Business news

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.


The Barren River Area Development District will no longer provide workforce services for the southern Kentucky region.

The South Central Workforce Development Board voted Wednesday to terminate its contract with BRADD.

The Development Board’s Chairman, Ron Sowell, said his group was primarily concerned about the amount of workforce development money that has been returned to the state because it wasn’t used by BRADD.

The Bowling Green Daily News reports that number is estimated to be around $500,000.

Hopkinsville Community College, via Facebook

The Delta Regional Authority is investing more than $100,000 dollars in the Todd County Career Path Institute. The western Kentucky facility trains adults, college and high school students in welding, industrial maintenance and electrical networking. The money will go towards equipment for hands-on training.

DRA chairman Chris Masingill said workforce training and education is critical for attracting business leaders. "The number one question that business leaders ask about when they look to do an expansion or a location is that they really look at the skill level of our workforce. And so we want to continue to invest into programs, into locations, into partners that are really trying to move the needle on that."

The announcement Thursday was made on the same day Governor Matt Bevin's office awarded the institute with the 2016 Spirit of Kentucky Award recognizing regional partnership efforts.

Masingill said that was a coincidence, but he’s glad to know the Governor feels the same way about the institute. “We work collaboratively. It takes the governor and us, me as the federal co-chair, working collaboratively and we review these projects. So this project would not have gotten funded without the support of Governor Bevin.”

Flickr/Creative Commons/

Kentucky’s leaders are grappling with how to get more of the state’s residents into the labor force. 

In 2015, the commonwealth ranked 46th in the nation for its workforce participation rate, according to Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet Secretary Hal Heiner.  The rate is determined by the number of adults between the ages of 21 and 65 who are able to work.

Kentucky Labor Secretary Derrick Ramsey says employers are frustrated that too many prospective workers can’t pass drug tests.

"Of the worst 220 counties in America, 54 of those counties are here in the state of Kentucky, where the drug scourge and epidemic is just sucking the life out of us, if you would," Ramsey told WKU Public Radio.

Kentucky has about 130,000 able-bodied residents who choose not to work.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet

Governor Matt Bevin’s administration is counting on a growing apprenticeship program to help fill Kentucky’s future workforce needs.

More than 1,100 Kentucky employers are currently partnering with the state to provide apprenticeship opportunities. Apprenticeships allow high school upperclassmen and those who have a GED to gain on-the-job training tailored to a company’s needs.

Kentucky Labor Cabinet Secretary Derrick Ramsey is touring the state in an effort to encourage more companies and schools to participate in the effort. He says a wide variety of skills can be learned through the program.

“When we talk about the skills, and when we talk about the apprenticeships, we're not only talking about construction--road construction, building construction,” Ramsey said in Bowling Green Wednesday. “We're talking about I.T.--we're apprenticing that, as well. We're talking about health care."

Ramsey says those learning blue-collar skills in the apprenticeship program could help build the next generation of roads and bridges in the commonwealth.

Ohio County Economic Development Alliance

Ohio County is launching an innovative business center with the goal of bringing  new jobs that have most of the commuting done online.

Chase Vincent is executive director of the Ohio County Economic Development Alliance. He says the business incubator is a way to offset the expense of bricks-and-mortar for startups.

“The concept of an incubator is that they come together and share experiences and advice and learn together. It dramatically increases their rate of success for becoming a long-standing business in the community.”

Vincent points to the increasing popularity and viability of remote work as confirmation of the timeliness of the Ohio County project. He says all the pieces are in place for the incubator. 

“We were recently approved for $100,000 from the Ohio County Fiscal Court to purchase property in Hartford to be used as an incubator, training center and co-work space.”

GE Lighting

General Electric Lighting has announced it will close two plants in Lexington and Somerset by August 2017.

WKYT-TV reports that the company announced the closures of Lexington Lamp Plant and Somerset Glass Plant would affect over 200 people.

The Lexington plant makes traditional, non-LED lighting products and employs 139 people. The Somerset plant makes halogen lamps and employs 71 people.

GE says in a statement that consumer demand for traditional lighting is at an all-time low. As a result, the company says it is operating at 15 percent capacity.

GE says the local union representing the workers has 60 days to ask for a different plan.

Land Bank of Evansville

Evansville is creating a nonprofit land bank under a new Indiana law that went into effect this month.

Kelley Coures is executive director of the Evansville Department of Metropolitan Development. He says the land bank gives the city a way to demolish vacant buildings that are not valuable enough to be renovated and are not bringing in tax revenue.

“The land bank functions just like a regular bank, instead of money it takes in property. We’re hoping that developers will see that we have lots of available land, or we will have, after we clear out all of these vacant and blighted structures. And we can build things like new homes, affordable housing.”

He says the vacant properties are sometimes used by homeless people or drug dealers and that creates safety issues in neighborhoods.

“Ten percent of all fires in cities like Evansville occur in vacant and abandoned structures. Homeless people, vagrants come in, start fires to try and keep warm or people making drugs, people cooking methamphetamine get in these houses, since there’s no occupant, and make drugs there.”

Coures says Vanderburgh County loses $2 million a year in unpaid property taxes from the properties that have no current owner. The Evansville City Council gave final approval to the land bank this week.

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.