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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.

Lisa Autry

Kentucky’s newly-appointed lieutenant governor was in Warren County Tuesday to certify two locations in the Kentucky Transpark as Build-Ready sites. 

Crit Luallen said the designation means Warren County has an extra advantage in the competitive hunt for new jobs.

"The whole concept is to give site selectors who are looking for a place to invest and create jobs a ready-to-go location, one for which the preparation work has already been completed, the legal and zoning obstacles have been removed, and the red tape has already been cut," Luallen explained.

Governor Beshear announced the state’s first Build-Ready site last month in Henderson. 

While in Bowling Green, Luallen praised Warren County for having the state’s lowest unemployment rate at 4.8%, according to the latest figures.

Abbey Oldham/WKU Public Radio

Seven distilleries have joined the Kentucky Distillers' Association and the president of the organization says the KDA is poised for even more growth next year. 

Boundary Oak Distillery in Elizabethtown, Casey Jones Distillery in Hopkinsville and Dueling Ground Distillery in Franklin are among the craft distilleries that joined the organization on Monday. 

Bluegrass Distillers in Lexington, Kentucky Peerless Stilling Co of Louisville, the Gentleman Distillery in Paris and Three Boys Farm Distillery in Frankfort also became members of the KDA.

The group is now composed of 27 members, the most since the 1930s when the group was re-established after Prohibition.  President Eric Gregory says the number of distilleries in the KDA could rise to 40 by next year. 

Not Just 'Cyber Monday', But 'Cyber Week' For Many Kentucky Retailers

Dec 1, 2014

Some businesses in Kentucky are working to extend cyber Monday through the end of the week.  A number of advertisements this past weekend promoted an e-commerce focus for the entire week. 

Kentucky Chamber of Commerce President Dave Adkisson says UPS in Louisville is beefing up its workforce to keep up with demand, as is a major on-line delivery service in the Bluegrass Region. 

"In central Kentucky, you have Amazon and locations where they are shipping product through all hours of the day and night," said Adkisson.  "So Kentucky with its central location and great logistics network both air and rail and highway, we're in great shape to take advantage of e-commerce."  

In addition to big corporations like UPS and Amazon, Adkisson says many smaller retailers have reinvented themselves to take advantage of e-commerce.  Adkisson says e-commerce is still not viable for all Kentucky retailers. 

"There's fallout from this.  You know a traditional main street merchant who has not made that leap or whose business products and services don't really lend themselves to e-commerce, they have to emphasize customer service and other facets of their business that will keep their customers loyal," added Adkisson.

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