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In an effort to improve job growth for existing and new employers across the state, the state of Kentucky is making workforce services available in one centralized location.  

Governor Steve Beshear laid out the details of the ‘WorkSmart Kentucky’ initiative Monday. The program involves matching employers with available workforce resources.

“Qualifying companies within the Commonwealth will be eligible for recruitment and job screening services at no cost. In addition, flexible grant funding will be available to offset the cost of customized and in house training needs,” said Beshear.

WorkSmart Kentucky is a partnership of the state’s Economic Development, Workforce Development, and Labor Cabinets along with the Kentucky Community and Technical College System. The governor says the new program fits in well with the state’s emphasis on health care and educational improvements.

Two Kentucky lawmakers are supporting a bill that would let the state lease public land for private development.

Under legislation from Republican Representatives Richard Heath and Ken Imes, hotels and other private developments could be built in public parks, with the state's permission.

But Imes says the bill isn’t about privatization.

“We’re not trying to privatize parks. Basically, I like to use the word ‘franchise.’ What I’m trying to do is save our parks system in Kentucky. It’s deteriorating rapidly through nobody’s fault other than we just can’t keep ‘em up.”

The previous state budget slashed the parks budget by over eight percent, which led to shorter park operating hours across the commonwealth.

Imes says his bill could open the door to private management of some state parks, which he says would reduce their operating cost to taxpayers.

A report from the federal government shows some good news for Kentucky enterprise. The U.S. Bureau of Labor Statistics says the state led the country in new businesses created during the second quarter of of 2013, the most recent data available.

Governor Steve Beshear's office says almost 6,700 new businesses opened in Kentucky during that quarter, many of them so-called "micro-enterprises", or businesses with five or fewer employees. The number represents an increase of more than 6% from the same period a year earlier.

Kentucky ranked second nationally by percentage in new businesses opened during the first quarter of 2013, third during the last quarter of 2012 and fourth during the third quarter of 2012.

A federal appeals court has reinstated a 76-year-old old ban on grocery stores, gas stations and other retailers selling wine and liquor in Kentucky after finding the law doesn't violate the equal protection clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The U.S. 6th Circuit Court of Appeals on Wednesday reversed a decision by U.S. District Judge John G. Heyburn in 2012 to lift the restriction.

Judge Deborah L. Cook wrote for the court that the state "indisputably maintains a legitimate interest" in reducing access to high-alcohol content products.

A Louisville convenience store, Maxwell's Pic-Pac, and the Food with Wine Coalition challenged the ban in a lawsuit filed in federal court in 2011. The plaintiffs said the law treated them differently from package liquor stores simply because they sold food and other staples.

Jim Beam distillery

A Japanese company has announced plans to acquire the producer of Jim Beam bourbon.

Suntory Holdings of Osaka, Japan, has agreed to purchase Beam Incorporated for $16 billion.

The Courier-Journal reports that under a deal approved by leadership at both companies, the current Beam management team would continue to lead the business from Beam headquarters outside Chicago, with Jim Beam maintaining its distillery in Clermont, Kentucky.

Beam Incorporated owns many of the most famous names in the world of bourbon, including Jim Beam, Maker’s Mark, Knob Creek, Basil Hayden, Bookers, and Old Grand-Dad.

The company’s portfolio also includes brands of vodka, rum, tequila, as well as Irish and Scotch whiskies.

The acquisition of Beam Incorporated by Suntory Holdings is expected to finalized in the second quarter of this year.

Chevrolet

A Bowling Green-built auto continues its streak of awards.

The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray, made at the General Motors plant in Warren County, has been named North American Car of the Year at the North American International Auto Show.

The Stingray has already won best car of the year honors from Automobile and Autoweek magazines.

The press preview days for the North American International Auto Show kick off with the awards. The announcements came Monday morning at Cobo Center in Detroit.

The truck of the year winner is the Chevrolet Silverado.

The Chevy sweep came after General Motors made the most appearances on this year’s list finalists. Others included the Cadillac CTS and Mazda3. Truck/utility finalists included the Acura MDX and Jeep Cherokee.

Forty-eight automotive journalists vote on winners from the list of finalists.

A new study from the University of Tennessee finds that talk isn’t cheap when it comes to speeches by politicians.  Specifically, co-author Larry Fauver says the tone and content of governors' state of the state speeches is linked to financial investments in their states.

"Our results showed that there is new information that the governor is revealing to the market," explains Dr. Fauver.  "In addition to that, it's also about the tone of the speech, what the governor will do in the future."

The study analyzed 388 state of the state speeches around the country between 2002 and 2010, and the investment behavior of more than 5,700 companies over the same period.  In the year following a more optimistic speech, businesses invested two percent more of their capital than in states where the governors had a more pessimistic outlook.

Modest Economic Growth Strengthening Kentucky Budget

Dec 20, 2013

Some of the state's top economists are forecasting that modest growth in Kentucky's economy will add nearly $500 million in revenue to the state's General Fund budget by 2016.

Revenue will swell from more than $9.5 billion in the 2014 fiscal year to nearly $9.8 billion in 2015 before hitting $10 billion for the first time in 2016.

The economists, serving on a government advisory panel known as the Consensus Forecasting Group, reviewed the latest economic trends during a four-hour meeting Thursday, concluding that Kentucky will continue on a path of recovery.

The panel's chairman, Eastern Kentucky University professor Frank O'Connor, described the predicted growth as "just modest, not robust."  O'Connor said he expects more spending on big-ticket items like automobiles as the economy continues to improve.

Chevrolet

The Chevrolet Corvette Stingray is driving home a second car of the year award.

The vehicle manufactured at the Bowling Green General Motors plant has been named Autoweek's Best Car for 2014. Automobile magazine last month gave similar honors to the Stingray.

"The thing about the Corvette is that it's always been a good sports car for the money. But I can tell you that it's really the best sports car you can buy right now regardless of price," said Wes Raynal, editor of Autoweek.

Raynal says the new Corvette has a more comfortable and better-built interior than previous versions of the vehicle. He believes the Stingray will continue the Corvette's image as an iconic car.

"I don't know if you've ever seen that poster of the '63 Stingray, and the tagline is something like, 'They don't write songs about Volvos,'" Raynal told WKU Public Radio. "It's part of America. It's like Elvis, and Bruce Springsteen, and Coca-Cola, and Levi's."

A national retailer for hunting, fishing, and outdoor gear will open a store in Bowling Green in 2014.  Cabela's will build a 42,000-square-foot store, making it the second in Kentucky, joining one in Louisville. 

Communications Specialist Wes Remmer told WKU Public Radio that the Cabela’s Outpost store will be among the company's smallest.

“The Outposts are about 40,000 square feet, whereas, some of our other retail locations can range up to 250,000 square feet," explains Remmer.  "The Outposts are a way to get into those smaller markets.”

Cabela’s will open the Bowling Green store next fall and employ about 90 full-time, part-time, and seasonal workers. 

Cabela's Outpost will be located at the intersection of Scottsville Road and Ken Bale Boulevard.

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