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The next President and CEO of the Greater Owensboro Chamber of Commerce won’t have to go far to begin her new job.

The chamber announced Thursday that Candance Brake will lead the organization beginning March 16.

Brake was most recently Executive Director of the Green River Area Community Foundation in Owensboro, which shares a building with the Chamber of Commerce.  She served as an Owensboro City Commissioner from 2004 until 2010, and was previously an executive vice-president of the chamber.

Brake earned her bachelor’s degree from Brescia University in Owensboro, and has a Masters of Public Administration from WKU.

A Japanese corporation is planning a $15 million expansion at its manufacturing site in Bowling Green.

NHK of America Suspension Components Incorporated (NASCO) is adding a new building next to its existing facility in Warren County. The new location will manufacture automotive suspension coil springs, and is expected to be completed within two years.

NASCO employs 280 people, and its  Japanese parent company owns another operation in Warren County (Topura America Fastener), Franklin (New Mather Materials), and Louisville (NHK Spring Precision of America). In all, NHK International Corporation employs about 1,000 Kentucky workers.

Some 500,000 Wal-Mart employees will soon be getting a pay raise. Starting in April, the company's full- and part-time U.S. employees will earn at least $9 an hour, at least $1.75 above today's federal minimum wage.

The pay boost will also apply to employees of Sam's Club, which is owned by Wal-Mart.

The retailer says wages will jump to at least $10 one year from now.

400-Worker Pillsbury Plant in New Albany to Close

Feb 12, 2015

A union representative says General Mills is moving ahead with its plans to shutter a southern Indiana Pillsbury plant and a neighboring business that together employ more than 400 workers. 

General Mills announced last month it would close its Pillsbury plant and neighboring Sonoco business in New Albany by mid-2016, pending discussions with union officials. 

The Courier-Journal reports Union Local 33G President Roger Miller announced Thursday it's negotiated aclosing agreement with the company.  If union members agree to the terms, layoffs are tentatively scheduled to begin early next year. 

The Pillsbury plant opened in New Albany in 1959 and is its fifth-largest employer. Workers make crescent rolls, pizza dough and other refrigerated baked goods.

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.

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