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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.

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.

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