Home » Business briefs — December 2013

Business briefs — December 2013

By Karen Baird


♦ Bardstown Warehousing is adding a second facility in the Bardstown Industrial Park to help meet increased need for warehouse space in the area, according to a report by The Kentucky Standard. The 100,000-s.f. facility will be used as a distribution, warehouse and logistics center with possible manufacturing or assembly capabilities. The facility will employ a staff of five to 10.


♦ Alpla, an Austria-based company that specializes in customized plastic packaging, held an official ribbon-cutting ceremony on Nov. 11 for its new 108,000-s.f. manufacturing facility in the Kentucky Transpark business and industrial park. The new plant, which represents a $22.4 million investment, is currently producing detergent containers for Sun Products’ Bowling Green facility. Alpla is currently producing 2 million containers per month and expects that number to rise to 3 million per month once the plant’s production lines are fully operational. As of early November, Alpla had hired 59 people and plans to bring that number to 72 by the second quarter of 2014.

♦ A company that produces flat rolled-steel products plans to open a new facility in Bowling Green that will create 30 new jobs. Horizon Steel will be the exclusive processor of all steel products for Bilstein Group, a German company that is also locating in Warren County, bringing 90 new jobs to the community. U.S.-based Horizon Steel carries a full line of carbon-based products and is also considered an expert in the advanced high-strength steel market. Horizon will operate out of the Bilstein plant in Bowling Green’s Kentucky Transpark. Horizon will occupy 98,000 s.f. of the 150,000-s.f. facility, which will begin construction in the spring of 2015.

♦ Minit Mart, a Bowling Green-based chain of 34 convenience stores, has signed a letter of intent to sell the company to Travel Centers of America for $67 million. Founded in 1967, Minit Mart currently has some 550 employees in Kentucky and Tennessee. Travel Centers of America Vice President of Marketing Tom Liutkus told The (Bowling Green) Daily News that operations-level employees with Minit Mart will see “little if any change at all in personnel.” Ohio-based Travel Centers of America operates in 42 states and has nearly 12,000 employees.


♦ UpTech, a business informatics accelerator launched last year by a group of Northern Kentucky community investors, unveiled its new Covington headquarters on Nov. 22. The new headquarters space features an open co-working hall, breakout rooms to inspire creativity, multipurpose conference rooms, a retreat lounge and hospitality area, and a Northern Kentucky University satellite library that will offer literary resources as well as assistance with patents, licensing, trademarks and copyrights. UpTech guides participant start-up companies through areas of business development that range from marketing and fundraising to market research and pitching the company to both investors and clients.


♦ Gateway Community and Technical College has launched an initiative designed to promote manufacturing careers to women, a demographic that currently holds only 10 percent of the region’s manufacturing jobs. The training portion formally kicks off in January when a group of 10 to 15 women will take the Manufacturing Skills Standards Council’s Certified Production Technician class. Beginning in March 2014, women may enroll in the Mechatronics and Machining Career Pathways to be employment ready by May 15, 2014.  One company has already asked to interview all of the candidates for its apprenticeship program, which provides full-time employment and full tuition benefit for those wanting to pursue an associate degree.


♦ Kentucky State University held a ribbon-cutting ceremony in late October for a floating science laboratory that will be used for aquatic research. The Kentucky River Thorobred adds another dimension to the university’s acclaimed aquaculture program and will also be used to teach Kentucky schoolchildren about the Kentucky River’s history and ecology. Construction of the 52-foot-long vessel was funded by the U.S. Department of Agriculture’s National Institute of Food and Agriculture.


♦ Groupon has opened a new distribution warehouse in Boone County that will create 115 new jobs. Groupon has become a leader in commerce by offering discounted products and services through its online marketplace. The Hebron warehouse will serve as the primary fulfillment center for the company’s growing Groupon Goods business.


♦ The Kentucky Public Service Commission has approved Big Rivers Electric Corp.’s request to adjust its rates to reflect the departure of the Henderson-based utility’s largest customer, the Century aluminum smelter in Hawesville. Century stopped purchasing power from Big Rivers on Aug. 20, the effective date of a contract allowing it to buy power on the open market. The Hawesville smelter consumed about 40 percent of the power generated by Big Rivers and represented a slightly larger share of total revenue. The PSC has authorized Big Rivers to receive an additional $54.2 million annually from its remaining customers – some $20 million less than the amount sought by Big Rivers. According to The (Henderson) Gleaner, the rate increase will result in a 16.3 percent increase for the typical residential customer.


♦ Keeneland concluded its 2013 fall race meet with record attendance and all-sources wagering. The fall meet also featured two other historic events: Jockey Rosie Napravnik won 17 races to become the first female to capture the leading rider title at Keeneland, and Ken and Sarah Ramsey earned their 13th leading owner title after winning 17 races, a fall meet record. Keeneland’s November Breeding Stock Sale also had a strong showing, with a 38 percent increase in total sales. Strong demand from an internationally diverse clientele drove double-digit gains in gross, average and median, and produced 14 million-dollar-plus horses, double the number sold in 2012.

♦ Frost Brown Todd has formed a new public affairs company that will serve to further strengthen its government-relations services. CivicPoint will provide lobbying, government relations and public affairs services in Frost Brown Todd’s five-state footprint.


♦ After being recognized this fall by Inc. magazine as one of the country’s top job creators, Louisville-based 21c Museum Hotels has seen its Cincinnati hotel named as the best hotel in the United States in the Condé Nast Traveler’s annual Readers Choice Awards. The hotel was also ranked 11th best worldwide on the Condé Nast list.

♦ U.S. Bank has closed on more than $59 million in financing for the redevelopment of the Hilliard Lyons Center into Le Centre on Fourth, a 340,000-s.f. mixed-use development that will preserve the historic façade and appeal of a building built at the turn of the 20th century while also providing a spark to the downtown district. Built in 1907 and formerly home to Stewart’s department store, the building will be redeveloped into a 270-room Embassy Suites hotel, 100,000 s.f. of Class A commercial office space and 18,000 s.f. of retail space. Once completed in fall 2014, the project is expected to create more than 200 jobs, in addition to up to 200 construction jobs.

♦ MCM LLP, one of Kentucky’s largest accounting firms, has moved its accounting services team from Louisville to Southern Indiana. The move adds 20 employees to MCM’s growing Jeffersonville office, bringing the total staff there to 70. Diane Medley, MCM’s co-managing partner, said, “We strongly believe that Southern Indiana is poised for significant economic growth, especially in the small to mid-size business market, so we’re devoting more resources to enhance that growth.”

♦ Developer Steve Poe has announced plans to build a new $22 million Aloft hotel in downtown Louisville. The 175-room boutique hotel will be located across from historic Whiskey Row and adjacent to the KFC Yum! Center arena. Construction is expected to be complete in time for the 2015 Kentucky Derby.

♦ The University of Louisville has adopted a “living wage” program that increases its minimum salary for regular staff employees to $10 per hour. UofL is paying for the program with savings incurred through its health insurance program. The university is self-insured and offers a wellness program, Get Healthy Now, that promotes physical and mental fitness among its employees. “Through strong management of our resources and thanks in part to the success of Get Healthy Now, we have been able to reallocate savings from our health insurance program to this important initiative – without raising insurance rates or cutting back on our employees’ health benefit,” said UofL President James Ramsey. The increase went into effect Nov. 1.

♦ Kindred Healthcare has signed two definitive agreements that will expand its holdings. The Louisville-based company is investing $95 million to acquire Senior Home Care Inc., which operates 47 locations in Florida and Louisiana and currently generates revenues of approximately $143 million. Kindred is also spending $83 million to acquire the real estate associated with nine nursing centers in five states – including one in Mayfield, Ky. – that it currently leases from HCP Inc. Kindred CEO Paul Diaz said, “Purchasing the real estate of these nursing centers is an important step as we continue to reduce our lease obligations, our most expensive debt, and advance our repositioning plan.”

♦ Louisville Metro Government has issued a request for information to companies and organizations as it moves forward in its effort to build an ultra-high-speed gigabit network in Louisville. “We’re throwing open the doors and asking the world to bring us their ideas to connect our city with very high-speed fiber,” said Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer. “Availability of and access to a high-speed broadband network has quickly become viewed as critical urban infrastructure, similar to electricity, water and roadways. Today’s current network speeds do not provide an adequate foundation to propel the city forward in a technology-based economy.”


♦ Heaven Hill Distilleries held grand opening festivities last month for its new Evan Williams Bourbon Experience, an attraction that features an artisanal distillery, tours and bourbon tastings. Located on Louisville’s historic Whiskey Row in downtown Louisville, the Bourbon Experience becomes the eighth stop on the Kentucky Bourbon Trail and the first in Louisville.


♦ More than 1,100 citizens from southern and eastern Kentucky attended a summit on Dec. 9 to share new ideas about how to help the region move forward economically. Hosted by Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Congressman Hal Rogers, the “Shaping Our Appalachian Region” (SOAR) summit was open to anyone with an interest in the region and drew attendees representing education, business, nonprofits, arts, finance, tourism and local government. Among the topics addressed were job creation, entrepreneurship, tourism, lifelong learning and leadership development. The recent recession hit the region particularly hard and its top industry – coal – has seen more than 6,000 miners laid off in the last two years.


♦ Eastern Kentucky University has announced plans to build a new $83 million complex that will accommodate both its College of Education and the Model Laboratory School. “Our roots as an institution are in teacher education,” said EKU President Michael Benson. “Model Lab is the last of its kind in the state and one of the few remaining in the country and continues to be an example of what can be accomplished. This new complex will allow us to prepare the next generation for the rapid changes in the field of education.”