Business news

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.

GM Plans Another Expansion at Corvette Plant in Kentucky

Dec 9, 2015
Photo by Joe Imel for Chevrolet

General Motors says it will spend $44 million to increase engine-building capacity at the Kentucky plant that makes Corvette sports cars.

The automaker said Wednesday that it will add 36 jobs as part of the investment to expand capacity in the Performance Build Center at the Bowling Green Assembly plant. It says construction and tool rearrangement is scheduled to start next month.

GM says the increased capacity is fueled by the success of the Corvette Z06, which accounts for nearly one-third of all Corvettes produced at the plant in south-central Kentucky.

Plant manager Kai Spande says GM has committed $483 million to the Bowling Green plant this year.

In May, the company said it was spending $439 million for a new paint shop and facility upgrades.

Sometime next year, a new bourbon distillery will open at the site of the former Old Taylor Distillery near Frankfort. Leading the project is master distiller Marianne Barnes, the first woman to hold the title in modern times.

The forthcoming distillery is backed by Will Arvin and Wesley Murry, who asked Barnes to partner with them. The distillery would breathe new life into an abandoned 130-acre property that was once a grand showplace for historic distiller Col. Edmund Haynes Taylor Jr.

Century Aluminum Announces Lay Offs at Sebree Smelter

Nov 3, 2015

Century Aluminum has announced it will lay off nearly 30 percent of its workforce at its Sebree smelter by year's end.

According to the Owensboro Messenger-Inquirer, the company says it'll lay off 150 people at the plant by Dec. 31 and curtail one of its three pot lines. Century currently has about 525 employees at the Sebree smelter.

In a statement, Century's president and CEO Michael Bless said the company is struggling to compete with the low prices of subsidized Chinese aluminum, calling the practice "unfair."

Last month, the company laid off approximately 320 people at its Hawesville smelter.

The Hawesville smelter is down to 250 employees and has two pot lines operating.

On Thursday, Century reported a net loss of $56.1 million for the quarter ending Sept. 30.

A Warren County manufacturing plant is launching a major expansion that will add 450 jobs. 

Bowling Green Metalforming, located in the Kentucky Transpark, is investing $261 million over the next four years to better serve the automotive industry.   It’s one of the largest corporate expansions that south central Kentucky has seen in the last decade. 

Mayor Bruce Wilkerson said the company has been a great corporate neighbor.

Over a thousand people working there now means there's that many families have the wherewithal to take care of themselves in providing stable employment and a good location for them to work," Wilkerson told WKU Public Radio.

The expansion will include equipment purchases and a 260,000-square-foot-addition to the company’s current facility.  It’s the sixth expansion for Bowling Green Metalforming since breaking ground 11 years ago.

Lisa Autry

A German steel processor broke ground today\yesterday on a new manufacturing plant at the Kentucky Transpark in Bowling Green. 

Bilstein is Europe’s largest supplier of cold-rolled steel products.  The company will build a 250,000-square-foot facility to better serve its automotive industry customers in North America.  Company officials call it their first major investment outside Europe. 

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear says Bowling Green was the ideal location.

"It's located here on the interstate of I-65.  It's got a wonderful university in Western Kentucky University," noted Beshear.  "Kentucky is not only the center of manufacturing, it's the center of a pipeline all the way from Detroit down south of us where the automobile alley runs these days."

Bilstein is making a $130 million investment in the steel plant and will create 110 jobs. 

Meanwhile, one of Logan County’s largest employers is adding nearly 200 jobs.  Logan Aluminum is expanding its operations to become an automotive supplier. 

Governor Besehar made the announcement in Russellville Wednesday.

"More and more, vehicles are being made out of aluminum because you need a lighter weight to meet all the fuel requirements the government is putting on there these days to get the mileage necessary," Beshear added.

Logan Aluminum already produces rolled sheets for beverage cans.  The company has more than a thousand employees and will add another 190 with the expansion.

Stephen Jenkins watches a timer count down to the exact moment when he’ll drop a bucket of hops into a batch of what will become an amber ale.

“This one’s about nine pounds of a couple different kinds of hops,” said Jenkins, brewer for West Sixth Brewing in Lexington.

He’s perched on top of a catwalk overlooking a vat of wort — the primordial ooze that will be strained, left to ferment with yeast and eventually canned or kegged.

“It makes 40 barrels at a time, which is about 80 kegs, 80 half-barrel kegs, and we do two brews a day. So we’re going to do about 80 barrels of amber today,” Jenkins said.

West Sixth Brewing made about 2,000 barrels of beer in its inaugural year in 2011. This year, the company is on track to make 12,000 to 13,000 barrels.

Despite the brewing company’s rapid growth, it’s still a tiny carbonated bubble floating in an ocean dominated by two global breweries — Anheuser-Busch Inbev, the maker of Budweiser; and SABMiller, which makes Miller Lite.

T.J. Samson Community Hospital

T.J. Samson Community Hospital in Glasgow is working to acquire and operate Westlake Regional Hospital and its clinics in Adair County. 

Westlake’s parent company is currently in Chapter 9 bankruptcy proceedings, having filed for protection in 2013.

In a news release, T.J. Samson CEO Bud Wethington said he is excited about future prospects for Westlake Regional Hospital.

"Westlake has been an important part of the healthcare infrastructure of Columbia and Adair County for 35 years," noted Wethington.  "We see great opportunities to collaborate with the physicians and employees to grow the health care services and continue its efforts to advance the health status across the region."

The planned acquisition is contingent upon several factors, including approval from creditors and healthcare regulators.

Kelley Beekeeping

The increasing popularity of beekeeping is leading to a business expansion in Grayson County. Kelley Beekeeping in Clarkson is investing $7.5 million and adding 50 new jobs to its current workforce of 90.

The 91-year-old company manufactures beekeeping products such as structures for hives,  protective clothing and honey extraction equipment. 

General Manager Sam Ruckriegel said there’s an increasing demand from a variety of customers. 

"It is something you see more and more people getting into," said Ruckriegel.  "We see it going into the retail market. We see what we call homesteading.  A lot of people are getting into being self-sustaining, bees being part of that, the natural sugars that they generate, and the honey."

Kelley Beekeeping has a global market that includes North and South America and the Philippines.  Ruckriegel said the increasing demand for beekeeping products may be due to a growing  awareness of the declining bee population.

There’s been a lot about the bees here lately, what we call colony collapse disorder. People are noticing that the bees are dying off and wanting to regenerate and bring them back," he said.  "One thing we don’t realize is that if we lose the bees, we lose a lot of our food supply, in the area of produce.”

He said bees are necessary to pollinate much of the produce we consume.  

Kelley Beekeeping is adding a new 80,000-square-foot building at its Clarkson headquarters. The additional 50 employees are expected to be hired over the next five years.

Kentucky Attorney General's Office

A for-profit college in Kentucky has agreed to pay more than $1 million in a settlement with former students.  Multiple lawsuits accused Owensboro-based Daymar College of enrolling students through bogus claims about job placement and transfer credits. 

Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway sued Daymar College, alleging the school violated consumer protection laws.  Former students claimed in lawsuits that they were deceived about the quality of Daymar’s degree programs and were left deep in debt with few career opportunities. 

The total settlement is for $12.4 million, and requires Daymar to pay $1.2 million to qualified students who attended the school between 2006 and 2011. 

At a news conference Thursday, Conway acknowledged the amount is only a small portion of the tens of thousands of dollars in loan debt incurred by students.

"We wanted to get as much as we could for the students in this affected period," said Conway.  "It's not all that we wanted.  I'll readily acknowledge that, but based on Daymar's financial situation, we really thought that it was the best we could get."

Under the deal, Daymar denies any wrongdoing, but Conway said the settlement speaks for itself.

"I've practiced law and been attorney general for seven and a half years," he added.  "You don't agree to a settlement worth 12 and a half million dollars, as well as strong injunctive terms for two years with a compliance monitor if you didn't do anything wrong."

Daymar will also forgo collection of $11 million in debt owed it by former students.  The school had no immediate comment.

For-profit colleges are under scrutiny across the nation for low graduation rates and enrolling students who are unable to pay their bills.

Florida Governor Rick Scott will visit Kentucky this month in an effort to recruit businesses to relocate or expand to Florida. 

About two years ago, Scott tried something similar. He sent letters to businesses in Kentucky inviting them to the Sunshine State. 

At the time, Gov. Steve Beshear called the letters a “crude method of recruitment.”

Kenny Colston with the left-leaning Kentucky Center for Economic Policy agrees. 

"Right to work laws don’t grow jobs," said Colston. "Not in manufacturing. Not in other sectors."

Colston disagrees with Scott’s main pitch to companies that Florida has a better business climate because it’s a Right to Work state.  Colston says he thinks the trip is a political stunt.

“You know this is attention seeking for one reason of the other," said Colston. "I don’t know the governor and I don’t know why he is coming here, but I know the last time he came here he got a pretty strong rebuke from our governor, Steve Beshear.”

Beshear doesn’t have nice things to say about Rick Scott’s latest recruitment effort, either. In a statement, he said Scott’s trip will be waste of time.

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."