Bowling Green-based Fruit of the Loom Inc. has been named a recipient of the 2013 Secretary of State’s Award for Corporate Excellence, which recognizes the important role U.S. businesses play abroad as good corporate citizens. One of three winners this year, Fruit of the Loom was recognized for its exemplary corporate citizenship practices in Honduras, where the company is one of the country’s largest private employers. The company was praised for its work in forging a ground-breaking collective bargaining agreement with its workers, which has become a model for the Central America region. The deal provides more than 10,000 health screenings for people in local communities, recognizes unions and adopts a union-neutral policy at its Honduras assembly facilities.
Ashland Inc. has signed a definitive agreement to sell Ashland Water Technologies to a fund managed by private investment firm Clayton, Dubilier & Rice in a transaction valued at approximately $1.8 billion. Water Technologies is supplier of specialty chemicals and services to the pulp and paper and industrial water markets. Though the business unit has seen significant improvements in its business and financial performance over the past year, Ashland Chairman and CEO James O’ Brien said the divestiture allows Ashland to focus on its core specialty chemicals business.
The (Danville) Advocate-Messenger reports that Louisville-based Oracle Consulting Services LLC is moving forward with plans to renovate the former Palm Beach suit factory in downtown Danville to accommodate 32 housing units for moderate-income families and individuals. Oracle has received $555,178 in tax credit from the Kentucky Housing Corp. for the project, which is slated to begin this spring and ready for occupancy in 2015. Last fall, the Kentucky Historic Preservation Review Board approved the building – which was built during the Depression and was the first industrial manufacturing plant of its kind in Danville – for inclusion on the National Register of Historic Places.
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) has opened an application site at Cincinnati/Northern Kentucky International Airport for TSA PreCheck, an expedited screening program that allows travelers to leave on their shoes, light outerwear and belts, keep their laptop in its case and keep compliant liquids/gels in a carry-on bag. The Precheck application process allows U.S. citizens and lawful permanent residents to pre-enroll online, then visit an application center to provide personal information, identity documentation and fingerprints. Once approved, travelers can used the expedited security lines at more than 100 airports and on nine major U.S. airlines. In Kentucky, TSA PreCheck is also available in Louisville.
U.S. Smokeless Tobacco is investing $118 million to build a new facility and expand its existing tobacco fermentation plant in Hopkinsville. The new 230,000-.s.f facility will be used to process aged tobacco, including shredding, drying and flavoring. The new projects, which will add 42 new jobs to the existing 90-member staff, are expected to be complete by 2016.
Sustainment Solutions Inc., a Lancaster company that specializes in the installation and maintenance of security equipment worldwide, has been recognized as one of the top 100 small businesses in the nation by the U.S. Chamber of Commerce for its work to restore jobs and support economic growth. Award recipients were selected from a record number of applicants from across the nation and were evaluated in areas such as strategic planning, employee development, community involvement and customer service. As a recipient of the 2014 Blue Ribbon Dream Big award – and the only Kentucky company to receive the award – SSI representatives will travel to Washington, D.C. in June to be part of the chamber’s Small Business Summit.
♦ The University of Kentucky College of Pharmacy and the Markey Cancer Center have formed a new Center for Nanobiotechnology, which will be led by Peixuan Guo, UK’s William S. Farish Fund Endowed Chair in Nanobiotechnology. Nanotechnology is the development and engineering of devices so small that they are measured on a nanometer scale. Nanoscale devices can work as parts of body organs, tissues, and drug carriers to interact with biomolecules on both the surface and inside cells. Because they have access to so many areas of the body, they have the potential to detect diseases and deliver treatments in newer and more effective ways.
♦ The Lexington Convention and Visitors Bureau knows what it takes to make a sporting event run smoothly, according to the readers of SportsEvents magazine. The bureau was recently awarded the 2014 Readers’ Choice Award by the publication, which asked sports event professionals to name the sports commission, convention and visitors bureau, or sports events venues that best displayed exemplary creativity and professionalism toward the groups they host. VisitLEX was selected from thousands of nominations.
♦ In response to the explosive growth of the faith-based travel industry, Lexington-based NTA Services Inc. has created the Faith Travel Association. According to NTA, some 50,000 U.S. churches have travel programs and faith-related travel pumps $18 billion into the world’s tourism economy. FTA, which will be headquartered in Lexington, will focus on connecting those groups with qualified travel professionals to help them plan their trips and events.
♦ West Sixth Brewing is adding 13,000 s.f. to its craft brewery operation in downtown Lexington. The expansion will accommodate a new 40-barrel brewhouse and six 80-barrel fermenters, which will allow the company to produce nearly three times the amount of beer produced with its previous 15-barrel system. The 15-barrel system will be kept and used for smaller batches, said West Sixth founder Joe Kuosman. The expansion will also allow West Sixth to begin canning its third permanent beer, the Lemongrass American Wheat.
♦ The Victorian Square Shoppes, a 140,000-s.f. complex of buildings across from Rupp Arena and the Lexington Convention Center, has been rebranded as The Square and is adding apparel and accessories retailer Urban Outfitters, pizzeria chain Pies and Pints, and upscale beer bar The Brass Tap, all of which are making their first entry into the Lexington market. In addition, Lexington-based restaurant company Saul Good opened its third Lexington location at the site. The upper levels of The Square, which previously housed retailers, are being repositioned for office users.
♦ Churchill McGee Construction & Design, a general contracting company that focuses on urban infill and redevelopment in the Central Kentucky area, has opened a new office in Cincinnati. The company, which has been in operation for 12 years, currently has offices in Lexington and Louisville.
Maker’s Mark Distillery is expanding operations at its distillery in Loretto, adding additional capacity that will enable the company to increase production of its handcrafted bourbon by 50 percent. The $70 million project will also add new barrel warehouses as well as other infrastructure improvements. Maker’s Mark Chief Operating Officer Rob Samuels said all of the new equipment and processes will be exact replicas of the original distillery in order to maintain product consistency. The expansion will add 30 new jobs.
♦ A discovery made by University of Louisville researchers may help diagnose lung cancer in its early stages. Using a silicone microprocessor developed at UofL and a mass spectrometer, the researcher team lead by UofL Associate Professor of Cardiovascular and Thoracic Surgery Michael Bousamra tested exhaled breath for specific volatile organic compounds known as carbonyls from patients with suspected lung cancer detected on computed tomography scans. Although the data are preliminary, the team found that patients with an elevation of three or four cancer-specific carbonyl compounds was predictive of lung cancer in 95 percent of patients with a pulmonary nodule or mass.
♦ Dermody Properties, a national industrial development firm headquartered in Reno, Nev., has purchased 18.4 acres in the Renaissance South Business Park near the Louisville International Airport with plans to develop a 317,000-s.f. warehousing and distribution facility. Dermody said the access to the airport as well as the UPS Worldport hub and I-65 make the site a “premier location” for an e-commerce fulfillment center and will drive logistics savings for customers in both time and money. The facility is expected to be complete by early fall.
♦ Neuronetrix, a Louisville startup that focuses on early diagnosis of patients with neurologic disorders, has signed an agreement with Louisville-based Signature HealthCARE to make its COGNISION System available at 27 special-care facilities across the United States. The COGNISION System is a unique piece of non-invasive headgear that scans the brain to help determine and measure cognitive function to help diagnose Alzheimer’s disease, concussions and other brain disorders. The collaboration is designed to enhance Signature’s work with universities to provide specialized care to individuals suffering from Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia through testing and evaluation of non-pharmacological interventions that might improve patient outcomes.
♦ Louisville-based insurance company Neace Lukens has acquired Creech & Stafford Insurance Agency Inc., a 31-year-old company that has locations in Lexington and Hazard and approximately $3.1 million in revenue. As part of the acquisition, 18 Creech & Stafford employees will join Neace Luken and the Creech & Stafford Lexington office will merge with the existing Neace Lukens Lexington branch this summer. Neace Lukens was founded in 1991 and became part of AssuredPartners Inc. in 2011. The company has more than 35 offices in 12 states and more than 700 employees and 150 licensed agents.
♦ A $150,000 grant from the National Fund for Workforce Solutions will enable The Kentucky Manufacturing Center to provide more training for manufacturing jobs. Since it opened last May, the career center has helped train nearly 400 people for manufacturing jobs. The new grant funding has the potential to provide training for an additional 140 individuals. KMCC is a one-stop resource in the Metro Louisville region for manufacturers and for persons interested in working in manufacturing. The center serves Bullitt, Henry, Jefferson, Oldham, Shelby, Spencer and Trimble counties and the corridor along I-65 in Kentucky and Southern Indiana.
♦ UoL Physicians has opened a new sports neurology center that is one of only a few such programs in the country. The center is dedicated to preventing and treating neurological sports injuries and managing neurological conditions that can affect performance. The centers’ doctors will also research such things as injury prevention and optimal training for athletes, and how to use neurology to learn, for example, the peak time to practice and how that may improve or impair performance.
♦ Diageo plans to invest $2 million to develop the Stitzel-Weller Visitor Center at the former Louisville distillery site, which ceased operations in 1992. The company is renovating the original administrative building to house the visitor’s center, which will showcase the Bulleit brand as well as Diageo’s evolving craft whiskey portfolio. The first phase of the renovation is expected to be finished in time for this year’s Derby, with the remainder completed this summer.
Murray State University has received a $450,000 grant from the James Graham Brown Foundation that will provide funding for paid internship experiences each summer for 30 students who are pursuing a degree in the science, technology, engineering and mathematics disciplines. The university is offering to pay each intern’s salary for the first summer of employment; the industry partner is then asked to take on a student and provide a matching stipend in the following summer, which doubles the impact of the grant. Companies interested in participating in the program should contact Steve Cobb at [email protected] or call the dean’s office at 270-809-2888.
Kentucky Bank has opened a new branch office in Richmond. The Paris-based company, a locally owned and publicly traded institution that dates back to 1851, also has branches in Cynthiana, Georgetown, Lexington, Morehead, Nicholasville, Sandy Hook, Versailles, Wilmore, Winchester and Paris. The bank offers wealth management and brokerage services in addition to retail and commercial banking.
♦ Kentucky will host the first nationwide conference focused on farming, land use and food policy in October, with experts from across the nation coming to Lexington for the Farmland, Food and Livable Community Conference. Kentucky Agriculture Commissioner James Comer said conference topics will include “some of the defining issues of the 21st century: food production, food safety, hunger and balancing the need to protect the environment with the need to provide a safe, abundant and affordable food supply to a growing global population.” For more information, visit farmland.org. Information on conference sponsorships is available by calling Susan Sink at 202-378-1206 or [email protected].
♦ The Kentucky Association of Manufacturers has partnered with a new organization, The National Alliance for Jobs and Innovation, to launch a new web portal to help KAM members report and combat intellectual property theft. A recent study by the chief economist for the National Association of Manufacturers found that unfair competition fueled by stolen IP – including pirated software – is a significant drain on manufacturing in the United States, resulting in losses of nearly $240 billion in manufacturing revenue, $70 billion in gross domestic product and 42,200 manufacturing jobs from 2002 to 2012. In Kentucky, 516 manufacturing jobs were lost, in addition to $144 in GDP and $627 million in revenue.