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GM

General Motors will temporarily close the Bowling Green assembly plant next month as the automaker tries to reduce a growing inventory of cars on dealer lots.

The Corvette plant will be idled for one week. GM will also halt production at four other plants ranging from one to three weeks.

Hart County Could Soon Pass Local 'Right-to-Work' Law

Dec 9, 2016

Hart County could soon join several other Kentucky counties in passing a local law banning mandatory union membership. The Bowling Green Daily News reports Magistrate Gary Gardner says the court unanimously approved the first reading of the so-called "right-to-work" ordinance Dec. 1. The fiscal court will vote on a second reading Dec. 15.

Fruit of the Loom

Fruit of the Loom has named a senior vice president at its global headquarters in Bowling Green as the company’s new chairman and CEO. Melissa Burgess-Taylor will lead the company following the unexpected death of former CEO Rick Medlin last month.

Rhonda J. Miller

Kentucky manufacturers are confronting a problem facing the entire United States – a shortage of skilled workers for technically sophisticated industries. A recent study found that two million manufacturing jobs in the U.S. will go unfilled over the next decade due to a lack of trained workers. A program developed in the Owensboro region is confronting that shortage with an apprenticeship program called GO FAME. 

At Sun Windows in Owensboro, President Frank Anderson says the machinery for production gets more sophisticated every year.

“This our insulated glass room. And the robot is applying the spacer material that separates the two panes of glass. And it’s all done automatically without ever touching a human hand.”

That’s the trend in advanced manufacturing and that’s the reason GO FAME was created. GO FAME stands for Greater Owensboro Federation of Advanced Manufacturing Education. 

Apprentices take classes two days a week at Owensboro Community and Technical College. Companies pay at least half the tuition and at least $12-an-hour for work time.

Business Wire

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.

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