Home » Business Briefs – September 2011

Business Briefs – September 2011

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Western Kentucky University has added a new “supercomputer” at its Center for Research and Development that enables university faculty, staff and students to more efficiently conduct research projects that may have taken months of computing to complete on campus or required going off-site to other research facilities. As Dr. Claire Rinehart, biology professor and director of WKU’s Bioinformatics and Information Science Center, explained, “If you compare this computer to your laptop, this has about 7,000 times more computer power.” WKU’s Ogden College of Science and Engineering received $2.4 million in 2009 from the U.S. Department of Education for the project. WKU provided an additional $50,000.

Clopay Plastic Products Co. is adding 62,000 s.f. to its existing 289,000-s.f. plant in Bracken County. With the addition of new equipment, the project represents a total investment of nearly $12.3 million. Clopay is a global leader in the specialty films, extrusion coatings, custom printing and engineering lamination industry, supplying a variety of products used in the hygiene, healthcare, protective apparel and industrial markets. The Bracken County plant employs 290 workers, making it the county’s largest employer.

Breck County Hardwoods is resuming a log yard and sawmill operation in Cloverport that has been closed since February 2009. The company is investing $3.1 million to add 25,000 s.f. to the existing 22,000-s.f. facility, which will produce green lumber for the Midwest furniture market. The expansion will create 12 new jobs.

Two Kentucky companies are among 18 recipients selected to receive a total of $103 million in funding from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to provide broadband services to unserved and underserved rural communities. Crystal Broadband Networks will receive $1.16 million to expand network access in Lee County, while Inter Mountain Cable will receive $993,339 to provide broadband in Floyd County.

US Natural Gas Corp., a Florida-based energy exploration company that has operations in the Appalachian Basin area of Kentucky and West Virginia, has acquired the Pine Grove Project in Edmonson County for an undisclosed price. The acquisition includes 25 producing oil wells, two water injection wells, mineral rights leases covering 600 acres, a deed for 182 acres of additional mineral rights, 10 collection tanks, and 18 pumpjacks. The company’s projected two-year revenue estimate for the newly acquired oil field is $1.1 million.

A new spec building has been built in the Sanders Interstate Industrial Park that features 2,000 s.f. of office space and 30,000 s.f. that will accommodate manufacturing or distribution. The building is designed to allow expansion of at least 100,000 s.f.

The Medical Center at Franklin has unveiled a $4 million, 9,700-s.f. expansion of its surgical unit, marking the third major expansion to the hospital in the last five years. Hospital administrators say the new improvements, combined with the addition of the hospital’s first full-time general surgeon to the staff, will enable The Medical Center at Franklin to handle more complex surgical procedures.

Outsourcing provider Sitel has officially opened its new facility in Glasgow, which is entirely dedicated to providing customer support for Best Buy Co. Inc. Sitel announced the partnership with Best Buy in January and since then has hired more than 600 call center and management staff at the Glasgow site

The University of Kentucky’s Sanders-Brown Center on Aging Alzheimer’s Disease Center will receive more than $7 million from the National Institute on Aging, a division of the National Institutes of Health, to help continue and further research and clinical initiatives geared toward treating Alzheimer’s disease. In 1985, the UK center was among the first 10 federally funded Alzheimer’s Disease Centers in the United States and has been continuously funded by NIH.

The Keeneland Association has announced a partnership with the NBC Sports Group to broadcast live racing from Keeneland over two weekends this fall. The broadcasts will begin on Oct. 7 on the VERSUS channel and culminate with an hour-long live broadcast of Keeneland’s 75th anniversary on Oct. 15 on NBC.

The Mid-American Healthcare Investors Network has scheduled its annual meeting to take place in Louisville this November at the Louisville Marriott Downtown. MHIN is an association of more than 48 venture capital firms that focuses on life science investment opportunities in the mid-America region. The event will bring together a cross-section of more than 250 participants, including venture capitalists, corporate executives, healthcare start-ups, university researchers and tech transfer officers, along with state and regional economic development professionals. The forum will also highlight 40 Midwest healthcare start-ups looking for additional rounds of financing. More information is available at midamericahealthcareforum.com.

Thorntons Inc. has been named as the 2011 Convenience Store Chain of Year by Convenience Store Decisions magazine. The family-owned company, which is headquartered in Louisville, was started in 1971 and now operates 162 stores in five Midwestern states and distributes petroleum products through its wholly-owned Thornton Transportation Co., in addition to seven car washes, a bulk fuel terminal and several ethanol blending facilities, a commissary in Louisville that manufactures and distributes fresh foods to 42 stores daily, and a Dunkin’ Donuts franchise that manages 32 locations in Kentucky and Indiana. The company’s annual revenues have surpassed the $1.7 billion mark and in 2010 the company was ranked No. 250 on the Forbes 500 list of the nation’s largest privately held companies.

Online shoe and handbag retailer Just Fabulous Inc. has relocated its warehouse from California to Louisville and expects to hire close to 100 people over the next two years. Just Fabulous CEO Adam Goldenberg said the company chose the Louisville site to further the company’s plan for “hyper growth.” Goldenberg noted that the Louisville warehouse’s location, which is only a few miles from the main UPS center, will improve shipping times to customers across the country.

Louisville-based Kindred Healthcare has signed a definitive agreement to acquire home health company Professional HealthCare LLC for $51 million in cash. Professional, which provides home health, hospice, private duty nursing services and durable medical equipment, operates 27 locations in northern California, Arizona, Nevada and Utah that currently generate annual revenues of approximately $53 million. The transaction is expected to close by the end of the third quarter.

The University of Louisville School of Medicine has received a $4 million donation to fund research on macular degeneration from Dr. Geneva Matlock, a retired anesthesiologist who is a University of Louisville School of Medicine graduate. Macular degeneration is a condition that is the leading cause of vision loss in people age 55 and older.

CSX is investing $15 million to build a new intermodal terminal in Louisville that will provide inbound and outbound daily train service connecting through the company’s Northwest Ohio Intermodal Terminal to markets across CSX’s 21,000-route mile network. The terminal is slated to begin operations in early 2012 and will employ approximately a dozen people.

CRS Reprocessing Services, a Louisville company that reprocesses industrial fluids, has secured $35 million in financing that will provide the company with growth capital for global expansion. CRS CEO Scott T. Massie said the company has experienced an “extraordinary growth trajectory” over the past decade and that the additional capital gives the company the ability to respond quickly to demand in markets as far away as China, Korea and the Philippines.

Vision Airlines has announced plans to begin nonstop flight service between Louisville International Airport and Punta Gorda/Fort Myers and Orlando/Sanford, Fla. The airline will offer two departures a week to each destination using 148-seat Boeing 737 aircraft. In addition to the new routes, Vision provides air service from Louisville to Atlanta; Destin/Fort Walton and Fort Lauderdale, Fla.; and Grand Bahama Island.

Steel Technologies, a Louisville company that is one of the nation’s leading steel processors, plans to build a new $75,000 million flat-rolled steel processing and pickling operation in Monterrey, Mexico. The 300,000-s.f. facility is expected to be fully operational by the end of 2012 and will have annual processing capacity of more than 800,000 tons. The facility will expand Steel Technologies’ North American platform to 25 locations, including three joint ventures.

Louisville-based Humana Inc. has signed an agreement to acquire Arcadian Management Services, an Oakland, Calif.-based Medicare Advantage HMO with approximately 64,000 members in 15 states. Thomas J. Liston, Humana’s senior vice president of senior products, said the acquisition provides Humana with the opportunity to expand its Medicare footprint and grow its Medicare enrollment. Arcadian reported 2010 revenues of $622 million. Financial terms of the agreement, which is expected to close in late 2011, were not disclosed.

General Electric’s Appliances & Lighting Division has opened a new $48 million, LEED-certified Global Data Center within its Appliance Park headquarters in Louisville. The new data center, which will support business in 100 countries, uses 34 percent less energy than a standard building of the same size and function and reduces water consumption by 42 percent. Other renovations to Appliance Park include the addition of a water heater that mimics a heat pump, a new laundry pair, and a dishwasher. The $1 billion investment under way is expected to add 1,300 jobs by 2014. GE Appliances & Lighting will also launch six new appliance products in the next year between factories at Appliance Park and in Bloomington, Ind.

Louisville-based insurance agency Neace Lukens is being acquired by Assured Partners Inc., a Florida company that invests in property, casualty and employee benefit firms. Neace Lukens, formed in 1991, currently operates offices in seven states and plans to utilize the investment from Assured to further expand its operations. Financial terms of the transactions have not been disclosed.

Fanatics, a Louisville sports merchandise company, is in the process of hiring up to 800 seasonal workers to help meet demand at its fulfillment center for the upcoming holiday season. Hourly wages begin at $9 and go up to $10.25. Fanatics customizes jerseys and apparel for the NFL, MLB, NBA, NASCAR and the NHL.

The Sam Swope Auto Group has announced plans to open Kentucky’s first Fiat dealership this December. Fiat of Louisville will employ approximately 35 people.

The Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport has received a $500,000 multi-county coal severance grant to complete an expansion project that will add 8,500 s.f. to the existing 14,000-s.f. terminal. The expansion will enable the airport to handle additional flights and will increase the size of the waiting area, baggage handling and pick-up areas. The project will add three full-time jobs and several part-time positions.

The Paducah Area Chamber of Commerce has been awarded the Chamber of the Year award by the American Chamber of Commerce Executive’s Association. The award recognizes excellence in financial performance, member programs and internal operations. The Paducah Chamber became a qualifier when it placed above the national average in net percent gain in members, retention and non-dues income for 2010. The Paducah Chamber has 1,000 members and has an annual budget of $700,000. The Paducah Chamber competed in the $450,001-$900,000 total revenue category.

Paducah-based Computer Services Inc. has acquired a Colorado company that specializes in cloud-based managed compliance, security and information technology services. HEIT operates two secured data centers, located in Fort Collins, Colo., and Austin, Texas. The acquisition makes CSI one of the country’s largest cloud and managed service providers for financial institutions. Financial terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

Sykes Enterprises has notified the state of its plans to lay off 157 workers from its call center in Perry County. Florida-based Sykes handles customer service calls for a variety of companies and says it frequently adjusts its staffing numbers as contracts are added or terminated.

Pineville Community Hospital has installed a patented pure-air system that kills or deactivates infectious pathogens in the air and on interior services, making it the first “pure air hospital” in Kentucky, according to information released by the state. The pure air system is produced by Purgenix Inc., a Lexington-based company that also has offices in five states across the Southeast.

Education technology company Blackboard Inc., which operates a help desk services center in Pulaski County’s Valley Oak Business and Technology Park, has been sold to Providence Equity Partners in an all-cash transaction valued at approximately $1.64 billion. According to The Commonwealth Journal, Blackboard entered the Somerset business community in December 2010 with the acquisition of Presidium and now operates in three buildings, with up to 600 employees during peak periods.

Speedway Motorsports Inc. has acquired 143 acres in Sparta that will be used to expand parking for the Kentucky Speedway by 35 percent. “We learned meaningful lessons during our inaugural NASCAR Sprint Cup Series race weekend and we committed that the traffic congestion that occurred on race day would not happen again,” said Kentucky Speedway General Manager Mark Simendinger. SMI will also hire professional parking and engineering services to manage traffic flow during venue event days. The Kentucky Transportation Cabinet has also pledged to improve surrounding highways to allow for faster access to the expanded parking areas.


Union County Livestock is adding a new line of barbecued items at its Uniontown plant that will create 25 new full-time jobs. Union County Livestock, which operates Jim David Meats and Little Kentucky Smokehouse, supplies products to national retail stores as well as schools and individuals within a 100-mile radius.

Williamsburg officials are hoping that a new commercial development near I-75 will lead to more than 250 new jobs over the next five years, according to a report by The (Corbin) News Journal. City officials say the new development, which will be called Briar Creek Crossing, represents an investment of nearly $40 million. Williamsburg Mayor Roddy Harrison has said city officials are hoping to see the project encompass a casual dining restaurant, motel, grocery, and gas stations along with a strip mall. Site development work is currently under way.

In light of recent gasoline price hikes, the Internal Revenue Service has increased the optional standard mileage rates used to calculate the deductible costs of operating a vehicle for business and other purposes. For the remainder of 2011, the rate will increase from 51 cents to 55.5 cents per mile for all business miles driven between July 1, 2011 and Dec. 31, 2011. The new six-month rate for deductible medical or moving expenses will increase to 23.5 cents a mile, up from 19 cents for the first six months of 2011. The rate for providing services for charitable organizations is set by statute, not the IRS, and remains at 14 cents a mile.

Gov. Steve Beshear says Kentucky has generated more than $7 million in revenue by selling surplus state-owned real estate. Twelve properties in six counties, along with right-of-way sales, were sold to reach the $7.45 million mark.