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Kevin Willis

Visitors can sip tea or soda — but no bourbon — at the Jim Beam Distillery's restaurant in central Kentucky. The drink menu could add the distillery's famed whiskey if a bill that advanced Wednesday becomes state law.

"Wouldn't it be nice to have a nice Knob Creek on the rocks while you're enjoying a ... barbecue sandwich?" Kristin Meadors with the Kentucky Distillers' Association said after the bill cleared a House panel.

The measure would allow Kentucky distilleries to sell their own products by the drink on their premises. Visitors could sip a small-batch bourbon or a mint julep at special distillery events or after taking tours.

Distilleries now are limited to offering two one-half-ounce free samples per guest.

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

A new partnership between WKU and EKU will make it easier for workers in the Bowling Green and Owensboro areas to receive OSHA certification.

EKU houses the only OSHA Training Institute Education Center in Kentucky. But under an agreement between the two schools, EKU personnel will lead OSHA training courses at the Knicely Conference Center in Bowling Green, and at the WKU-Owensboro campus.

Dr. Sue Parrigin, with WKU’s Career and Workforce Development office, says the idea is to expand the number of individuals in the region who can lead OSHA training classes.

“OSHA has what’s called a 10-hour and a 30-hour card, and these trainers will be prepared to go into business and industry and train employees in order to receive their 10 and 30-hour certification with OSHA.”

During 2013-14, EKU’s OSHA Training Center enrolled more than 1,800 students in classes taught in Richmond and Louisville. EKU authorized outreach trainers led 820 classes for more than 9,000 10 and 30-hour OSHA certification.

An automotive supplier in Christian County is expanding operations and increasing its workforce by a third. 

Douglas Autotech Corporation plans to create 115 jobs over the next three years.  The Hopkinsville plant opened in 1995 and has a current workforce of 230 people. 

"The automotive industry is a key component of our economy, and Douglas Autotech adds to the strength and success of the industry in the state," said Governor Steve Beshear in a news release.

The company, which produces automotive controls and steering columns, is planning to invest more than $14 million in new equipment for the plant. 

Douglas Autotech was preliminarily approved for up to $3 million in state tax incentives.

Flickr/Creative Commons

The Bluegrass State has seen another record-setting year for exports.

Kentucky shipped $27.5 billion worth of goods to other countries in 2014, the fourth straight year the state broke its previous mark.

Joe Hall, with the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development, says many people would be surprised to know that the state’s leading export category isn’t auto parts or bourbon, but aerospace products.

“Our aerospace products are really diverse,” he said. “We have companies that are making parts for jet engines. We have companies that are making small satellites that are orbiting earth as we speak.”

Kentucky exported nearly $8 billion worth of aerospace parts and products last year—a 38 percent increase over 2013.

The commonwealth’s number one export destination remains Canada, followed by Mexico and the United Kingdom. Kentucky exports to France jumped by 93 percent last year.

Kentucky’s Top Five Export Markets in 2014:

The call for more systemic changes to prevent mega-hacks is getting louder after hackers hit Anthem, the nation's second-largest health insurer. The company says cyberthieves gained access to the addresses, employment information and Social Security numbers of 80 million customers and employees.

Eighty million individuals is a lot — it's roughly the populations of California, Texas and Illinois combined.

Kentucky’s coal production and employment dropped only slightly in 2014, but sharper declines are likely in the future.

The Kentucky Energy and Environment Cabinet released its quarterly coal report for the fourth quarter of 2014 today. Preliminary data suggest the state produced 3.7 percent less coal in 2014 than in 2013. Coal employment declined by 2.8 percent over the same time period.

The declines are less stark than they were a year ago. In 2013, the Energy and Environment Cabinet estimated that the state had lost 2,300 coal jobs. In 2014, 317 jobs were lost. But these losses add to the troubles the coal industry has faced recently. The fourth quarter of 2014 is the 14th consecutive quarter where coal employment has declined in the state, and Eastern Kentucky’s coal production in 2014 was only about 41 percent of what it produced as recently as 2008.

Abbey Oldham

The oldest and one of the best known buildings in Warren County will no longer sit vacant in downtown Bowling Green.

The Mariah Moore House on State Street has been empty since last April when Mariah's restaurant was purchased and moved across town to the new HitCents Plaza. Now WKU alumnus and philanthropist Dale Augenstein has confirmed he signed a contract to move a Steamer's Seafood restaurant into the building by the end of the summer. He declined to reveal the purchase price.

The so-called “AT&T deregulation” bill is back at the Kentucky General Assembly after failing to make it out of the House last year. It was approved by the Senate.

Among other things, the bill would strip major telephone service providers like AT&T, Windstream and Cincinnati Bell of a requirement to offer basic telephone service in markets of more than 15,000 people. The basic plans include local calls, 911 and operator service.

The companies would still be required to offer services in markets of 15,000 people or fewer.

This year the bill has 22 co-sponsors and one of the bill’s biggest opponents is no longer in leadership. Former House Speaker Pro Tem Larry Clark, a Democrat from Louisville, had opposed the legislation in past sessions, saying it would hurt rural and poor consumers.

The Herald-Leader reported that AT&T spent $108,846 lobbying for the bill last year.

An Evansville, IN based banking company has announced plans to sell 17 branches and consolidate or close another 19 locations.

Old National Bank issued a release Monday detailing the news that will affect branches in Illinois, Indiana, Kentucky, Michigan and Ohio.

Twelve branch locations in Southern Illinois will be sold to First Mid-Illinois Bancshares, leaving only two Old National Bank locations in Marshall and Danville. The company also will sell four Eastern Indiana branches, as well as its only location in Ohio, to MainSource Bank in a separate deal.

 Thirteen additional branches in Indiana, three branches in Michigan and three branches in Kentucky will either be closed or consolidated in the next several months.

Flickr/Creative Commons

A battle over beer is brewing in Frankfort.

Kentucky microbreweries say out-of-state breweries like Anheuser-Busch shouldn’t be able to own beer distributors in the state—something in-state microbreweries aren’t allowed to do.

A House bill filed by Speaker Greg Stumbo, D-Prestonsburg, would close what some call a loophole in Kentucky law, which permits out-of-state breweries to own their own distributorships.

Daniel Harrison, owner of Country Boy Brewing in Lexington, said the bill would make large companies play by the same rules as companies like his.

“If Kentucky breweries can’t own distributorships, or microbreweries, why do we let out-of-state guys?” Harrison said.

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