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Sam Owens/Getty Images via NPR

All over eastern Kentucky, you see cars and pickup trucks with black license plates proclaiming the owner is a “friend of coal.”

Even though the license plates are all over, it’s getting harder to find actual coal miners here: Fewer than 6,000 remain in the state, where the coal industry is shrinking fast. More than 10,000 coal workers have been laid off since 2008.

Many have had to leave the area to find work, but a few have found employment in other — and sometime unexpected — fields, as businesses are innovating to use former coal workers in new ways.

Rusty Justice’s company is one of these.

“The realization I had was that the coal miner, although we think of him as a person who gets dirty and works with his hands, really coal mines today are very sophisticated, and they use a lot of technology, a lot of robotics,” says Justice, who has worked in the coal industry all his life.

Creative Commons

Negotiators for United Parcel Service and the Independent Pilots Association will resume talks later this month in hopes reaching a contract agreement.

The latest round of federally mediated negotiations ended last week in Washington.

UPS pilots have been working under the terms of their previous contract for five years. The IPA, which represents some 2,500 pilots, has been preparing for the possibility of a strike.

Earlier this month, the union set up a strike operation center at its Louisville headquarters, a move dismissed by UPS as a publicity stunt.

For a strike to be called, the mediator would have to declare an impasse and release the two sides from talks. That would be followed by a 30-day cooling off period.

Union president Bob Travis said the IPA and UPS have been called back to Washington by the National Mediation Board for what he called “two consecutive weeks of intensive negotiations” starting the week of May 16.

Union officials said some of the remaining sticking points involve flight schedules and crew fatigue. Both sides say there was some progress made in the most recent round of talks.

City of Owensboro

A new report shows the number of people working—and looking for work—in Daviess County dropped by over 1,319 people between 2014 and 2015.

The Kentucky Education and Workforce Development Cabinet says there were 807 fewer people with jobs in Daviess County last year.

However, the county also saw 512 fewer unemployed people.

The Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer reports some local officials are worried about the declining number of people in the workforce. Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation President Madison Silvert told the paper that the area has done a good job of attracting retirees.

He says that’s one reason why Daviess County’s population has increased at the same time the number of workers has decreased.

Silvert says the size and quality of a community’s workforce is the chief concern of companiesthat are considering expansion.

Kentucky's only local soft drink is now available in a larger part of the state.

Ale-8-One, produced in Winchester since 1926, is doubling its service area, to include Elizabethtown, Bowling Green and Owensboro.

President and COO Ellen McGeeney says the expansion goes along with the homemade, handcrafted explosion in the beverage industry.

McGeeney says people should start seeing Ale-8-One in the new areas within two weeks.

Creative Commons

Kentucky Attorney General Andy Beshear announced on Tuesday that he is filing suit against Volkswagen — and its associated brands, Audi and Porsche — over the company’s false claims about emissions on its diesel cars.

The lawsuit seeks civil penalties under the Consumer Protection Act and could provide an option for restitution for Kentucky owners of the vehicles.

The German car manufacturer has acknowledged installing so-called “defeat devices” on its TDI diesel engine models. The software detected when an emissions test was in progress and reduced a car’s output of pollutants.

The carmaker marketed the models as “clean diesel,” but federal officials have said they were emitting up to 40 times the legal limit of nitrogen oxides.

WKU

Western Kentucky University is encouraging American workplaces to nurture and support female leaders.

A one-day conference on Friday, Feb. 19, is called Women Leading and includes talks given by women who have achieved leadership positions in academia and the military.

WKU communications professor Cecile Garmon says conference organizers hope to broaden the definition of the word “leadership”.

“If young women and young men realize that leadership is not masculine or feminine—it’s leadership—then both groups can do it, and they can both learn from each other and support each other,” Garmon told WKU Public Radio.

Garmon says the subject started getting more attention following comments made by Facebook Chief Operating Office Sheryl Sandberg about the low number of women leading Fortune 500 companies.  

The Women Leading conference will feature talks by:

J. Tyler Franklin

Kentucky legislators will again consider legislation that would allow local governments to temporarily levy a 1 percent sales tax to fund projects.

Despite support from across the political spectrum, it’s unclear whether the local option sales tax will become Kentucky law this year.

The local option sales tax bill brought together the House’s Democratic and Republican leaders, who are otherwise locked in a fierce political battle for control of the legislative body. It was proposed Tuesday by Democratic House Speaker Greg Sumbo and Republican House Minority Leader Jeff Hoover.

Supporters say the legislation would allow local governments to decide upon and fund important projects in their communities, such as the planned Louisville Waterfront Park expansion.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Clayton Sieg

The chief executive of Aetna is optimistic about the future of the company and Louisville following the planned sale of Humana.

When it was announced last year, Aetna’s plan to buy Louisville-based Humana launched immediate concerns abut the future of about 12,000 jobs in the city. The Connecticut-based Aetna has said it plans to base its Medicare, Medicaid and TRICARE businesses in Louisville.

Far from job loss, Aetna’s plan has led to speculation that the job stock in the city could grow.

Humana CEO Bruce Broussard and Aetna CEO Mark Bertolini spoke on Tuesday night about the future of the merged company and Louisville during the Greater Louisville Inc. annual meeting. Nearly 1,000 business leaders attended the meeting.

Broussard said the merged company and Louisville have a “very bright future.”

Stephen Jenkins watches a timer count down to the exact moment when he’ll drop a bucket of hops into a batch of what will become an amber ale.

“This one’s about nine pounds of a couple different kinds of hops,” said Jenkins, brewer for West Sixth Brewing in Lexington.

He’s perched on top of a catwalk overlooking a vat of wort — the primordial ooze that will be strained, left to ferment with yeast and eventually canned or kegged.

“It makes 40 barrels at a time, which is about 80 kegs, 80 half-barrel kegs, and we do two brews a day. So we’re going to do about 80 barrels of amber today,” Jenkins said.

West Sixth Brewing made about 2,000 barrels of beer in its inaugural year in 2011. This year, the company is on track to make 12,000 to 13,000 barrels.

Despite the brewing company’s rapid growth, it’s still a tiny carbonated bubble floating in an ocean dominated by two global breweries — Anheuser-Busch Inbev, the maker of Budweiser; and SABMiller, which makes Miller Lite.

flgov.com

Florida Governor Rick Scott will visit Kentucky this month in an effort to recruit businesses to relocate or expand to Florida. 

About two years ago, Scott tried something similar. He sent letters to businesses in Kentucky inviting them to the Sunshine State. 

At the time, Gov. Steve Beshear called the letters a “crude method of recruitment.”

Kenny Colston with the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy agrees. 

"Right to work laws don’t grow jobs," said Colston. "Not in manufacturing. Not in other sectors."

Colston disagrees with Scott’s main pitch to companies that Florida has a better business climate because it’s a Right to Work state.  Colston says he thinks the trip is a political stunt.

“You know this is attention seeking for one reason of the other," said Colston. "I don’t know the governor and I don’t know why he is coming here, but I know the last time he came here he got a pretty strong rebuke from our governor, Steve Beshear.”

Beshear doesn’t have nice things to say about Rick Scott’s latest recruitment effort, either. In a statement, he said Scott’s trip will be waste of time.

In what could prove the largest-ever merger in the insurance industry, Aetna has announced a $37 billion deal to acquire rival Humana.

The agreement, announced by the Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna, "would bolster Aetna's presence in the state- and federally funded Medicaid program and Tricare coverage for military personnel and their families," according to The Associated Press.

iStockPhoto

A business research magazine has released its annual list of the Best and Worst states as favored by business executives, ranking Tennessee at number 4.  

“Chief Executive” surveyed over 500 leading CEOs across the country making measuring in three categories: tax and regulation, workforce quality, and living environment. That last category includes education, cost of living, affordable housing and crime rates. 

Texas took the top spot, followed by Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee, which was in the number 3 spot last year. 

CEOs say they picked the Volunteer state for its low taxes and Right-to-Work status calling it a hotbed for automotive manufacturers. 

Kentucky ranked in at 28 with CEOs noting a high-value living environment, but concern about tax and strong regulatory policies. 

Illinois maintained its rank amongst the worst states at number 48.  

See a full-listing of Chief Executive rankings here

Angel's Envy

International spirits company Bacardi Limited has made its entry into the booming bourbon market with the purchase, announced today, of a Louisville-based bourbon maker.

Bacardi is the new owner of Angel’s Share Brands. The company includes the popular Angel’s Envy bourbon, developed by the late Lincoln Henderson and his family. Henderson was a longtime master distiller for Brown-Forman Corporation.

Angel’s Envy is currently distilled off-site and aged in port wine barrels.

This past January, the Republican-led Kentucky Senate did what it does just about every year: It passed a statewide right-to-work bill.

Keeping with tradition, when the bill arrived at the Democratic-controlled House, it died.

For decades, Democrats have rejected efforts to allow employees in unionized companies the freedom to choose whether to join a union.

Now, the battle has shifted from the statehouse to individual counties.

Flickr/Creative Commons

Louisville is one of 21 communities across the U.S. committing to increasing access to high tech jobs, city officials said Monday.

The city’s effort is part of a larger federal initiative announced Monday aimed at getting Americans to fill the increasing number of vacant information technology jobs in the U.S.

Employers around the country are having a hard time finding qualified and skilled workers for these positions. The national initiative, announced by President Obama, aims to get communities to train people for those jobs.

During a conference call with the White House, Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer was identified as one of the community leaders working with employers and the federal government to extend training opportunities to residents.

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