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Greater Owensboro Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education

A program to address the shortage of skilled workers for advanced manufacturing is expanding in the Owensboro area.

The project is called GO FAME, which stands for Greater Owensboro Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education. 

It’s a collaboration among regional businesses and Owensboro Community and Technical College. Students are trained as advanced manufacturing technicians in an 18-month apprenticeship program.

William Mounts, president of GO FAME and vice president of Omico Plastics in Owensboro, says companies are doing their part to improve the future workforce by investing in the students.

“We pay them a minimum of $12 an hour and we pay a minimum of half their tuition. Some organizations pay full tuition. Some organizations, like mine, we pay half the tuition plus books. We would have paid full tuition for one student, but we wanted to take two.”

GO FAME launched in March 2015 with 12 businesses and 15 students. It’s expanded to 22 businesses training 35 students.

Gov. Matt Bevin says an automotive supplier is opening a new production facility in southern Kentucky that will lead to 145 new jobs over the next decade.

Bevin announced on Monday that Sumitomo Electric Wiring Systems Inc. will open a fifth plant in Franklin. He said in a statement that the company is renovating a 65,000 square-foot building to house the operation.

The decision to open another plant is in response to an expected increase in demand from its automotive-industry customers. The company chose the location due to its proximity to Interstate 65 and to another Sumitomo plant in Scottsville and because the area has a trained workforce.

Franklin Mayor Ronnie Clark said Sumitomo is the first company that will have a presence in the city's new business park.

Creative Commons

Barren County is the latest southern Kentucky county to consider allowing package alcohol sales.

Cumberland and Metcalfe counties recently voted to go wet. The city of Leitchfield, in Grayson County, also voted to allow package alcohol sales.

Western Kentucky University graduate and retired Navy veteran Sonya Hamrick is leading a petition drive to get the issue on the ballot in Barren County.

She says she started thinking about pushing for change when she moved to Barren County after retiring from the military.

“To me, it only seemed reasonable to have alcohol for adults in an area that’s convenient for them. That’s what I was used to, and when I came back home I discovered there was no such thing here.”

GM

Kentucky officials say General Motors Corp. plans to invest $290 million at the automaker's Corvette plant in Bowling Green.

The company's North American manufacturing manager, Arvin Jones, said Friday the investment includes technology upgrades to improve the plant's manufacturing process. It could also create as many as 270 new jobs.

The investment announcement was made by Gov. Matt Bevin's office in Frankfort.

Bevin's office says the investment includes a $153 million project aimed at improving vehicle assembly line processes. The latest investment follows a series of upgrades and expansions in recent years at the Corvette assembly plant in Bowling Green.

To encourage the investment, Kentucky officials recently gave preliminary approval for GM to qualify for up to $3 million in tax incentives, based on the level of investment and job creation.

Creative Commons

Kentucky’s export totals are on the rise.

Kentucky exported nearly $7 billion in goods and services during the first quarter of the year. That’s a 1.2 percent increase over the same time period last year.

Many Kentuckians would likely be surprised at the state’s number one export. It’s not bourbon or automotive parts.

Instead, it’s aerospace products.

Kentucky exported more than $2.6 billion in aerospace parts between January and March.

That’s an increase of nearly 23 percent over last year’s first quarter.

The state’s top five international trading partners are Canada, France, the United Kingdom, Mexico, and Brazil.

Abbey Oldham, WKU Public Radio

Hartfield & Company opened their doors in September of 2015, making it the first bourbon distillery in Bourbon County since Prohibition. It’s a small craft operation that opened with little fanfare — but it’s already outgrown its space.

“We can’t keep our stuff on the shelf, actually,” says founder Andrew Buchanan. “We are currently in about 2,000 square feet, but to keep up with demand we need a much larger facility and are moving into about an 18,000-square-foot building.”

This is just one example of the “bourbon boom” that the spirit industry is experiencing, and it’s a development that has a real economic impact in the state. As part of the Kentucky Bourbon Affair — a six-day schedule of tours and tastings at local distilleries — Mayor Greg Fischer welcomed nearly 2,000 thirsty visitors to the city Tuesday.

“Today is National Bourbon Day, and there’s no better place to celebrate our signature spirit this week than Louisville,” Fischer said in a news release. “We look forward to sharing our unique Bourbon culture and booming culinary scene with a glass of Kentucky’s finest amber nectar.”

Creative Commons

The Kentucky Supreme Court will decide the fate of local minimum wage laws.

On Friday, the court heard arguments over whether Louisville’s minimum wage ordinance violates state law by going beyond the scope of Kentucky’s minimum wage, which is tied to the federal rate of $7.25 per hour.

The Kentucky Restaurant Association and the Kentucky Retail Federation say that as a local government, Louisville can’t violate a “comprehensive scheme” of state employment laws by raising the minimum wage.

Brent Baughman, an attorney representing the business groups, argued that the state minimum wage law “is not a standalone provision, it is in a context of a broader statutory scheme with respect to wages and hours regulation in this commonwealth.”

“It creates all sorts of potential ramifications for our courts system if localities can create jurisdictions or attempt to create jurisdictions for enforcing their local ordinances in our state courts,” Baughman said.

The Kentucky Supreme Court is scheduled to hear a lawsuit over whether Louisville can increase the minimum wage employers pay their workers.A Jefferson Circuit Court judge already ruled the city could raise the minimum wage, but a coalition of business organizations appealed the case to the state Supreme Court.

Tod Griffin, president of the Kentucky Retail Federation, said allowing local governments to raise the minimum wage would create a “patchwork” of different wage laws across the state.

“You may have to raise prices or reduce benefits or that type of thing,” Griffin said. “It leads to a competitiveness situation with your neighbors across the county or in a different city.”

In late 2014, the Louisville Metro Council passed an ordinance gradually raising the minimum wage to $9 an hour by July 2017. The minimum wage was raised to $7.75 an hour in 2015 and will be raised to $8.25 an hour July 1 of this year.

Rick Howlett, WFPL News

General Electric’s Louisville-based appliance division has a new owner.

GE Appliances is now part of the China-based Haier Company. The multibillion-dollar sale was finalized on Monday.

About 6,000 people work at Louisville’s Appliance Park, which was constructed by GE more than 60 years ago. The division will now be called “GE Appliances, a Haier Company.”

Chip Blankenship will continue as president and CEO. He said employees should not expect any major shakeups under the new owner.

U.S. Army

Veterans and their dependents are being encouraged to attend a military jobs fair this week at Fort Knox.

The Hardin County military post is hosting organizations that are looking to hire active duty military, veterans and their spouses.

Garrett Reed is with the group organizing the event, CivilianJobs.com

He says there will be companies at the Wednesday event from many industries, including aviation, law enforcement, management, and engineering.

“Just about every company is trying to hire military folks, in some shape, form, or fashion. So these events are really to help get in front of them face to face," Reed told WKU Public Radio.

The jobs fair is being held Wednesday, from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Saber and Quill officer’s club at Ft. Knox.

A link to the registration page for the fair is here.

Ellis Park

Ellis Park horse track in Henderson is increasing its daily race totals to more than $200,000 this summer, with a big boost from Kentucky Downs.

The Evansville Courier and Press reports the track in Franklin is giving a $1.3 million contribution to Ellis Park’s purse fund.

Kentucky Downs will be simulcasting Ellis Park’s races nationally this season, and the million dollar donation will help build the circuit.

That along with increased Instant Racing revenue will boost the daily race purses to $210,000.

Ellis Park will go dark for a day over the Labor Day holiday to leave all local racing to Kentucky Downs.

Ellis Park’s racing season begins July 2 and ends on September 5.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Donald West

More than four million U.S. workers will become eligible for overtime pay under new federal regulations, but some business groups oppose the changes. 

Salaried employees earning $47,476 or less a year must be paid time-and-a-half for working more than 40 hours a week.  The previous threshold was $23,660. 

Kate Shanks, director of public affairs for the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce, says thousands of Kentucky workers could see themselves return to hourly pay and companies would face millions of dollars in added costs.

"It is something that would impact both private sector employers or for-profit employers, but it could also affect non-profit organizations and educational institutions," Shanks told WKU Public Radio.  "The affect in Kentucky could be fairly widespread."

The state Chamber fears that medium and small businesses would likely bear the most financial burden.

Apus Air

The Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport is giving the OK to a bid for a commercial flight school service.

The Messenger-Inquirer reports Airport executive director Bob Whitmer said California-based Apus Air was the lone bidder to provide the service.

Apus trains commercial pilots for Chinese and other Asian airlines.

The airport announced in March that Apus planned to invest $1.25 million in an office building, hangars, and other costs related to the flight school.

The Federal Aviation Administration mandates an open bid process for flight school operations.

Lisa Autry

The last commercial flight from Bowling Green was 44 years ago, but that’s about to change. 

The Bowling Green-Warren County regional airport announced Tuesday that Contour Airlines will begin offering service to Atlanta and Destin, Florida. 

Airport Manager Rob Barnett says both business and leisure travelers will benefit.

"The corporate traveler will truly benefit because of the cost savings and time savings through Atlanta, and of course, we're all going to benefit from the Destin flight because we all like to go to Destin at a reasonable cost and keep ourselves from being in a car 16 hours round trip," Barnett told WKU Public Radio.

The flights are expected to start the first week of August.  Tennessee-based Contour will offer service year-round, seven days a week to Atlanta.  Seasonal flights to Destin will be available once a week from April to October.

Erica Peterson, WFPL

Kentucky’s coal industry continued its freefall in the first quarter of this year, according to data released Monday by the state Energy and Environment Cabinet.

Coal production fell nearly 13 percent across the state in the first three months of 2016. Only about 11 million tons of coal was mined, making this the lowest statewide rate since 1939.

As has been the trend, Eastern Kentucky’s coalfields took a larger hit than Western Kentucky. Eastern Kentucky coal production declined more than 21 percent in the first three months of this year alone. The last time coal production was lower in the region was 1917. The bulk of the job losses came in Eastern Kentucky too, with more than a thousand jobs lost this quarter. Statewide, about 6,900 coal miners are employed: the lowest level recorded since 1898.

Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet Assistant Director Aron Patrick said it’s likely that Kentucky coal production and employment will continue to drop—at least for the next two years or so.

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