Standard & Poor’s Rating Services has downgraded Kentucky’s financial outlook from “stable” to “negative” amid concerns over unfunded liabilities in the state’s pension systems. While S&P noted the state is experiencing a healthy recovery in its economic base and has moderate debt burden, the ratings service said structural imbalances in the budget and sizable pension debts drove its outlook down.
Madison County citizens from teenagers to seniors worked together today to help plot the economic future for the bluegrass community. The Southern Growth Policies Board is assisting leaders from Richmond, Berea, and County governments to devise an economic development plan. Scott Doron is director of the Southern Technology Council. “We’re not into producing an eloquent theoretical plan that sits on a shelf. We want highly doable, high impact actions that can lead directly to economic growth,” said Doron.
A banner year for Kentucky’s automotive industry could carry over into 20-13. For the first time since 2007, production inside the Commonwealth topped one million vehicles. Recent renovations at the Louisville Assembly Plant have made it one of Ford’s most flexible, high volume plants. Scott Ellis with the University of Kentucky’s Gatton College of Business and Economics says such flexibility translates easily into profits.
By Linda B. Blackford & The Lexington Herald-Leader
Lexington-based Fortune Hi-Tech Marketing operated a "massive pyramid scheme" involving more than 100,000 people and hundreds of millions of dollars, Kentucky and federal officials allege in a lawsuit against the company. The Corporate Drive headquarters and Danville warehouse of the multilevel marketing company were seized Monday, and the business was placed in receivership, Kentucky Attorney General Jack Conway announced during a news conference Monday afternoon. The lawsuit contends that more than 90 percent of the consumers who paid about $249 to join Fortune Hi-Tech lost their money.
For the first time since its inception, over a half million people last year travelled the Kentucky Bourbon Trail. The new attendance record represents a 15 percent increase over 20-11. Kentucky Bourbon Trail Experience Director Adam Johnson says there were visitors from all 50 states and over 50 countries. “There’s places all along the Kentucky Bourbon Trail where you’ll just run into the guy that made it. Just the other day people were telling me how they ran into Jimmy Russell down at Wild Turkey. I mean, his name’s on a bottle. People just love seeing the rock stars of our industry,” said Johnson.
Low wage earning Kentuckians are again being urged to file for federal earned income tax credits. The plea came today/Friday from Governor Beshear in Lexington and Lieutenant Governor Jerry Abramson in Louisville. West Liberty resident Zach Engle got married, bought a home, and then lost his job a year ago. He was a tax credit beneficiary turned financial coach. “My wife and I just recently celebrated our one year anniversary. I have a job that I enjoy going to every day and I jumped at the opportunity given to me by my wonderful supervisor to become a vita volunteer tax preparer, giving me a chance to truly pay it forward,” said Engle.
Frankfort’s Jim Beam plant will begin bottling the Pinnacle Vodka and Calico Jack Rum brands, adding around 45 jobs, the company announced Thursday. A release from Beam Inc. said the transition will be done in stages, and it is expected to be complete by at least the end of March 2014.
Mayor Greg Fischer says negotiations to reopen the Kentucky Kingdom amusement park are close to completion, but the parties involved remain silent about a possible lease. If a deal is reached — which could come as early as Thursday when the Kentucky State Fair Board meets — the Louisville Convention and Visitors Bureau will commit $100,000 annually for five years to get the park up and running, according to media reports.
By Erik A. Carlson & Business Lexington & Erik Carlson
In his State of the Merged Government Address, Lexington Mayor Jim Gray was expected to tout the agreement reached by the city and police and fire union leaders to reign in the unfunded liability of the city’s pension system. During the speech, Gray announced the city had topped the 300,000 mark for population.
All aspects of transportation in Kentucky cover a lot of ground. Advocates from across the Commonwealth are gathering to discuss everything from pavement to air strips to barge traffic. More than 400 people are attending the 35th Kentucky Transportation Conference. Over the next 35 years, a staple of transportation, gasoline could take a back seat to electricity, natural gas, and even compressed air. That could have a big impact on taxes collected from the sale of gasoline.
Renovations to the University of Kentucky's football stadium and the University of Louisville are among the projects that will benefit from a bipartisan General Assembly agreement is allowing state universities to use their own ability to issue bonds for capital projects. The soon-to-be approved projects were rejected during 2012 budget negotiations, but will be revived once lawmakers pass an authorization bill, House Speaker Greg Stumbo says.
Given how much Kentucky’s budget depends on tobacco taxes, would a statewide smoking ban deal it a staggering blow? A new poll shows public support for a smoking ban is inching up every year. Though the ban likely won’t get a vote during this year’s General Assembly, state politicians are confronting those economic questions more directly.
Toyota had predicted a big year for the Kentucky-built Camry sedan in 2012. The car had a new design, supplies of the Camry had been depressed by an earthquake and tsunami in Japan, and the country was beginning to emerge from the long national recession. But they didn’t expect a year this big.
A financing scheme spawned by a road construction project could transform a downtown Lexington neighborhood. By providing cheap property, the Community Land Trust hopes to build a hundred homes in the Davis Bottoms community. Land Trust Director Barbara Navin believes residents could move into those new houses within two years.
Construction crews begin work this morning on a culvert in a downtown Lexington neighborhood. It signals another small step in a massive roadway extension and community revitalization project. It may not sound like major construction, but work on a new culvert along DeRoode Street does mean progress on the Newtown Pike Extension Project. A sizeable portion of DeRoode Street will be sealed off through summer. It will likely complicate travel to Nathaniel Mission…still Director David McFarland says the mission will remain open.
Coal companyAlpha Natural Resources announced today it will idle four underground mines in Harlan and Letcher counties. Two hundred miners will lose their jobs, while about sixty people will be moved to other positions or other mines.
Lexington-based Lexmark International announced Wednesday it has acquired a health care software company. It's the sixth such technology acquisition since mid-2010 for the printer company, which has expanded into more computer software and services. Lexmark paid $45 million for Minneapolis-based Acuo Technologies, which markets its Universal Clinical Platform software to hospitals and other health care providers.
Recyclers are always in the market for more converts. One way to do that is to better educate the public on the nuts and bolts of recycling. That’s was the purpose of tour today in Lexington of a downtown recycling center. The first week of January finds a larger than usual pile of recyclables in the receiving station, bound for processing.
A decline in coal mining tax revenue has many of Kentucky’s top officials concerned. House Speaker Greg Stumbo and Governor Steve Beshear say they are concerned about the declining revenues from the coal severance tax. The tax is used for a variety of state, county and local infrastructure projects, mostly in Eastern Kentucky. Beshear says the drop in revenue reflects the tough market for Kentucky coal.
For the first time ever, Pepsi beverages will be served at concession stands in Rupp Arena, the Shops at Lexington Center, the Lexington Opera House, Triangle Park and at Lexington Center events. G&J Pepsi-Cola Bottlers Inc. of Cincinnati signed a partnership agreement with the Lexington Center Corp. to become the official beverage provider at several facilities controlled by the company beginning Jan. 2. Coca-Cola products have been served at Lexington Center since it opened 37 years ago, in 1976.
Economic growth in 20-13 could mirror the growth seen this year in Kentucky. Ken Troske, who directs the Center for Business and Economic Research at the University of Kentucky, predicts another two to three percent in economic growth. Troske adds this year’s economic improvement came slower than anticipated.
Elizabethtown residents Martin and Martha Moreman and their son, Matthew, 18, made a last-minute stop Sunday at Kohl’s to find a final Christmas gift. The gift was for the couple’s 8-year-old great-nephew. Though Martin Moreman said they didn’t have a specific toy in mind, the couple brought their son along to make sure the right present was chosen. Ultimately, the family picked out a remote control-operated truck. “We know him; we know what he likes,” Martin Moreman said.
Louisville's technology sector will become larger when two companies from New Albany, Ind., across the river to a historic building downtown. Gov. Steve Beshear on Tuesday welcomed Indatus and sister company Mocurao to an East Main Street building that was the original home of Four Roses bourbon.
One day, motorists in downtown Lexington may be asked to pump coins into street side parking meters at night. Currently, downtown parking at all meters is free after five p-m. By charging a fee, Lexington Parking Authority Director Gary Means says the city can open up more spaces in the evening. “Parking is a supply and demand issue and so if the demand becomes so great that some of the merchants start seeing, ‘hey there’s people parking in front of my bar, my restaurant all night long and they never move and Gary, what can we do about that? Then, we would start to look at enforcement,” said Means.
A Japanese company is said to be considering making an offer to buy Beam, Incorporated. An official with Suntory Holdings tells Bloomberg News that the Osaka-based whiskey and beer maker could make a solo bid for the American distiller or a joint offer with Diageo, the global spirits company headquartered in Britain.
A new state program will advise young entrepreneurs on how they can turn a bright idea into a business plan. Next June at Georgetown College, 50 high school students will learn more about innovation and creative thinking. Liz Knapp with the Kentucky Science and Technology Corporation believes some of the ideas will later morph into profit-making products.
Despite experiencing one of the worse droughts in U.S. history, agriculture economists in Kentucky are projecting record cash receipts for the state’s farmers. During their annual outlook during the Kentucky Farm Bureau conference, economists from the University of Kentucky say they think Kentucky will break the $5-billion barrier in revenues this year.
Fayette County’s best opportunities for job growth may lie outside manufacturing. In a report delivered Tuesday to Lexington’s city hall, demographic specialist Ron Crouch made some predictions on job growth between now and the year 20-18. With suitable land in short supply, Crouch says there are few places to build new factories. “You know one of the things I hear in Lexington-Fayette County is , you need more manufacturing jobs. Well, in fact, because of cost of the land in Fayette County and the cost of doing business, you’re probably not an area that’s gonna attract a lot of manufacturing. It’s gonna be more health care, more retail trade, and more education,” said Crouch.
Starting this week, the Herald-Leader and four other Central Kentucky newspapers will charge for unlimited access to their websites, a growing trend as the newspaper industry continues to struggle with revenue declines. In Kentucky, more than half of newspapers now charge in some form for online access, said David Thompson, executive director of the Kentucky Press Association.
This week marks what might be called ‘prime Christmas tree’ cutting season. At least, that’s the hope for owners at Kentucky’s 15 Christmas tree farms. Steve McManus, who operates Cathole Bend Christmas Tree Farm in Garrard County, planted some 20 thousand trees in 2004. However, it was another four years before any of that crop went to market.