and organizations.

“What we have found is that artists needed assistance in basic and advanced business training,” Moses said. “Things like financing, legal resources, living and workspace, technology, computer and web-related activities. Always, we find that artists need assistance with marketing.”

Kentucky has a good mix of working professional craftspeople with higher education and training and those who are self taught.

“Regardless of the category, they usually didn’t take business classes,” she said, “yet they are operating a small business. We can help people in the creative industry by connecting them and providing business training for them.”

The council partners with several organizations to offer business training courses and works with entities like the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development in Berea, and Kentucky Community and Technical College in Hazard, which is offering the state’s first Etsy Craft Entrepreneurship Program. Many such these programs are free or very inexpensive.

The Arts Council relies heavily on federal and state funding. Across the state, Meadows said, organizations, artists and communities are becoming more savvy about applying for federal funding, and she’s seen an increase in grants from National Endowment for the Arts programs.

“Also, there is a lot more collaboration among different organizations and community entities, and working across industries. We are seeing more partnerships forming and more networking,” she said.

The Arts Council is diligently reaching out to Kentucky’s business community about the importance of the arts, Meadows said, and created purchase awards and incentives at this year’s Kentucky Crafted for businesses who bought artwork by Kentucky artists for their places of business.


International love

Appreciation of Kentucky art attracts collectors and distributors come from around the world. Meadows noted that Paducah is world renowned as a quilting hot spot. The western Kentucky town has an official United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization Creative City designation for its folk art. Meanwhile, the council is thrilled to see a major entity like 21c Museum Hotels open its location in Lexington, making Kentucky the only state with two of the unique art venues.

“Kentucky also has an incredibly active literary community, much more so than some larger states,” Meadows said. “We have some really talented and important writers here. … They are being published out there internationally.”

The state is known for its basket makers, and has craftspeople like willow-furniture makers, video game creators, public art creators and so much more.

And Kentucky is welcoming of arts from other countries. For example, the council has funded two master apprenticeships in Lexington for the pipa, a Chinese stringed instrument.

Education will help carry the torch of art, even for non-artists

Teaching Kentuckians to appreciate as well as produce art also aids in improving outcomes for everyone, regardless of the field in which they eventually work.

“Arts education in school is really critical. Having arts education can teach you collaboration, partnerships, solving problems and thinking outside the box,” Meadows said. “As we are looking at some of the skills needed for the 21st century workforce, creativity and innovation are two of the most important things.”

Everyone has an innate desire to create, whether they think they have artistic “talent” or not, according to Judith Pointer Jia, an art professor at Centre College in Danville.

“Creating art of any kind involves problem solving,” Jia said. “People taking a class in the arts learn new ways of thinking critically about a problem and then finding technical and conceptual solutions to it. People gain an appreciation for the processes involved with creation of an end product. That is valuable knowledge that can translate into many areas – manufacturing, for example.”

Centre art majors “have gone on to work in the fields of architectural preservation, art therapy, teaching, dentistry, art auctions, museum and gallery work in addition to becoming professional artists,” Jia said. ■


Abby Laub is a correspondent for The Lane Report. She can be reached at editorial@lanereport.com.