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Rhonda Miller

As wedding season shifts into high gear, some Kentucky farms are on the list of venues where couples can take their vows.  It’s one way farmers across the nation have been diversifying in recent years to bring in revenue. 

At one family farm in Kentucky, on any given day, the activity can run from corporate events to planning a wedding to taking care of the cows.                

The black Angus cows are grazing across the gently rolling hillsides at Charlie Mosley’s 160-acre farm in Warren County.

“Cows and calves and everything, there’s about 60 mamas here, and the rest of them are babies and bulls. They’re beef cattle, yeah, we sell ‘em when we wean ‘em,” says Charlie Mosley.

Mosley is 73 years old and farming in Warren County got into his bones long ago.

“Yeah, I grew up on a farm when I was a little boy, yeah, in Alvaton. Alvaton, in the Greenhill area, up in there.”

But Mosley didn’t spend his life farming. He started M&L Electrical with a partner in 1975 and the company has grown to more than 300 employees.

NPR

A coal-mining giant has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection amid an industrywide slump.

Peabody Energy — which is the biggest coal miner in the U.S. and says it is the largest private-sector coal company in the world — is looking to restructure its heavy debt load and gain relief from its creditors. It hopes to continue operations unimpeded.

The St. Louis-based company said in a statement that the pressure on the coal industry is “unprecedented.” It cited a drop in prices, weaker demand from China, the rise of competition from fracking and “ongoing regulatory challenges” as reasons for the restructuring.

Earlier this year, Arch Coal — the second-largest coal miner in the U.S. — filed for bankruptcy. Bloomberg noted that three other major coal miners went bankrupt the year before that, and many industry watchers had expected Peabody to follow suit.

Flickr/Creative Commons/401kcalculator.org

Federal authorities say they have recently prosecuted a number of tax preparers in Kentucky who falsified returns.  During a news conference in Louisville Monday, U.S. Attorney for the Western District of Kentucky John Kuhn, said it’s important that the public guard against dishonest preparers.

"Taxpayers have to remain diligent when they work with return preparers," emphasized Kuhn.  "Taxpayers remain responsible for the contents of their returns."

Two Logan County tax preparers, Tara L. Mitchell and Mechelle Blankenship, were recently charged with falsely claiming education credits for taxpayers who were not entitled to them. 

Kuhn explained that some preparers who charge clients a percentage of their tax refund intentionally prepare false returns to increase their clients’ refund and their own fees.

City of Owensboro

Owensboro's hotels and motels are putting a lot more heads in beds.

The Messenger-Inquirer reports in the past two years alone, hotel revenues jumped 36 percent up to nearly 22-million dollars, and this year is already 13 percent ahead of 2015.

The upsurge really took off in 2014 with the openings of both the Owensboro Convention Center and the Hampton Inn & Suites by Hilton Downtown Owensboro/Waterfront. Plus, a third 90 room downtown hotel is planned near the convention center with a possible opening in 2018.

An automotive supplier has announced plans to locate in Nelson County and create more than 200 jobs. 

Thai Summit will build a $110 million facility in Bardstown, making it the manufacturer’s first location in Kentucky. 

“Kentucky’s auto industry directly employs nearly 90,000 people and constitutes a major part of our economy," said Governor Matt Bevin.  "The addition of Thai Summit speaks to our continuing momentum and the benefits of location and existing customer base that Kentucky offers."

The company plans to begin construction in May on the 220,000-square-foot facility in the Nelson County Industrial Park.  Once the first phase of construction is completed at the end of this year, Thai Summit will begin delivering stamped and welded aluminum assemblies to the Ford Kentucky Truck Plant in Louisville.

Alcoa Public Relations

After 56 years in operation, the Alcoa smelter in Warrick County, Indiana has shut down. The aluminum plant ended operations March 24.

The Evansville Courier and Press reports the smelter had 600 employees and about 325 of those have been laid off.  Aloca said the rest have accepted retirement or severance packages or found other employment.

Alcoa announced the shutdown in January and blamed it on the drop in aluminum prices.  

The Alcoa Warrick smelter was one of the last coal-fired smelters in the country.

Apus Air

Owensboro-Daviess County Regional Airport is getting a new flight school that trains pilots for Chinese airlines.

Apus Air announced this week that it is constructing a flight training center at the airport. The project will create 35 jobs.

CEO of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation Madison Silvert says the regional airport is a perfect fit for the company’s needs. 

 “They were looking for an airport that had the right balance of runway links and amenities and low traffic so they could provide a confident environment for new trainees,” says Silvert.

The California-based company is making an investment $1.65 million in the new facility.

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.

Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development

Kentucky had a slight increase in exports to countries around the world in 2015, compared to the previous year. The Bluegrass State stands out nationally because even though exports increased by less than one percent, most states decreased their exports last year. That’s according to WISERTrade.org, a Massachusetts company that collects international trade data. 

Aerospace products are Kentucky’s number one export, by dollar value.

Jack Mazurak is a spokesman for the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development. He says $8.7 billion in aerospace products and parts were exported from a wide range of Kentucky companies.

“Small businesses that are engaged in extruding a plastic part that may be used on one particular plane, all the way up to multinational names, GE Aviation, GE Aircraft Engine Division. Boneal is another big name. Lockheed Martin has a facility here,” says Mazurak.

Motor vehicles were the state’s second most exported product, followed by pharmaceuticals. Exports from Kentucky last year totaled $27.6 billion dollars.

Canada held its place as Kentucky’s main destination for exports last year. America’s northern neighbor bought $7.2 billion in products and services from the Bluegrass State. Rounding out the top five destinations for Kentucky products are the United Kingdom, Mexico, China and France.

The Kentucky Chamber of Commerce says citizens need to understand of  scope of the state’s public pension crisis. 

Governor Matt Bevin's proposed budget makes a down payment on what could be a 20 to 30-year effort. 

The $36 billion shortfall in Kentucky’s public pension plans is more than three-and-a-half times the total general fund tax money the state collected last year. 

Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Adkisson says it will take decades to fix the problem after years of neglect, but the effort must start in the current legislative session.  He adds that the drain on state coffers poses a threat to essential services.

WKU Public Radio

The leader of the Kentucky AFL-CIO says labor groups are ready to fight future efforts to pass what supporters call right-to-work laws.

Union groups scored a major legal victory Wednesday when U.S. District Judge David Hale ruled that county governments can’t enact the rules on a local level.

Right-to-work laws prohibit mandatory union membership as a condition of employment.

Twelve Kentucky counties enacted local right-to-work ordinances last year after efforts to pass a statewide version failed in the legislature. Hardin County was one of the dozen that did so, and labor unions filed a suit against the county challenging the legality of the move.

Kentucky AFL-CIO executive director Bill Londrigan says unions know the legal battle isn’t over, despite this week’s court victory.

“We fully expect the defendants to file an appeal on this case, and with the strong, strong ruling by the U.S. District Judge David Hale, we feel that they’re going to be unsuccessful at that level, as well,” Londrigan said.

Supporters of right-to-work say the laws make states more attractive to businesses. This week’s ruling against county right-to-work efforts could mean supporters redouble their efforts to get a statewide law passed.

NPR: 50 Years of Shrinking Union Membership, In One Map

Londrigan says unions are ready for the challenge.

A federal judge says local governments in Kentucky cannot ban mandatory labor union membership as a condition of employment.

In a ruling Wednesday, U.S. District Judge David Hale said only state governments have the authority to opt out of a federal law that allows closed shop or agency shop agreements, which require employees to join a labor union or pay union dues regardless if they are a union member.

Kentucky Republicans have tried to ban such agreements, arguing they act as a disincentive for companies to come to the state and hire workers. Tired of waiting, 12 Kentucky counties passed their own bans. Labor unions sued, challenging Hardin County's ban in federal court.

Hardin County officials could choose to appeal the ruling.

Kentucky was the first state in the nation to have local governments pass these laws.

Flickr/Creative Commons/ U.S. Dept. of Agriculture

Thousands of Kentucky residents have two months to look for work or job training to keep their food stamp benefits.  Anya Weber of the Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services says food stamp recipients have until April 1 to comply with the new requirements.  

"Able-bodied adults without dependents will need to meet a 20-hour work or training requirement," says Weber. "This is going to affect approximately 17,500 able-bodied adults in eight counties."

Those counties are Bullitt, Daviess, Fayette, Hardin, Henderson, Jefferson, McCracken and Warren.

New federal rules impacting the federal Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, or SNAP, went into effect Jan. 1.  Recipients affected by the changes were given a three-month grace period to find work or job training.

Weber said the changes will affect nearly 900 people in Warren County, more than 700 people in Hardin County and more than 600 people in Daviess County.

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.”

Rhonda J. Miller

The owner of the new Dueling Grounds Distillery in Franklin says he isn’t aiming to be one of the big guys on Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail.   

Marc Dottore will make smaller batches of bourbon in the craft distillery set to open in April.

"This kind of happened out of doing some Bourbon Trail tours and seeing how it was made at a large scale, and then finding out there was this whole world of smaller people in the 200 to 300 gallon capacity making really good, hand-crafted quality spirits," says Dottore. "I thought that’s something I could aspire to. I like that.”

Dottore says his distillery near I-65 is well-positioned to be part of the Kentucky Craft Bourbon Trail. That route currently includes Corsair Artisan Distillery in Bowling Green, MB Roland Distillery in Christian County, and Wilderness Trail Distillery in Boyle County.

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