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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.

Abbey Oldham

Kentucky’s Bourbon Trail is celebrating another record-breaking year in attendance. The Trail’s nine participating distilleries greeted 627,032 visitors in 2014, an increase of 10 percent over the previous year.

The nine smaller facilities that make up the Kentucky Bourbon Trail Craft Tour are also seeing an explosion in popularity.

“The first craft distillers that came in are now on their second and third phases of expansion,” said Eric Gregory, president of the Kentucky Distillers Association. “And just in the first year of our Craft Tour—from the first to second years—(attendance) has gone up over 50 percent.”

Gregory said he expects the number of Craft Tour distilleries to increase to at least a dozen by the end of the year. He also expressed optimism that the Bourbon Trail, which is mostly made up by the state’s larger “heritage” distilleries, will see increased membership in 2015.

“We’ve got a number of big-name distilleries that have announced, like Michter’s in downtown Louisville. It’s our hope that Angel’s Envy, when they get up and running, will come on board. Brown-Forman has announced the Old Forester distillery on Whiskey Row.”

Frankfort-based Buffalo Trace, which is not a member of the Bourbon Trail, saw a 26 percent increase in visitors last year.

Here is a list of the member distilleries that are a part of the Bourbon Trail and Craft Tours:

Alliance Corporation

An Alliance coal mine in Hopkins County is set to close in early 2016 as the Elk Creek site runs out of coal. But Madisonville-Hopkins County Economic Development Corporation President Gerald Cook says the closure will likely have a minimal impact on the community.

“Some of the other areas they have ramped up and are doing well in their other locations and actually expanding in some of those areas,” he said.

Cook says the announcement was a surprise, but not unusual.

Nearly 370 people work at the Elk Creek mine.

“If those employees are transferred to some of their other operations around here, and there are a lot of operations going on around here now, if they’re transferred into the others well there’s going to be a negligible impact to the community.”

Mine officials would not say if any layoffs are expected.

A Bowling Green manufacturer is expanding, adding 30 new jobs.

KapStone Containter Corporation is investing $4.5 million in the project, which will modernize the facility and upgrade equipment. KapStone manufactures paper packaging containers, and employs 112 full-time workers at its Bowling Green facility.

Governor Steve Beshear announced the expansion plans Thursday in Warren County.

Beshear Thursday also announced a $400,000 expansion at a metal stamping manufacturer in Stanford. The Lincoln Manufacturing plant is adding 20 jobs and adding a third shift to its operations in Lincoln County.

Christian County's Arlon Casey Jones, or AJ, and his wife, Peg Hays, produced their first spirit run of "Casey's Cut 92" a prohibition-style corn whiskey January 2nd. The whisky comes from a secret family recipe developed during the prohibition era, produced using a still built by Jones' grandfather, Alfred "Casey" Jones. They speak with Kate Lochte on Sounds Good about the distilling process, their progress on becoming legal distillers and how they got the antique still back from Land Between the Lakes.

If you could make a lot of bourbon whiskey these days, you could be distilling real profits. Bourbon sales in this country are up 36 percent in the past five years.

But you'd need new wooden barrels for aging your new pristine product. Simple white oak barrels, charred on the inside to increase flavor and add color, are becoming more precious than the bourbon.

Some counties in south-central Kentucky are criticizing their workforce development district and asking the governor to create a new one.

The Bowling Green Daily News reports officials in Warren, Allen, Logan and Simpson  counties have asked Gov. Steve Beshear to establish a workforce development area separate from the Barren River Area Development District. Agency Director Rodney Kirtley says he hopes officials can resolve their differences so the 10-county region can work together.

Warren County Judge-Executive Mike Buchanon said he's unhappy with the workforce investment board's focus and that the current structure doesn't give him the ability to influence action by the agency.

Others say BRADD is trying to be fair to all counties. Edmonson County Judge-Executive N.E. Reed says BRADD provides services to the smaller counties that they couldn't otherwise afford.

Patriot Coal will idle two large coal mines in Western Kentucky, beginning today. As many as 650 workers could be affected.

Patriot warned layoffs could be coming earlier this month, when it issued WARN notices to employees at its Highland and Dodge Hill mines. 

One Kentucky county isn’t waiting on Frankfort to pass right-to-work legislation.

The Warren County Fiscal Court Thursday took the first of two votes required to approve a right-to-work ordinance.

The vote was 5-1 with Magistrate Tommy Hunt casting the lone “no” vote. 

The ordinance covers only private-sector workers, not teachers or other public employees.  A final vote on the ordinance is scheduled for December 19.

According to the Bluegrass Institute for Public Policy Solutions, Warren County would become the first county in the nation to adopt a local right-to-work law, which means workers would have the right to choose whether or not to join a union and pay dues  without jeopardizing their employment.

Comer Takes Aim at Economic Development Efforts

Dec 5, 2014

Republican James Comer says he wants to eliminate state economic development incentives for companies that fail to pay livable wages.

The GOP candidate for governor said Thursday that Kentucky's Economic Development Cabinet has made "questionable deals" that included awarding tax incentives. Comer didn't define a livable wage but said it's higher than the minimum wage.

He said the Economic Development Cabinet would draw close scrutiny if he becomes governor.

Comer, the state agriculture commissioner, made the remarks to reporters after speaking to the Kentucky Farm Bureau's annual meeting.

Comer said he plans to talk about ways to reduce poverty in Kentucky. He said he wants to attract investment into areas in dire need of more jobs. He said one way to do that is to make Kentucky a right-to-work state.

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