business

Erica Peterson

New numbers from the first two quarters of this year show both coal production and employment are continuing to decline in Kentucky, despite President Donald Trump’s promises that miners would be going back to work.

Overall, Kentucky saw a nearly 10 percent decline in coal production between the first and second quarters of 2017. The industry shed 200 jobs during the same time period.

“Obviously, an almost a 10 percent decrease since last quarter is not what we’d like to see,” said Kentucky Coal Association President Tyler White. “But I’ve always said that you don’t turn this industry around in a one or two quarter measurement.”

Flickr/Creative Commons

The leader of a Kentucky auto industry group says it’s not hard to imagine the day when self-driving cars will be commonplace.

Dave Tatman, executive director of the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association, points out that many of the vehicles we’ve been driving for years have been hinting at the future.

“You see autonomous features in the cars we drive every day,” Tatman said. “You know, my truck’s got lane departure warning, it’s got forward collision avoidance. That’s all part of autonomy. So I think that autonomous vehicles are here to stay.”


Roxanne Scott

Some government and business leaders in Kentucky want the U.S. to lift its oldest economic sanctions against Cuba.

Tuesday marked the launch of the bipartisan Engage Cuba Kentucky State Council, which aims to promote relations between the two countries and lift the nearly 60-year embargo. Some believe the move would benefit both the Commonwealth and Cuba.

In June, President Trump announced that he would reinstate restrictions on Americans traveling to Cuba along with other commercial prohibitions. In 2014, then-President Obama restored diplomatic ties with the country.

Ohio County Economic Development Alliance

Ohio County is boosting its economic development, but not with a big manufacturing plant or a major expansion of an existing business. The county is launching a coworking space for entrepreneurs called The Hub on July 24.

The new business incubator called The Hub is in a renovated house on Peach Alley in the town of Hartford. It offers a workspace nestled in the rural environment of Ohio County, while connected to national or global businesses with fiber broadband.

A local entrepreneur, or one who wants to leave an urban environment, can work remotely from Ohio County and hold meetings through audio or video conferencing.

Alcoa Public Relations

Alcoa Corp. plans to partially reopen its aluminum smelting operations in southwestern Indiana, restoring nearly half of the 600 jobs lost when it shut down the facility along the Ohio River last year.

Alcoa says it will spend about $30 million to restart three of five smelter lines at its Warrick Operations near Evansville, where its rolling mill makes aluminum for food and beverage packaging.

The Pittsburgh-based company closed the smelter in March of 2016, but now expects production to resume during spring of 2018.

Somerset Community College

Somerset Community College is offering regional businesses a chance to use 3D printing at no cost. The college has been awarded a $50,000 grant from the U.S. Department of Agriculture intended to spur economic development in rural areas.

Eric Wooldridge is a Somerset Community College professor of ‘additive manufacturing,’ often called 3D printing. He said the process uses a variety of materials including ABS, a type of plastic.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin announced Friday that companies have promised to invest $5.8 billion in Kentucky so far this year, breaking a previous yearly record of $5.1 billion.

The governor credited the state’s “right-to-work” law for the commitments. The policy makes union dues optional, and supporters say it makes the state more attractive to companies looking to move to or relocate in the state.

“The decisions made in the legislature matter,” Bevin said. “And the net result of this is a sense of enthusiasm in the business community for what’s happening in Kentucky like it has never happened before.”

Creative Commons

An aluminum company says it will build a $1.3 billion facility near the border of Kentucky and West Virginia, pledging to hire 550 employees earning average salaries of $70,000 in an area devastated by the loss of coal and manufacturing jobs.

Braidy Industries Inc. says the 2.5 million-square-foot facility in Greenup County, Kentucky, will produce 370,000 tons of aluminum for the automotive and aerospace industries, two of Kentucky's largest manufacturing sectors. The company says it expects 1,000 workers will be needed to build the plant next year, with construction to be completed in 2020.

"Braidy Industries' decision to locate in Eastern Kentucky has the potential to be as significant as any economic deal ever made in the history of Kentucky," Republican Gov. Matt Bevin said in a news release.

Toyota

Toyota said Monday it is investing $1.3 billion to retool its sprawling factory in Georgetown, Kentucky, where the company's flagship Camry sedans are built.

No new factory jobs are being added, but Toyota says the upgrades amount to the biggest single investment ever at one of its existing plants in the United States. The retooling also will sustain the existing 8,200 jobs at Toyota's largest plant, where nearly one-fourth of all Toyota vehicles produced in North America are made, the automaker said.

"This major overhaul will enable the plant to stay flexible and competitive, further cementing our presence in Kentucky," said Wil James, president of the plant, which also assembles the Avalon and the Lexus ES 350.

Becca Schimmel

Temporary work is the fastest growing industry in Kentucky. Clerical work may come to mind when you think about temporary agencies, but that’s a bit of a misnomer these days. An increasing number of manufacturing positions are being filled by temporary agencies.

At Quality Personnel in Bowling Green, a marquee advertises the most recent job openings. One of those is for an automotive supplier, just what Aaron Rinehart is seeking. When he moved from Ohio to Kentucky, he said that he used the same agency to find work. Rinehart said he understands why most factories only hire through temp agencies, but he feels it still hurts the people who want full-time work.

“Not much of a choice really. It’s hard to get on anywhere full time now a days, companies don’t wanna just hire people through the door. So the only way to get on now a days is to go through a temp agency, and put your 90 days of work in, and basically just hope you get hired on after that,” Rinehart said.


Ken Shmidheiser

Construction of a new $70 million manufacturing plant in Somerset could begin in the next few months. A tentative deal is in place to lease 23 acres of land.

The preliminary agreement with a group of Houston investors is for land near the Somerset Rail Park.

Local rail transportation and the new state-of-the-art Somerset Energy Center have been major factors in attracting the project.

Martin Shearer is Executive Director of the Somerset-Pulaski County Development Foundation. He says the energy center allows control of natural gas, a key part of the project.

GM

The Bowling Green General Motors plant is temporarily shutting down later this year to make changes to its vehicle production process.

The facility will temporarily lay off employees while the changes are being made.

A spokeswoman for the plant said a decision on the exact dates and length of the shutdown hasn’t been made, but that it would likely cover parts of the summer and fall.

The plant employees about 840 hourly workers, along with 165 salaried individuals. The spokeswoman said some employees will be asked to work through the temporary shutdown, with the plant making those decisions based on the facility’s needs.

WKU Public Radio

Workers at unionized companies in Kentucky will be able to stop paying union dues or fees once contracts negotiated between their employers and unions expire.

The so-called “right-to-work” policy signed into law by Gov. Matt Bevin last weekend forbids payment of dues as a condition to get or keep a job in Kentucky, though current collective bargaining agreements between unions and companies are still enforceable until they expire.

Bill Londrigan, president of Kentucky’s AFL-CIO, said the new law will have a negative impact on labor organizations and companies once some workers decide they don’t want to pay into the union anymore.

J. Tyler Franklin

Gov. Matt Bevin has issued an executive order creating the Work Ready Scholarship Program, which will provide free tuition to eligible Kentucky students getting a two-year degree that could be used in “high-demand” industries like healthcare and manufacturing.

“[T]he Commonwealth of Kentucky is committed to increasing the currently low workforce participation rate by expanding the skilled, competitive workforce necessary to attract new businesses to the state,” Bevin wrote in the executive order.

Becca Schimmel | Ohio Valley ReSource

During the presidential campaign I visited two regional manufacturing executives who do business in the same county but hold views on trade that are worlds apart. Now that Donald Trump is the president-elect, I asked them and some regional economists how the new administration’s approach to trade might affect the Ohio Valley region.


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