Business news

Beshear: Kentucky Can Become Next Automotive Powerhouse

Apr 8, 2014

Gov. Steve Beshear said Monday he wants Kentucky to be as synonymous with the auto industry as Detroit.

The Democratic governor announced the formation of the Kentucky Automotive Industry Association to promote Kentucky as an automotive hub.

Beshear emphasized the association is not a state agency, but it will get some state money for marketing purposes. Economic Development Cabinet Secretary Larry Hayes will be the group's chairman.

Board members include representatives from Toyota, Ford, General Motors and various automotive supply companies.

Beshear said Kentucky ranks third in the country in light vehicle production. Kentucky's automotive exports reached a record $5.5 billion last year.


The local chapter of the United Auto Workers Union will vote Tuesday on whether to authorize a strike at the General Motors’ Bowling Green Assembly Plant.

Local 2164 President Eldon Renaud tells WKU Public Radio that several issues arose under the leadership of former plant manager Dave Tatman, who Renaud says, was forced out.

"We've been waiting a long time to try to get these quality and safety issues addressed.  We have manpower issues, and things have just come to a head," says Renaud.  "Our membership voted recently by 100% of the vote to have this (strike) vote taken."

About 800 union workers will cast ballots.  Renaud says he expects workers to approve a strike, but he hopes it doesn’t come to that. 

Plant Spokeswoman Andrea Hales issued the following statement. 

"We pride ourselves in working with our UAW Local 2164 partners to achieve success and build award-winning vehicles. We’re confident that we can work together and have a strong track record of creative problem solving. We’ve built a world-class product at the Bowling Green facility for more than 30 years, with the safety of our employees and quality of the car at the forefront of every decision. We are committed to continue that tradition."

New Todd County Plant to Bring 75 Jobs

Apr 2, 2014

A western Kentucky location will become home to a new Custom Cooler Inc. factory that will create 75 jobs with a $5.8 million investment.

Gov. Steve Beshear's office says the company is establishing its second manufacturing facility in Todd County.

Kentucky was chosen over three other states. The company has received preliminary state approval for as much as $1.5 million in tax incentives.

Custom Cooler manufactures custom walk-in coolers, freezers and freezer doors. It was established in California in 2006.

The manufacturer of suspension systems and components for heavy-duty vehicles will create 75 jobs as a result of their $20 million investment. The company held a ceremonial groundbreaking for their plant Wednesday in Elizabethtown.

The site will manufacture products to supply the company's existing operations in nearby states at their new location in the T. J. Patterson Industrial Park. Construction of the 100,000 sq ft building is expected to be completed later this year. The company has two existing operations in Somerset and Lebanon employing 450 Kentuckians.

Kentucky LRC

A bill to amend the Kentucky constitution to allow voters to choose projects funded by a 1 percent sales tax has been delayed in the House.

The measure, championed by the mayors of Louisville and Lexington, does not have enough votes to pass in that chamber right now, according to Democratic Majority Whip Tommy Thompson.

“We have a few people that have some good questions about that don’t quite understand it, so we want to clear that up," the Daviess County Democrat said. "And then there’s a few more people that we wanted to talk to to kinda see where they were, but I think we’re very close.”

Thompson says the measure is shy by a number of votes “in the single digits,” and he expects it to come for a floor vote Monday.

The measure gained renewed momentum this week after House Speaker Greg Stumbo said he changed his mind after talking with Gov. Steve Beshear, who urged him to support it.

Ground was broken Wednesday for the Warren County-based Kentucky Transpark's fifth speculative building in the past seven years.

All four previous buildings have been sold to manufacturers after being on the market for less than a year. The first spec building was bought in 2007  by American Howa Kentucky before ground was broken.

Most recently, Austrian-based plastic packaging company Alpla, Inc. purchased the fourth Speculative Building , bringing $22.3 million in capital investment and 72 new full-time jobs to the region. The Transpark employs more than 1,100 total.

Kentucky Tobacco Company in Dispute With Feds

Mar 17, 2014

A Kentucky-based tobacco company is involved in a $3 million tax dispute with the federal government and is asking a judge to stop the potential seizure of its equipment to settle the bill.

U. S. District Judge Joseph McKinley, Jr. has scheduled a hearing for March 25th in Bowling Green on a request by Tantus Tobacco of Russell Springs for a temporary injunction against the U. S. Treasury Department. The dispute centers on whether Tantus properly set sale prices for its products from September 2009 through November 2011 and paid the proper amount of excise taxes on the sales.

The Treasury Department has threatened to file liens against equipment used by Tantus to settle the debt.

Tantus makes Berley Red, Sport, Main Street and GSmoke brand cigarettes.

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

In an era of flat screen TV displays and high-resolution digital printing, the simple chalkboard is making a bit of a comeback. Not in classrooms, but in restaurants.

“I wanted something that looks more ‘custom’, if you will.  I love the way those chalkboard painted signs looked and it just fit our atmosphere,” said Keith Coffman, owner of Lost River Pizza Co. in Bowling Green. “We’re really a rustic, kind of laid-back atmosphere here and they tied in real well with it.” 

Lost River Pizza features several pieces of  artwork by Bob Gregory.

“I’ll tell him what we need and he’ll run with it and he’ll usually draw or sketch something and then e-mail it over to me for me to approve, and then he goes to town and does it,” said Coffman.  

The Obama administration's push to put income inequality atop the domestic political agenda has another battlefront.

According to The New York Times, the president "this week will seek to force American businesses to pay more overtime to millions of workers, the latest move by his administration to confront corporations that have had soaring profits even as wages have stagnated."

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer is continuing his push for the local option sales tax, which would let communities vote on temporary sales tax increases to fund projects.

The Democratic mayor is facing opposition to the plan, but not from where you might expect. Much of the criticism of the effort comes from the political left.

In a 15-minute pitch in Frankfort, Fischer extolled the civic virtues of a sales tax that he says would be used to fund local projects chosen by committee and placed on a ballot before voters.

“We need additional capital sources," the mayor told his audience. "In the case of Louisville, 11 years ago four percent of our general fund was for pensions. Today it’s 15 percent. So it’s like a business, we’ve had an 11 percent increase in our expenses, but we haven’t been able to raise our prices; that is, we haven’t had a tax increase.”

But fellow Louisvillian and fellow Democrat Rep. Jim Wayne cited a study that showed the local option means lower income residents would pay a higher percentage of their income in taxes than wealthier residents.