Fast Lane — December 2013

By Karen Baird

STATE: Kentucky’s business climate ranks among top 10 in the nation

Site Selection magazine has ranked Kentucky’s business climate among the top 10 in the nation in its 2013 Top State Business Climates ranking. Jumping two spots from 2012, the commonwealth ranked ninth overall in this year’s annual survey.

The ranking is based 50 percent on a survey of corporate site selectors and 50 percent on a set of criteria that include the states’ competitiveness rank as published in Site Selection’s May issue; qualified projects so far in 2013 and on a per capita basis; and state tax burdens on new and mature firms as compiled by the Tax Foundation and KPMG Location Matters analysis.

Kentucky scored particularly well in project activity categories, including first place for number of qualified projects on a per capita basis in 2012; second place for number of qualified projects on a per capita basis for the first eight months of 2013; and an overall 10th place finish for project activity in 2012, taking population out of consideration.

“States that rank this prominently are taking the steps necessary to attract capital investment, and our readers will pay close attention to these efforts in the year ahead,” said Mark Arend, editor-in-chief of Site Selection, which has nearly 49,000 subscribers. “My colleagues and I salute Gov. Beshear and his economic development team for their commitment to improving Kentucky’s business climate.”

STATE: Kentucky Proud’s ‘Homegrown by Heroes’ program goes national

A Kentucky initiative to identify farm products produced by veterans will become a national brand, Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer announced on Veterans Day at the Frazier History Museum in Louisville.

The Farmer Veteran Coalition, a California-based organization that helps veterans develop careers in agriculture, will administer Kentucky’s Homegrown by Heroes program on the national level. The Farm Credit System has announced a $250,000 commitment to fund the national program.

“From the day we started Homegrown by Heroes, it was my intention to take it national so it can benefit veterans from every state,” Comer said. “This is something we in agriculture can do to show our respect and appreciation for our military veteran farmers across the United States.”

“Many of the men and women who serve proudly in our military come from America’s rural areas and small towns,” said Everett M. Dobrinski, board chairman for CoBank and director for the Farm Credit Council board. “The Farm Credit System has a mission to serve rural America. By supporting the expansion of the Homegrown by Heroes effort, we hope to increase economic opportunity for those veterans who choose to return to agriculture and, in doing so, help our rural communities thrive.”

Comer launched Homegrown by Heroes in January as a brand that identifies agricultural products produced by Kentucky military veterans, providing an incentive for consumers to buy those products and for retailers to stock them on their store shelves.

“With this partnership, we are ensuring that Homegrown by Heroes extends beyond the borders of Kentucky and beyond my time as agriculture commissioner,” Comer said. “Farmer/veterans from Maine to California, and from this day forward, will be able to use this brand to tell consumers that someone who served in defense of our country made that product. And consumers can say ‘Thank you for your service’ by buying that product and helping that veteran make a living on the farm.”

LOUISVILLE: XPO Logistics Inc. invests $2.7M in transport service center

XPO Logistics Inc. is investing $2.7 million to establish a new logistics center in downtown Louisville.

Since being founded in 1989, the Connecticut-based company has become one of the fastest-growing providers of transportation logistics services in North America, quadrupling in size in the last two years alone. The company offers truckload and less-than-truckload brokerage, last-mile logistics, ground/air expedited transportation and freight forwarding services to more than 8,600 customers in the manufacturing, industrial, retail, food and beverage, commercial, life sciences and government sectors. The company has operations in 89 locations in the United States and Canada.

XPO is relatively new to the Louisville area, having acquired a small logistics operation there earlier this year. The company currently employs a staff of 14 and anticipates adding 120 new jobs as a result of its Louisville expansion.

XPO Chief Operating Officer Sean Fernandez said the Greater Louisville operation is an important milestone in the rapid growth of the company’s customer service network and said hiring in sales and operations is already underway.

LOUISVILLE: Almost Family acquires 75 locations in nine states for $75.5M

Almost Family Inc., a Louisville-based provider of home health nursing services, has signed a definitive agreement to acquire the stock of SunCrest HealthCare for $75.5 million.

SunCrest, a Tennessee-based provider of skilled home health and personal care services, generated over $150 million in revenue in 2012 and currently operates more than 75 branch locations in nine states. The company is one of the largest home health provider chains in Tennessee, with 27 branches generating more than $60 million in annual revenues. In addition, SunCrest is a major provider in Florida with annual revenues over $43 million and adds the Florida panhandle to Almost Family’s service territory.  Combined, the companies service the entire state of Florida with the exception of Miami-Dade County and the Keys.

With this acquisition – the largest in the company’s history – Almost Family will operate more than 240 branches across 14 states and its annual net revenue run rate is expected to approach the $500 million mark.

Almost Family Chairman and CEO William B. Yarmuth said, “The SunCrest brands have long-standing franchise value and we intend to continue our practice of maintaining acquired brands in the local markets. We believe this transaction is an outstanding fit consistent with our long-stated development goals of building strong brand presence with tight geographic density and operational span of control.”

STATE: Chamber Study touts tourism potential of east Kentucky region

Eastern Kentucky can become an appealing regional destination for visitors from Kentucky and surrounding states, but making that happen will require long-term commitments from the private and public sectors to develop the tourism attractions that would be necessary, according to a recent study by the Kentucky Chamber Foundation.

The chamber commissioned the study in an effort to find a way to offset the significant loss of coal jobs in the region. The purpose of the study was “to take a serious look at the tourism potential of Eastern Kentucky and to create a dialogue about how to develop an underdeveloped region of the state,” said Dave Adkisson, president and CEO of the chamber.

Conducted by international consulting firm AECOM, the study analyzed national and state trends such as how far people are willing to travel for personal recreation, what types of recreation draw what types of visitors, the current mix of attractions in the region, the availability of broadband and various restrictions on alcohol sales. The study also looked at other regions of the country, including Gatlinburg/Pigeon Forge, Tenn.; Branson, Mo.; Wisconsin Dells, Wis; and Bentonville, Ark.

The chamber acknowledged that it commissioned the study with a limited agenda. Rather than tackling the host of issues facing Eastern Kentucky and other rural areas (such as education attainment, healthcare, drug abuse, the “brain drain,” etc.), the chamber decided to build on the region’s natural beauty, relatively good highway access and central location relative to more than two-thirds of the nation’s population and to focus on tourism as a possible area of development and job creation.

The study is available for download at kychamber.com/ekytourism.

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