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A major Bowling Green, Kentucky company is mourning the loss of its president and CEO who died Nov. 27 of natural causes. Rick Medlin led Fruit of the Loom since 2010 and held several other positions in the company prior to that.

“Rick was a special leader and a special person. He was extremely proud of the progress and success we have shared in the last six years,” the company said in an announcement of Medlin's death.  “We owe it to his legacy and honor to continue taking this company forward in accordance with his vision."

Medlin is a South Carolina native who attended Clemson University on a football scholarship. He earned a bachelor’s and master's degree in education.

An interim president will lead the manufacturer of family and athletic apparel until a new president is named.

Fruit of the Loom employs 1,400 people at its global headquarters and distribution center in Bowling Green and has a total of 30,000 employees in 17 countries.

Fruit of the Loom is a Berkshire Hathaway company with a portfolio of many well-known brands, including Russell Athletic, Spalding, Jerzees and Vanity Fair.

Kentucky Coal Association Names New President

Nov 22, 2016
U.S. Energy Information Administration

Kentucky's coal industry advocacy group has named a new president.

J. Tyler White has been named president of The Kentucky Coal Association beginning next month. White, a Kentucky native, is a district director for Republican Congressman Andy Barr. White also led Barr's recent re-election campaign.

White says he's honored to have the opportunity to advocate for the industry and workers whose lives have been impacted by what he says is over-regulation and failed policy.

White says with the right policies in place, the sagging industry can be revitalized.

White replaces Bill Bissett, who left to take a job in his home state of West Virginia.

Hartford Voters to Decide Whether to Allow Alcohol Sales

Nov 21, 2016
Rick Howlett

Voters in Hartford will be the next Ohio County community to decide whether to allow alcohol sales.

The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reports the city's wet-dry election will be held Jan. 24. Voters must live in the city limits of Hartford.

Ohio County Clerk Bess Ralph says two precincts will be voting in the election. A petition submitted in October had enough signatures to call a special election on the issue.

It will be fourth-such election the county has seen in the past year.

Beaver Dam held its local option election in February, with voters passing the measure. In Ohio County, a majority of residents voted against going wet in April.

In October, the city of Rockport held a wet-dry election that failed with a majority of "No" votes.

Jim Beam

Striking Jim Beam workers at two Kentucky distilleries have accepted a contract offer, ending a walkout that lasted nearly a week.

United Food and Commercial Workers union official Tommy Ballard says workers approved the proposal on a 204-19 vote Friday and will return to work Monday. The strike began last Saturday when Beam workers at two distilleries turned down a prior offer.

The workers' main complaint with the world's leading bourbon producer was not money but time. The union wanted more full-time workers hired, rather than a greater reliance on temporary workers.

Kentucky Supreme Court Strikes Down Minimum Wage Ordinance

Oct 20, 2016
Kentucky Administrative Office of the Courts

A minimum wage increase approved by the Louisville Metro Council has been struck down by Kentucky's Supreme Court.

In a 6-1 ruling Thursday, court said the city's minimum wage ordinance is "invalid and unenforceable."

Louisville's council voted nearly two years ago to increase workers' wages to $9 per hour, phasing in the increases. Louisville became the first Kentucky city to increase minimum wages above the federal level of $7.25 an hour.

Louisville's ordinance was challenged in court by the Kentucky Restaurant Association, the Kentucky Retail Federation and local employer Packaging Unlimited.

In writing for the court's majority, Justice Bill Cunningham said the ordinance's conflict with state law is "precisely the type of 'conflict' prohibited by the state Constitution. His opinion drew a dissent from Justice Samuel T. Wright III.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Bill Rogers

A manufacturer of non-cigarette tobacco products is increasing its footprint in Owensboro. 

Swedish Match opened its new $3.5 million, 10,000-square-foot expansion Tuesday at the company’s current location.  The expansion will increase product research and testing capabilities. 

Thord Hassler, Vice President for Research and Development, says despite efforts in the U.S. to discourage smoking, the use of tobacco-related products remains consistent.

"There's been a gradual shift away from cigarettes to other products," Hassler told WKU Public Radio.  "I think all in all, in the U.S., there's a slight decline year by year, but it's very slow."

The expansion of the company’s research and development department is not expected to create jobs, but could lead to the creation of new products. The company has a current workforce of 355 in Owensboro.

Swedish Match produces chewing tobacco, cigars, and matches.

Kentucky Office of Homeland Security

Kentucky cyber security leaders are compiling information from a simulated cyber attack in order to update plans in the event that a power grid goes down or sensitive data is stolen from businesses or state agencies.

The test cyber attack took place Oct. 12  with more than 50 leaders from utilities, police, business and government.

John Holiday is executive director of the Kentucky Office of Homeland Security. He says one issue identified early in the test attack was information sharing.

"If an attack happens, how do we get that information to the decision-maker without screwing up the investigation, without giving too much information out there where the bad guy gets wise and he starts adjusting his protocol to damage the investigation?”

Jim Beam

Union workers at one of Kentucky’s biggest bourbon distillers are going on strike.

The decision impacts Jim Beam employees who are members of the local chapter of the United Food and Commercial Workers union.

The Kentucky Standard reports 201 workers voted to reject a contract offer by parent company Beam Suntory.

Nineteen voted to accept the offer.

Unless an agreement is reached soon, union workers will go on strike at midnight Friday.

Workers say they plan to protest with picket signs at the Jim Beam facility in Bullitt County, with a possible protest at the facility in Nelson County.

After three years on the job, Shannon Wetzel Boutin is resigning as Executive Director of the Owensboro-Daviess County Convention and Visitors Bureau. She'll be moving to the private sector October 19th as a product manager at Specialty Foods Group.

The chairwoman of the CVB board, Ruth Ann Dearness, expects to launch a national search to replace Boutin after they decide on a new definition for the job.

All previous executive directors of the Bureau have come from Owensboro.

In the past three years since Boutin has been Executive Director, the CVB saw revenue double from its 3% tax on hotel room rentals and tourism spending increase by more than 3.5%.

City of Elizabethtown

Shane Howard loves Elizabethtown.

He says living in Elizabethtown — just 45 miles south of Louisville — allows him to remain in close proximity to a bigger city without having to deal with city problems like rush hour traffic.

He’s only 35 minutes away from downtown Louisville. Arguably, Howard says, for someone living in the East End, it can take them the same amount of time to get to downtown. But the cost of living in Elizabethtown is much cheaper.

“The new restaurants popping up, new entertainment things, sports bars and those things popping up, it’s becoming more and more attractive,” he says.

Howard is founder of Custom College Recruiting. The service matches high school student-athletes abroad with sports scholarship opportunities in the U.S. He founded the company in 2009 and received funding in 2014. Prior to that, he bootstrapped. But Howard said he knew if he was going to expand his business from something he was doing at home alone on his couch, he was going to need help.

New Bourbon Distillery Opens in Nelson County

Sep 14, 2016
Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

A new distillery in the heart of Kentucky bourbon country is starting commercial production.

Bardstown Bourbon Co. reached the milestone Wednesday at the $25 million distillery at Bardstown. The distillery will make whiskey for its own brands and for small distillers and brand owners lacking sufficient distilling operations.

The company says it's already preparing to expand due to demand. It says the distillery's 1.5 million proof gallon capacity can be expanded to more than 6 million proof gallons within the current design. It says the expansion will allow the company to take on new customers.

The distillery plans to open its visitors and events center to the public in early 2017.

Leading its whiskey-distilling team is Steve Nally, a 40-year veteran of the spirits industry.

Governor Bevin says the University of Louisville is a key component of a National Center to focus on automotive research in areas of automotive efficiency and sustainable transportation. That could cover everything from online transportation services to self-driving cars.

He made that announcement Monday before the second Auto Vision Conference in Lexington.

Bevin says the multi-state project could result in some new automotive technologies. “Some things that are being imagined now will come to fruition. Other things will come to fruition that nobody’s even thought of yet. Other ideas that we’ve thought of frankly are gonna hit dead ends,” said Bevin.

Bevin says U of L is joining five other universities across the country in launching this program funded by the National Science Foundation. The program is called the Industrial University Cooperative Research Center for Efficient Vehicles and Sustainable Transportation Systems.

Crooked Tail Distillery Company / Facebook

Princeton’s first bourbon and moonshine distillery is open for business.

While Caldwell County is still a dry county, Princeton voted to allow in packaged and by the drink liquor sales in 2012.  

Patrick Sheridan says he and co-owner Chris Oakley have worked with city and economic leaders for over two years to develop the city’s first distillery since Prohibition.  

"In that time we have completely gutted and remodeled a 101-year-old building, which sits 50 yards from our water source, a natural limestone spring," said Sheridan. "Limestone strips out iron which gives your product a very smooth, clean finish. There's a reason the best bourbon in the world comes from Kentucky and mainly that's because this state sits atop limestone rock which makes some of the best water for bourbon."

Sheridan says all facets of the bourbon-making process are sourced locally.

Harman International

An auto parts manufacturer in Simpson County is shedding jobs as it looks to streamline operations and remain competitive.

Harman International announced Wednesday that it will eliminate 215 jobs over the next two-and-a-half years.  Some of the work will be relocated to Mexico. 

Simpson County Judge-Executive Jim Henderson says the jobs news isn’t all bad, however.  He told WKU Public Radio that Sumitomo is preparing to hire 100 workers at its new plant by the end of the year.

"If there is such a good thing as a good part to a company having to lay off some employees is that there are opportunities for those employees to find work still in our community, and I think good jobs," commented Henderson.

Another auto part supplier, Fritz Winter, is building a manufacturing plant and looking to hire up to 350 workers over the next five years. 

Layoffs at Harman will begin at the end of the year.  The company’s Franklin workforce will be left with 110 employees, compared to the 335 who are there now.

Buffalo Trace Distillery Welcomes 1 Millionth Visitor

Sep 1, 2016
Kevin Willis

Buffalo Trace Distillery in Kentucky has reached a milestone by welcoming its 1 millionth visitor.

The distillery in Frankfort says the unsuspecting visitor, from Lexington, was greeted with cheers, a balloon drop and a special prize pack at the Visitor Center on Wednesday. The celebration continued throughout the day with cupcakes and commemorative T-shirts for employees.

Distillery officials have been keeping track of visitations since the facility first opened for tours in 1999.

They say annual visitations have more than doubled in the past five years. Last year, the number of visitors increased by more than 23 percent. Visitors regularly come from all 50 states and a number of other countries.

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