Home » Business briefs – November 2013

Business briefs – November 2013

By Karen Baird


♦ Accu Medical Waste Services has opened a medical waste plant in the Paul Coffey Industrial Park that uses steam to sterilize up to 50 tons of medical waste per day. Once sterilized, the waste is compacted and hauled to nearby landfill. Although the million-dollar facility is currently operating with only a two-member staff, Accu President Jim Parks told The (Ashland) Independent that the plant could ultimately employ up to 30 employees and operate 24 hours a day.


♦ INFAC North America Inc. has completed a $6.5 million expansion of its manufacturing operation in Campbellsville. The new 100,000-s.f. assembly, manufacturing and warehouse facility will allow for increased production of brake and transmission control cables for the automotive industry. The company is adding 20 full-time positions to the existing 60-member staff to support the additional work.


FLBB_Bexion♦ Covington-based Bexion Pharmaceuticals has been awarded a $2.9 million Small Business Innovation Research “Bridge Award” from the National Cancer Institute. The funding will be used to fund a Phase I clinical trial to evaluate a therapy for certain brain tumors.


♦ Roeding Insurance Group is now part of Houchens Insurance Group, a Bowling Green-based regional and international insurance broker. Roeding, which is headquartered in Crestview Hills and also has an office in Lexington, will maintain its name as well as its current management structure and employee group. Houchens Insurance Group is comprised of Van Meter Insurance, Employers Risk Services Inc., Center of Insurance, Insurance Specialists, Curneal and Hignite, and Blake, Hart, Taylor & Wiseman, making it one of the nation’s largest employee-owned insurance agencies with more than $250 million in gross sales.


FLBB-Centre College Logo♦ Centre College has received an anonymous gift of $1 million to fund foreign language study and comprehension by students and faculty. Seventy-five percent of the gift is intended for study abroad grants to qualified students who have completed two years of foreign language study at Centre and want to travel to a country where that language is spoken. The remaining 25 percent of the gift is intended for Centre language faculty to travel to nations where the language they teach is spoken. Centre currently offers courses in Catalan, Chinese, French, German, Greek, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin and Spanish.


♦ Former U.S. Rep. Ben Chandler has joined the three principals of Strategic Advisers, a Northern Kentucky-based public relations and government-relations firm, to form a new government relations firm called Omni Advocacy Group. Omni Advocacy Group now will handle the government-relations work previously provided by Strategic Advisers. Strategic Advisers will continue to provide public relations and digital media consulting services and the company will work closely with Omni to provide PR and grassroots services to the government-relations firm and its clients.


FLBB_Pinnacle Vodka♦ Beam Inc., the parent company of Jim Beam Distillery and Maker’s Mark Distillery, has sold its bottling plant in Lewiston, Maine, to Sazerac Co. and plans to move the bottling of its Pinnacle Vodka and Calico Jack Rum to Kentucky, where more than two-thirds of the company’s global annual volume is produced. The transition to Beam’s recently expanded facility in Frankfort is slated to be complete by the end of the first quarter of 2014.


FLBB_AllegiantAirlines♦ Both Allegiant and Frontier Airlines have announced plans to expand flight service out of the Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport (CVG) in February. Allegiant will be adding nonstop service between CVG and Orlando Sanford Airport (SFB) and Ft. Myers/Punta Gorda Airport (PGD), while Frontier will add nonstop service to Trenton, N.J.


♦ Northern Kentucky University is now offering a bachelor science degree in data science, the first bachelor’s program of its kind in the Midwest. Data scientists are a new breed of technologist who utilize sophisticated mathematical, communication, analytical, business and computational skills in a wide variety of businesses. The NKU program includes a business analytics track and a computation intensive track.


♦ Brightway Insurance, a national independent insurance retailer, has opened its first Kentucky location in Lexington. The Florida-based company, which offers customers multiple insurance carrier options under one roof, operates more than 100 locations nationwide. The Lexington franchise is owned by Hamilton Alverson.

FL_NetGain logo♦ Lexington-based information technology company NetGain Technologies has expanded into a new market with the acquisition of U.S. Teks, a managed information technology services partner headquartered in Birmingham, Ala. The acquisition marks NetGain Technologies’ fifth expansion in three years. Most recently, the company acquired NCDTech, a leading provider of managed IT services and business technology consulting in the St. Louis area. As in the past, NetGain Technologies will leave U.S. Teks’ current team in place.

♦ A new report recently released by the Kauffman Foundation ranks Lexington No. 10 in the country in the small to mid-metropolitan category for high-tech startup density. The city ranked No. 4 for the largest increase in startup density since 1990. The report noted startup communities are being touted as the next new thing in economic development, especially in the high-tech and information technology sectors, and are important drivers of economic growth.

FLBB_Fazoli's Venti-Tre♦ Lexington-based Fazoli’s is launching a new fast-casual Italian restaurant concept that will debut in Baltimore in early 2014. Venti-Tre (the word for 23 in Italian) will feature a “modern Italian” menu that allows guests to choose a piada, pasta or salad and then customize it with an assortment of 23 different meats, vegetables, cheeses, dressings, sauces and other toppings. The restaurant will also feature an Italian soda bar in addition to beer, wine and soft drinks. Prices are expected to range from $9 to $11.

♦ Lexington-based Space Tango, the nation’s first business accelerator specifically for space enterprises and entrepreneurs, is accepting proposals for funding and acceptance to its space business accelerator. In the initial round, Space Tango will accept up to six companies from across the United States and globally. Each enterprise will receive funding of up to $20,000 and will participate in an intensive 12-week onsite program that will provide all of the services, advisors and networks necessary to successfully start and grow an entrepreneurial space-driven business. Possibilities involve small, high-value satellites and space platforms; the international space station; and opportunities in biotechnology, exomedicine, novel materials, energy, education and game design and development.

♦ Lexmark International continues to expand its reach with the acquisition of healthcare data management provider PACSGEAR for $54 million. “As the healthcare industry continues to digitize its differing forms of content, from X-rays and MRIs to insurance forms, providers are struggling to deploy solutions that will help manage their unstructured information challenge,” said Paul Rooke, Lexmark’s chairman and CEO. “The acquisition of PACSGEAR further differentiates Lexmark’s solutions by better enabling healthcare organizations to capture and process digital content, and then ensure it is connected with the applications and people that need it most so they can deliver the best patient care possible.” PACSGEAR has a global footprint, with clients in more than 50 countries and approximately half of all U.S.-based hospitals.

♦ The Center for the Advancement of Science in Space has announced an agreement with Kentucky Space LLC to facilitate biomedical research on the international space station. Dr. Mahendra Jain, principal investigator for Kentucky Space LLC, a Lexington-based enterprise that focuses on space solutions, will study regeneration in planarians, which are flatworms capable of rebuilding body organs and nervous systems after damage. Since gravity, and the lack thereof, influences the way cells behave and their ability to rebuild tissue, studying planarians in space may reveal new aspects of how cells rebuild tissue, which could lead to breakthroughs in medical treatments for humans.

♦ The Saint Joseph Heart Institute has successfully completed a new heart procedure that presents an alternative for patients who are too ill for open-heart surgery. It is the first time the minimally invasive MitraClip procedure, which is part of a clinical trial, has been completed in Kentucky. “In the past, the only option to help patients with congestive heart failure was to band-aid the symptoms with medication,” said Dr. Robert Salley, executive director of cardiovascular services. “This is a huge opportunity to increase the health and quality of life for many patients.”

FLBB_Applebees♦ Thomas & King, a Lexington-based restaurant franchise company, announced plans to sell its Applebee’s Grill and Bar franchise operations to RMH Franchise Corp., a Nebraska franchise company that currently owns and operates 60 Applebee’s restaurants in 10 states. The acquisition bring its total number of Applebee’s to more than 140, making RMH the second-largest Applebee’s franchisee in the U.S. RMH said it intends to hire many of the Thomas & King employees in the Lexington corporate office. For those not offered positions with RMH, many will have the opportunity for continued employment with Thomas & King, which will continue to own and develop Johnny Carino’s Italian restaurants as well as new business opportunities.

♦ Phinix LLC, a Lexington-based company that specializes in carbon management for the aluminum industry, has been awarded $608,863 from the U.S. Department of Energy for a project that involves developing new technology to recover high-quality magnesium from aluminum-magnesium scrap. By recovering and reusing aluminum-magnesium scrap, Phinix’s technology could reduce the need for manufacturing new, expensive primary metals while developing a sustainable and low-cost advanced manufacturing process. Phinix’s project was one of only 33 projects selected share in $66 million in funding from the DOE’s Advanced Research Projects Agency-Energy.

FLBB_Kennedy's WildcatDenLogo♦ After 63 years serving the University of Kentucky as Kennedy Book Store, the business has officially changed its name to Kennedy’s Wildcat Den. While Kennedy’s will continue to sell textbooks, the growth of the store’s apparel, gift and souvenir departments have grown to be a major part of the business and the name change is reflective of that shift.


FL brown-forman♦ Brown-Forman Corp. plans to open a new head office in Amsterdam that will oversee the Louisville-based company’s European operations.  The opening of the European head office follows significant recent activity in the region, which accounted for 30 percent of Brown-Forman’s total net sales in fiscal 2013. The company plans to relocate key members of its European leadership team from Louisville to Amsterdam, where it will ultimately employ a staff of approximately 40, and also plans to move its Finlandia global brand team from Louisville to Amsterdam.

♦ Kindred Healthcare Inc. has paid $14 million to acquire TherEX Inc., a Franklin, Tenn.-based company that provides on-site, hospital-based rehabilitation services in 11 states. TherEX will be incorporated into Kindred’s RehabCare division, which ranks as one of the nation’s largest contract rehabilitation managers, providing therapy services to more than 535,000 patients annually. In 2012, TherEX generated approximately $20 million in revenue.

♦ Greater Louisville Inc., the city’s metro chamber of commerce, has laid off eight staff members, enacted hiring and travel freezes, and reduced outside services and contractual obligations, measures that GLI President and CEO Craig J. Richard said will enable the organization to “achieve a strong financial position to better serve our mission.” Richard said the staff reductions – which included GLI’s chief financial officer and two vice presidents – were not simply a cost-cutting measure but part of a broader vision to strengthen GLI’s focus on economic development activities and member services. The layoffs, combined with the recent resignation of the chief administrative officer and another staff member, leave GLI with a total of 36 employees.

FLBB_H&R Block♦ Republic Bancorp has terminated its agreement to acquire H&R Block Bank and withdrawn its application with the Office of the Comptroller of the Currency to convert it to a national bank, according to a report by the Associated Press. Republic has not released any further details about the decision, but H&R Block Inc. President and CEO William Cobb has said his company will explore options with other suitors.


FLBB_Siemens♦ Siemens has completed a $2 million expansion of its facility in Marion, where it engineers control systems for railways and transit authority. The project added 95,000 s.f. of space to make way for the production and installation of technology for wayside buildings. The Germany-based company is adding 50 full-time jobs to its existing 200-member Marion staff as a result of the expansion.


♦ American Farm Investors, a Lexington-based company that acquires profitable farms with investor funds and manages them to maximize potential, has acquired its fourth property, an 83-acre grain operation in Mercer County. The farm will produce corn, wheat and soybeans, producing an annual income of 3 to 6 percent for the 10 syndicated investors in the property. The corn and wheat have already been contracted for sale to a Kentucky bourbon distillery.


lge-ku♦ Louisville Gas and Electric and Kentucky Utilities plan to build a $700 million natural gas combined-cycle generating station in Muhlenberg County that will create approximately 40 permanent full-time jobs and several hundred construction jobs in western Kentucky. The plant will have about 700 megawatts of capacity and is expected to be online by 2018. The companies are also looking to build a 10-megawatt solar facility at one of its existing generating stations that is expected to be operational in 2016. An exact location for the solar facility has not yet been determined.


♦ Alice Lloyd College has received a private donation of $1 million, a gift that represents one of the largest donations in the history of the small liberal arts school. The donation from Julianne “Judy” Perry, which was made in memory of her late husband, G. Chad Perry III, will be used to fund four presidential scholarships, school officials said. The scholarships will cover the cost of tuition, room/board, fees, and books and will provide continued financial assistance throughout graduate and/or professional school.


♦ Louisville Business First reports that Trumbo Farm Service LLC, a Shelby County commercial farming operation, has bought the former Leggett & Platt Inc. plant in Simpsonville for $762,500. Trumbo plans to use most of the 122,000-s.f. space for its farming operation and will lease 20,000 to 40,000 s.f. Leggett & Platt, which at one time had as many as 600 employees in Simpsonville, closed the facility in 2009 in response to a decreased demand for the metal swivel chair and recliner components made at the plant.


FLBB_LittleKySmokehouse♦ Little Kentucky Smokehouse is doubling the size of its facility with the construction of a second 40,000-s.f. facility at its existing Uniontown site. The family-owned company, which was founded in 2003, produces hams for national customers’ private labels as well as its own brands, Little Kentucky Smokehouse and Premium Kentucky Farm. The $2.2 million expansion will allow the company to meet increased demand for its products and will add 18 full-time jobs to the existing 70-member staff.