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Business Briefs – June 2011

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Pennyrile Forest State Resort Park has added eight new equine campsites as part of the state’s effort to expand adventure tourism opportunities throughout the state. The wooded sites allow campers with horses to spend the night and explore more than 30 miles of horse trails in the adjacent Pennyrile State Forest. Other state parks that feature equine campsites include Carter Caves, Dale Hollow Lake and Taylorsville Lake.

Erlanger-based Toyota Motor Engineering and Manufacturing North America (TEMA) has announced that it will boost production earlier than expected following the March 11 earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Beginning this month, overall North American production will reach approximately 70 percent of normal levels, up from approximately 30 percent in May. The improvement in parts availability from Japan is the result of countermeasure activities implemented by affected suppliers. Toyota will continue to evaluate production model-by-model on a monthly basis, with a goal to return to fully normalized production by late this year. Models returning to 100 percent production in June are Avalon, Camry, Corolla, Highlander, Matrix, Sequoia, Sienna and Venza.

Turfway Park and Capstone Auction Services LLC of Campbellsburg, Ky., have joined forces to produce organic compost that will be available to both wholesale and retail buyers. Turfway and Capstone officials say the composting venture is profitable from several angles. Since muck does not decompose in the anaerobic environment of a landfill, the composting will keep thousands of cubic yards of muck out of landfills while producing a marketable finished product. In addition, the process both cuts expenses and provides a revenue stream for Turfway. “We were spending nearly a quarter-million dollars a year to have the muck removed,” said Turfway’s Director of Operations Chip Bach. “Most of it went to mushroom farms in Pennsylvania, but we had to pay to have it hauled out of here. Now we not only save the cost of that transport but also have the potential to generate revenue.”

State officials gathered in Glasgow last month for the official groundbreaking ceremony of a new $20 million structure to house the Glasgow State Nursing Facility, a state-owned and operated long-term care center for individuals who need both mental health treatment and skilled nursing services. The new 100-bed, 72,000-s.f. facility will be built on the same campus as the existing structure. The facility employs approximately 100 people.

Omnicare Inc., a Highland Heights pharmaceutical company, has sold its Tidewater Group Purchasing subsidiary to New Jersey-based Managed Health Care for an undisclosed amount. “The divestiture of our group purchasing organization is consistent with our strategy to focus attention and reallocate resources to those areas of our business that align most closely with our core strengths and growth objectives,” said Omnicare CEO John Figueroa.

The Frontier School of Midwifery and Family Nursing, which has one of the largest nurse-midwifery education programs in the country, plans to change its name to Frontier Nursing University to better reflect its education offerings. Since being established in 1939, the institution now has close to 1,100 students from across the United States as well as several foreign countries enrolled in either the Doctor of Nursing Practice or Master of Science in Nursing degree programs. The name change will take effect July 1.

Global Environmental Services
and Digital Controls Corp. – Managed Print Group have merged to form a new division under the GES flagship that is operating as GES Print Solutions. The combined operation will continue to focus on IT services and electronics recycling.

LBX Co., maker of Link-Belt excavators, has established a subsidiary company, LBX do Brasil, based in Sao Paulo, Brazil. The expansion into the Brazilian marketplace is part of the company’s long-term strategy of broad domestic and international growth in the construction, demolition, scrap/material handling and forestry equipment sectors. LBX’s future plans for Brazil include establishing a parts distribution center and demonstration grounds. The headquarters’ offices will be staffed with sales and product support personnel, who will work with dealers to provide pre- and post-sale support, including financing solutions.

American Founders Bank
has joined with the former Lexington Investment Mortgage Co. to create AFB Mortgage. AFB President and CEO John T. Taylor said that as a full-service bank, AFB has always offered mortgage services, but said partnering with LIMC allows the company to better serve its customers. In 2010, LIMC originated approximately $20 million in mortgages through Kentucky and Florida. AFB Mortgage will work out of AFBs seven locations throughout Lexington and greater Louisville.

Kentucky Derby 137 was one for the record books as 164,858 race fans packed Churchill Downs Racetrack, breaking the former attendance record of 163,628 set in 1974 during the 100th anniversary of the “Run for the Roses.” Wagering on the full Kentucky Derby Day race card was $23.4 million, an increase of 9 percent over 2010’s on-track wagering total of $21.5 million. On-track wagering on the Derby race was $11.5 million, an increase of 4.2 percent over the $11.1 million wagered one year earlier. All-sources wagering on the Kentucky Derby card was $165.2 million, the third-highest in Derby history and an increase of 1.5 percent over the prior year’s $162.7 million.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has unveiled a plan that would reopen Kentucky Kingdom by issuing $17.5 million in city bonds backed by parking fees, a third-party investor and taxes collected from the jobs created at the amusement park. The plan would allow the park to open in 2012. “It’s always been my goal to reopen Kentucky Kingdom because it’s a valuable tourist attraction and it will create jobs,” Fischer said, “but it needs to be a deal that is good for the city.” Fisher said the latest proposal involves much less risk to taxpayers than previous deals proposed by Kentucky Kingdom investors, while at the same time providing an opportunity to re-open the park.

Advanced Cancer Therapeutics LLC, a privately held Louisville company that focuses on bringing new anti-cancer therapies to market, has signed an agreement to acquire rights from Antisoma plc for an anti-cancer drug that has shown promising results against a range of solid and blood cancer lines. ACT President and CEO Randall Riggs said the company intends to work closely with Dr. Don Miller at the Brown Cancer Center in Louisville to evaluate new potential indications or uses for ACT-GRO-777, including neuroblastoma in children.

Ventas Inc., a Chicago healthcare real estate investment trust company, has acquired 118 senior housing communities from Louisville-based Atria Senior Living Group for $3.1 billion.  Atria, the fourth-largest operator of assisted living properties in the United States with more than 120 communities in 27 states, will continue to manage the acquired properties. Ventas Chairman and CEO Debra Cafaro said the acquisition establishes Ventas, which has more than 700 assets in 44 states and two Canadian provinces, as the largest owner of senior living communities in the country.

Ford Motor Co.’s reinvestment in its Louisville Assembly Plant was named one of the Top Ten Deals of 2010 by Site Selection magazine, a leading economic development publication.   The magazine noted that the Louisville project, which represents an investment of more than $600 million and creates 1,800 new jobs, stands out for its scale of capital investment and job creation, creativity in negotiations and incentives, and regional economic impact.  In addition, Greater Louisville Inc. – the Metro Chamber of Commerce received an honorable mention in the magazine as one of the top-performing economic development agencies in the country.

Louisville-based insurance broker Neace Lukens has launched a new energy consulting service as part of its risk management division, CORE Solutions Property Services.  The energy service program was established as part of new business relationships forged with Ecotech Renewable Engineering, a Cincinnati-based renewable energy developer and consultant and Eagle Energy LLC, a Cincinnati-based alternative electricity supplier and energy consultant. Through the new service, CORE Solutions will work directly with clients to review their energy expenses and usage to optimize consumption and reduce overall energy spending.

Louisville-based tour and event company Mint Julep Tours has launched a new product to meet consumer demand in the growing experiential tourism segment. The Roll Out the Barrel tour lets participants travel to one of Kentucky’s premier distilleries to sample and resample unfiltered, barrel-strength bourbon. With a professional taster to help identify acute notes and distinct flavors, guests determine their favorite and then customize a bottle to create their own one-of-a-kind bourbon.

Kindred Healthcare has been approved for up to $2 million for up to 10 years through the Kentucky Business Incentives program. The incentives are tied to the company’s plans to invest approximately $520,000 to expand its Louisville headquarters and add 100 new positions. Kindred’s expansion plans are a result of its recent acquisition of St. Louis-based RehabCare Group Inc.

The cost of the proposed $4 billion-plus  Ohio River Bridges Project could be reduced by at least $1.2 billion with changes recommended earlier this year by Kentucky Gov. Steve Beshear, Indiana Gov. Mitch Daniels and Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer, an in-depth analysis by the Bi-State Management Team has concluded. The largest savings would result from rebuilding the downtown Kennedy Interchange in place rather than moving it to the south  ($800 million less); eliminating flyover ramps and making other design changes on the Indiana interstate approach to the newly expanded I-65 bridges ($215 million less); and reducing the East Endbridge, roadway and tunnel from six to four lanes ($174 million less).

A block of buildings in the Louisville’s historic Whiskey Row district that was once slated for demolition will be saved and renovated thanks to an agreement between the city and local developers and preservation leaders. Alan DeLisle, head of the Downtown Development Corp., said the agreement “not only will enhance the vitality of downtown, but it will also make a significant contribution to economic growth and job creation.”

Louisville-based Republic Bank & Trust Co. has announced plans to sell its banking center in Bowling Green to Citizens First Bank Inc. Bowling Green-based Citizens will assume all deposits, fixed assets and approximately half of the outstanding loans of Republic’s Bowling Green banking center. The transaction covers approximately $35 million in deposits and $14.5 million in loans.

Pella Corp.
has announced plans to expand its operations in Murray, where it produces vinyl window and doors. Plant Manager Doug Dieleman said the expansion in Murray was tied to increasing demand for the company’s energy-efficient Pella 350 Series of vinyl window and doors. The expansion will add 75 new jobs to the plant’s current staff of approximately 630.

Two information technology companies announced plans to locate headquarters in Newport. Korea-based Arcron Systems specializes in medical information technology such as hospital information systems, electronic medical records, order communication systems, and enterprise resource planning systems for hospitals of all sizes. Meaningful Use Technologies also serves the healthcare sector, specializing in enterprise IT experience and providing software specification, deployment and hosting services to hospitals. The companies are investing a total of more than $1 million in Northern Kentucky and expect to create 20 jobs.

Modern Distributors
, a full-line convenience store distributor, is expanding its operations in Somerset with the addition of a 12,500-s.f. cooler-freezer facility. Modern Distributors began its Somerset operation in 1965 as a small, family-owned vending company and has grown into an organization designed to serve the wholesale grocery, coffee/ beverage and foodservice needs of convenience stores. The company currently has approximately 1,300 vending, coffee and wholesale customers and employs 179 people between its Somerset headquarters and satellite office in Louisville. The expansion, which is expected to be complete by mid-July, will add 20 new jobs.

UGN Inc., an Illinois-based company that produces acoustic solutions for the automotive industry, is investing nearly $5 million to expand its manufacturing plant in Somerset. The Somerset plant is one of six UGN facilities and employs more than 170 workers. The expansion will add 50 new jobs.

Six southeastern Kentucky counties have teamed to form the Southeast Kentucky Regional Chamber of Commerce. Participating counties include Lawrence, Magoffin, Martin, Pike, Letcher and Knott.

The state has announced plans to invest more than $3.1 million in 2011 for improvements to short line railroads in 12 Kentucky counties. Improvements include replacement or rehabilitation of rails, rail beds and railroad crossings. Recipients of the grants include R.J. Corman Railroad-Central Kentucky Line; Paducah & Louisville Railroad; TennKen Railroad; Louisville & Indiana Railroad; TransKentucky Transportation Railroad; and the Kentucky Railway Museum. (The museum also stores railroad rolling stock and is therefore a part of the short line system.)

Tourism-related business in Kentucky brought in $11.3 billion in 2010, with eight of nine tourism regions showing gains, according to figures recently released by the state. The figure represents a 4.8 percent increase over 2009. The figures, part of an annual survey, also showed that tourism was responsible for 169,258 jobs in Kentucky in 2010 – an increase of 2,657 from the previous year. The jobs generated more than $2.5 billion in wages for Kentucky workers, an increase of $118 million from the previous year. Tourism generated $1.188 billion in tax revenues for local and state governments in 2010, an increase from $1.133 billion in 2009.

Nine Lexington-area colleges and universities have united to form the Consortium of Higher Education in Central Kentucky (CHECK) with the goal of elevating awareness of educational opportunities for adults in Central Kentucky by promoting and organizing education events. “We want to provide a valuable resource for businesses to connect with the educational community as the current economic climate has shown corporations the benefits of having a well-educated workforce,” said CHECK President Mustafa Mahdi.  “When companies make the investment in educating and training their employees, loyalty, higher morale, and quality performance are the results.” CHECK members include Asbury University, Bluegrass Community & Technical College, Eastern Kentucky University, Indiana Wesleyan University, ITT Technical Institute, Midway College, Morehead University, Strayer University, and University of Phoenix.