Business news

Rhonda J. Miller

The Owensboro Riverport is in a growth mode. The port on the Ohio River broke records for both revenue and volume for the 2014-2015 fiscal year. President and CEO of the Owensboro Riverport Authority Brian Wright says there are two main reasons for the growth in business. 

“The primary drivers of our record year stem from inbound metals and our new facility we’re in the process of building, a new milling facility for sodium bicarbonate.”

Much of the metal arriving by barge and rail is aluminum that’s distributed mainly to automotive businesses within 200 miles of the port. 

That’s different than the aluminum made by Century Aluminum, which recently announced it’s idling its smelting operation in Hawesville, which has nearly 600 employees.

The other major growth segment at the port is from a 10-year contract with Solvay Chemicals  for milling sodium bicarbonate.  


The ride-sharing service Uber has come to Bowling Green. 

Uber uses a mobile app to connect people who need rides with available drivers, who use their own cars to carry passengers. 

Telia Butler with the Bowling Green-Warren County Convention and Visitors Bureau took an inaugural ride last week.   She thinks the service will be beneficial to Kentucky’s third largest city.

"In some other conventions and conferences where I've attended elsewhere, this has been a popular way for people to get around at night time when they have free time to go out to dinner or something like that," Butler told WKU Public Radio.  "A lot of people talk about the small town charm we still have here which is very popular, but with these big-city amenities coming, as well, it's making us more progressive in those markets."

Uber was already available in Louisville and Lexington.  Part of its target audience in Bowling Green is WKU students.

Uber has drawn criticism from traditional taxi companies, which have raised questions about the safety and oversight of ride-sharing companies.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Pete Prodoehl

The Hancock County Judge-Executive says he feels “helpless” following the announcement that a major employer plans to sharply reduce operations in late October.

Century Aluminum announced Tuesday that it will idle its smelter in Hawesville unless there is a major rebound in the price of aluminum on the open market.

The smelter employs 565 people. In an email Wednesday, Century Aluminum Human Resources Manager Kenny Barkley said the company would keep “around a dozen” workers at the Hawesville plant if it’s idled this fall.

Hancock County Judge-Executive Jack McCaslin said there’s nothing anybody in the region can do about the market forces impacting the price of aluminum.

“It’s a commodity. Metals are just like soybeans and corn and everything else. So the markets dictate how much stuff is worth. I can’t change the markets.”

Owensboro Aims to Attract Entrepreneurs

Aug 18, 2015
Rhonda J. Miler

Owensboro is aiming to attract talented entrepreneurs by highlighting its revitalized downtown, new riverfront,  convention center, new restaurants, arts organizations and good schools. 

Joe Berry is vice president of the Greater Owensboro Economic Development Corporation. He says public-private partnerships like the Owensboro Centre for Business and Research provide office and laboratory space, including $2 million in shared lab equipment, and that helps attract talent.

The basic goal for economic development in any region is generally to go out and attract big manufacturers that create lots of jobs.  

That’s still important. But  Berry says there’s a big advantage in tapping into the nation’s entrepreneurial spirit.

"If you look at economic data and trends that are emerging around the globe, we are, quite frankly, in a global war for talent," said Berry.

"Regions that are able to attract and retain talent are the ones that are going to remain economically competitive in the long run," he said.

Berry says it starts with local talent launching startups in technology, life sciences and traditional small business.  A dozen of those companies are in the 37,000-square-foot Owensboro Centre for Business and Research. 

"An evolving and growing part of our local economy is companies that are operating in this kind of space," said Berry. "So the purpose of this business incubator is to truly grow and foster those kinds of new companies in this region and help further diversify our economy and create the companies of tomorrow."

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

Kentucky’s distillers want to be able to sell drinks by the glass, just like wineries and breweries.

Current state law prohibits distilleries from selling drinks to visitors, something spirits producers say costs them money. Distillers can offer guests a tasting as part of a tour, but each person is limited to a total of one ounce of liquor.

Kentucky Distillers’ Association Director of Governmental and Regulatory Affairs Kristin Meadors says her group has been speaking with lawmakers and is prepared to help craft legislation ahead of the 2016 General Assembly.

Meadors believes allowing distilleries to sell to visitors the bourbon, rye, vodka, and other spirits they produce on site would help elevate the Kentucky distillery experience to what is found in other parts of the country.

“When you go to a winery in Napa, what do you do? They provide you with a flight, and you purchase a flight for sometimes 20, 30, or 50 bucks. And so you sit there and enjoy it, and you pair it with some wonderful foods,” Meadors told WKU Public Radio.

“So we want you to linger a little bit more, experience a distillery, and pair the bourbon with some great Kentucky Proud products that we have across the state.”

The changes sought by the KDA would allow a distillery visitor to purchase a shot of a small batch spirit, a flight of spirits, or a cocktail.

Andrew Buchanan

Bourbon County will soon have its first locally-produced bourbon on the market since Prohibition.

The Gentleman Distillery is located in downtown Paris, and is aging its whiskey in much smaller barrels and for shorter amounts of time than most bourbon producers. Co-owner and head distiller Andrew Buchanan says their bourbon will stay in the barrels for four to five months—as opposed to years.

“We can really push through and get a product to market a whole lot quicker, which obviously helps smaller, startup distilleries get a product with some age, and color, and taste.

Four Roses Names Owensboro Native Master Distiller

Jul 20, 2015
Brent Elliott

Owensboro native Brent Elliott didn’t realize where his bachelor’s degree in chemistry from the University of Kentucky might take him. 

For a while, it led him to laboratories, analyzing soil and water samples for agencies like the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers and the Environmental Protection Agency.

Ten years ago that chemistry degree led him to Four Roses Distillery, where he’s most recently held the position of director of quality.

Elliott has just been named master distiller at Four Roses. He said it’s his dream job.       

Six Things to Know About Humana

Jul 3, 2015
WikiMedia Commons

Aetna’s move to buy Louisville-based health insurance company Humana means a big change for one of the city’s most prominent companies. The sale agreement was announced Friday and won’t close for a while, but until then Louisville leaders will be considering what changes are in store for the city. Here’s some basic information about Humana:

  • Louisville-based health care company Humana was founded in 1961 by Louisville lawyers David Jones and Wendell Cherry.
  • What began as a chain of nursing homes and hospital acquisitions has become a different business through a series of changes. Humana now has 57,000 employees and insures more than 14 million through Medicare, Medicaid and commercial plans. It’s Louisville’s second-largest employer. About 12,000 employees are reported to be in Louisville.
  • In 1981, Humana Inc. established The Humana Foundation, which serves as the philanthropic side of the company. The foundation has supported events, festivals–including the Humana Festival of New American Plays–and other causes. The Foundation’s focus is improving long-term community health. has donated more than $250 million to nonprofit organizations and social institutions.
  • Humana Inc.’s offerings includes retail, employer group, and healthcare services. They sell retail items to individuals, products and plans to employer groups, and control businesses which offer various health-related services.
  • Before the planned sale, Humana had an estimated $32-billion market value. That places as one of the county’s largest health care companies, though smaller than Aetna ($41 billion) . Humana has reportedly been  in talks with potential buyers recently.
  • Some analysts predict that if Humana were a part of a larger company, it could negotiate better doctor contracts and create a stronger network of providers.

6 Things to Know About Humana

Jul 3, 2015
Humana BuildingWikimedia Commons

Humana Building

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.

Aetna to Buy Rival Health Insurer Humana

Jul 3, 2015

Health insurer Aetna Inc. has made a deal to buy Louisville-based competitor Humana Inc. in a $37 billion deal the companies say would create the second-largest managed care company.

Adding Humana's large business in Medicare Advantage, the federal health care program for seniors, would make Humana the nation's largest Medicare Advantage provider.

Hartford, Conn.-based Aetna says it will retain Humana's Louisville headquarters as the base for its Medicare, Medicaid and military Tricare businesses.

David Dubofsky is a finance professor at the University of Louisville. He says the deal was inevitable.

“In order to be competitive these companies are being forced to get bigger, they have to realize cost saving, the cost savings unfortunately come at the cost of the employees and ten they have to have more market power to be able to reduce their costs which are the payments they make to doctors," Dubofsky noted.

Dubofsky says he expects the deal to bring higher rates and lead to a reduction in local jobs because of duplication.

Humana is Louisville’s largest publicly-traded company, with a workforce of more than 12,000.

General Motors has named a new manager for the Corvette Assembly Plant in Bowling Green. 

Kai Spade will take the helm September 2nd.  The announcement was made in a blog post by the National Corvette Museum. 

Spade is currently Director of European Powertrain Test Facilities, Engineering Operations, and Quality in Ruesselshiem, Germany. 

He replaces Jeff Lamarche who was promoted to plant manager at Flint Assembly and Stamping in Michigan.

Kentucky officials say a company that will design, build and install automated machinery for manufacturers will open a facility in Hodgenville.

Governor Steve Beshear's office said Wednesday that Karbec LLC plans to create 48 jobs and invest $1 million in the project in central Kentucky.

Karbec will mainly serve the automotive industry but will expand into other sectors as well.

Karbec officials say most of the company's competitors are in Canada and the Detroit area. They say the increasing number of automotive manufacturers in Kentucky makes the commonwealth a good fit.

State officials say Kentucky is home to 465 motor vehicle-related establishments, including four major auto assembly plants.

U.S. Dept. of Agriculture (Flickr Creative Commons)

Kentucky's ban on corporate contributions to political parties and state candidates is being challenged by a group pushing right-to-work legislation opposed by organized labor.

Protect My Check Inc. filed a lawsuit Thursday in Kentucky seeking to overturn the corporate contribution ban.

The federal lawsuit claims the ban violates equal protection and free-speech rights.

Protect My Check says it wants to make political contributions but is prohibited by Kentucky law. The group pushes legislation allowing employees at unionized workplaces to opt out of paying union dues without losing their jobs.

Protect My Check notes unions and limited liability corporations can contribute to candidates and political parties in Kentucky.

Defendants are Kentucky Registry of Election Finance officials. Registry officials declined immediate comment, saying they had not yet seen the suit.

Adam Edelen, Facebook

Kentucky State Auditor Adam Edelen announced the launch of an investigation into issues surrounding Bowling Green’s Tax Increment Financing, or TIF, district Wednesday at the city’s Chamber of Commerce.

The TIF program allows local governments to use tax revenues they would get in the future to fund current improvements.

In Bowling Green, $25.5 million in bonds were issued for construction of business properties surrounding a parking garage. But Edelen said it’s not clear where that money has gone.

“The project collapsed this year after restaurants in the commercial wrap of the parking garage in Block 6 of the Bowling Green TIF district, and contractors alleged they hadn’t been paid.”

Edelen said two auditors have been assigned to examine all the parties and contracts  involved in the project.