Welcome to the Dec. 21 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.
Details of U of L-Norton deal expected today
After years of dueling motions in a lawsuit between the University of Louisville and Norton Healthcare over the downtown Kosair Children’s Hospital, both parties came out of mediation Friday with an agreed-upon settlement – the specific details of which are set to be released publicly today.
Norton has owned the hospital since they built it in 1986 on state-owned land. U of L’s School of Medicine has trained its pediatric students at Kosair for many years, but threatened to evict Norton in 2013 when they announced a new collaboration with the University of Kentucky – eliciting the lawsuit of Norton against U of L.
After the U of L Board of Trustees’ executive committee approved the settlement on Friday, chairman Larry Benz indicated it included a new lease for the hospital and a new academic affiliation agreement with U of L’s medical school – but argued that they did not have to make public what the board specifically approved in open session until the state and U of L Physicians sign off on the deal.
A joint statement from U of L and Norton announcing the still-private settlement said that “Today is a good day for the children of Kentucky.”
Though this settlement ends the nasty legal battle between the two parties, Norton remains in another lawsuit with Kosair Charities over how that organization’s donations are spent at the same hospital. —Joe Sonka
Just in time for Christmas: Let’s Start Coding
Fred Durham may be hard at work at CafePress, which he founded, sold and is now back in charge of as CEO, but that doesn’t mean Durham Labs has been left behind. The company, originally conceived in 2013 as a “startup lab focused on food and robots,” still has fewer than five full-time employees, but they’ve recently launched an ambitious product in a competitive landscape.
Let’s Start Coding is a company that makes kits that teach people how to “learn real code and make real things.” They’ve invented Maker Board, a teeny weeny computer about the size of a half-dollar that can be simply programed with code and comes with easy-to-use component parts — lights, buttons, speakers and more — that eliminate the messy wires of Arduino programming.
Maker Board plugs right into the USB port. Projects with completed code are available to download right from the Let’s Start Coding website. So when starting out, you don’t need to begin by learning code from scratch.
Each project has programmer’s notes embedded in the code that make suggestions to the user on how to change the code to change the way the Maker Board behaves. If you change X component then Y action will go faster/slower/louder/etc.
Weston Hagan, lab director, said that right now Let’s Start Coding is the main focus for Durham Labs. Coding, he said, “is still too hard and is not as fun and too expensive.” They’re aiming to change that. They’ve gotten rid of the resistors and wires, and because of that the setup is faster and cleaner.
The kit, which comes in a teeny tool box, retails starting at $40. It also comes with a deck of “trading cards,” each featuring one of the kit components or a project description.
They’ll be rolling out new products next year. Currently, they’ve been working with Conway Middle School’s coding club. They see the kits as a perfect fit for coding camps or summer schools focused on STEM education. In fact, if you’re in charge of one of these programs, Hagan would love to talk to you at [email protected]
Once again, the folks at marketing company Mightily have produced a pretty edgy product, but this time it’s for a company in an industry that’s not typically one to push boundaries. American Founders Bank, headquartered here in Louisville with two branches, is a small bank, and the folks at Mightily want to make sure the public knows that’s an asset, not a liability.
“Take a Stand” is an Internet video developed by Mightily that examines the imaginary (we hope) social issue of people discriminating against things that are small. The actor, Chris Saunders, calls it “small-shaming” and says that words like “fun-sized” and “pipsqueak” are “hurtful.”
Saunders, himself of small stature, says that when you hear those hurtful words you should “remind the aggressor that a tiny ant can lift 20 times its own weight, that kittens are cuter than cats, and that small businesses are the backbone of America,” he says.
Rich Barber, director of digital strategy at Mightily, explained how the ad came about: “The creative process on this was fairly long. As I was writing their site content, we kept throwing in the line “tiny bank” and Barry, AFB’s CEO, really liked it. So, when we decided to pitch a video for an awareness campaign, we focused on them being small. I was somewhat inspired by VW’s ‘Think Small’ ad, as well as AVIS’s line ‘We’re No. 2, so we try harder,’ but I wanted it to work as a digital campaign so we added the hashtags and made it a somewhat believable social issue.”
Those hashtags are #smallshaming and #standsmall.
“The bank wanted and wants to be unlike other banks. The bank’s officers all have great personalities and that’s what they want for the bank. So, we’re positioning them basically as a small boutique bank that serves small and mid-sized businesses,” said Barber. “Step one is to own the small bank niche, which should be fairly easy since most banks try to portray themselves as being bigger than they sometimes are. ”
Watch it here:
Seed Capital KY reviews a year’s worth of progress ahead of New Year
The FoodPort is an initiative started to help provide greater access to fresh foods and aid small-time farmers. The project received the approvals it needed to move forward in September and will break ground this summer at 30th and West Market streets.
Ahead of the New Year, Seed Capital KY prepared an update on where the project stands now.
The nonprofit has raised about half of the $8 million in grant funding it needs, which includes of $250,000 from Brown-Forman Corp., $100,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture, and $1 million from James Graham Brown Foundation, a news release states.
Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government also has requested $4.1 million in funding from the state on behalf of Seed Capital KY, which is still working to secure federal and state New Markets Tax Credits as well.
Cincinnati-based Messer Construction has signed on as the general contractor, and Louisville-based McCall Group will oversee the construction. The Louisville Urban League will help recruit minority- and women-owned business to work on the construction phase.
Currently, international architecture firm OMA is working with Louisville’s GBBN Architects to refine OMA’s original designs for the FoodPort to better accommodate the companies that already have agreed to set up operations there. For a list of businesses, click here.
Last but not least, Seed Capital KY said two members of the West Louisville FoodPort Community Council’s executive committee will join the nonprofit’s board of directors during the first quarter of 2016. The community council, which provides input to Seed Capital KY, is comprised 80 west Louisville residents. —Caitlin Bowling
Ford records good November sales, banks on electric power
Ford Motor Co. recorded some excellent November sales figures in Europe and North America.
The company said last week that it gained market share in Europe as its sales there rose 20.5 percent from November 2014.
Roelant De Waard, the company’s VP for marketing sales and service in Europe, said in a press release that the company’s vehicle line-up “is attracting new customers and really changing our brand image.”
The company had said a few days earlier that while U.S. sales in November were up only slightly from a year earlier, truck and van sales reached an eight-year high. Sales for the F-Series truck were up 10 percent, and commercial van sales rose 59 percent to 17,815, the best November sales month since 1984.
While Ford recently announced $1.3 billion in investments in Louisville on the next-generation F-Series Super Duty, it also said a few days later that it is investing heavily in electric vehicles.
The company said that through 2020, it will invest $4.5 billion in electric vehicles, including a new Ford Focus electric with fast-charge capability, which will allow motorists to charge the battery 80 percent within 30 minutes.
Beam Dental moves a little closer to home
According to the Dayton Business Journal, Beam Dental, formerly a Louisville startup founded by University of Louisville grads, is moving manufacturing westward to Miamisburg, specifically to a business complex called The Mound. There they are renting 5,000 square feet; they plan on sinking $100,000 into the space and hiring up to 15 more people soon. Their current 20 employees will stay in Dayton.
Beam’s founder, Alex Frommeyer, recently invested in a bar in Germantown here in Louisville and has stated he has plans for further investments in the area. So, moving part of the business an hour or so closer to Louisville makes sense.
Beam Dental — which, in its infancy, used to share office space with Insider Louisville — is a dental insurance agency that sells an app-connected toothbrush and other dental products. —Melissa Chipman
Pizza Hut debuts apparel line
If Taco Bell is the cool, young college student, Pizza Hut is its older relative who just won’t let go of the fact that it’s not in its 20s anymore.
But while Taco Bell has successfully tapped into the coveted Millennial and Gen Z markets via its social media campaigns and mobile application, Pizza Hut falls short.
That may be why a recent move by Pizza Hut seems like a desperate attempt to connect. Pizza Hut doesn’t want to be a regular mom; it wants to be a cool mom.
The pizza chain recently launched a new clothing and accessory line with the help of Los Angeles-based fashion brand Bella+Canvas, according to A.V. Club.
Pizza is a delicious mix of carbs and fats, but wearing it isn’t particularly appealing. The pizza-centric clothing items include a hoodie that says “Pizza is bae,” flat bills with pepperoni pizza printed on it, black socks with pizza slices, and black and white tribal print leggings that have outlines of pizza slices and mushrooms.
The most egregious Pizza Hut item I’ve seen is a hat that reads “Take Your Toppings Off.” In addition to being a bad pun, it’s simply an all-around distasteful, sexist sentiment. (It should be noted that the hat is no longer listed on Pizza Hut’s website.)
Ironically, while Pizza Hut is encouraging people to don their apparel, the company notes on its website: “Not to be worn by Pizza Hut employees during work hours. These items are not approved uniforms.”
Save your money and buy Old Fashioned swag instead. —Caitlin Bowling
Theo Edmonds of IDEAS elected to Americans for the Arts’ National Advisory Council
Louisvillian Theo Edmonds, artist and co-founder of IDEAS xLab (formerly IDEAS 40203), has been elected to the National Advisory Council of the Americans for the Arts. The nonprofit is the leading organization for advancing the arts and arts education in the country, and Edmonds will serve as a member of their advisory council for the private sector.
“Americans for the Arts strives to cultivate the next generation of arts leaders in America, and I am pleased to welcome Mr. Edmonds to our advisory council,” said Robert L. Lynch, president and CEO of Americans for the Arts, in a press release. “These leaders are willing to dedicate their time and expertise to work with peers across the country to shape national programs and messages and help craft services for states, communities and local organizations. I applaud Mr. Edmonds’ for his valued contribution and commitment that will undoubtedly improve the state of arts in America.”
Edmonds will help to develop and implement advocacy programs and serve as a leader to other arts agencies. He’ll serve a three-year term from Jan. 1, 2016, to Dec. 31, 2018.
“I am grateful to President Lynch, his staff and members across the country for their confidence in me,” said Edmonds. “Having a working artist elected to the Private Sector Council is a significant validation of the work being pioneered through IDEAS xLab. I look forward to working with my colleagues to create new opportunities for artists in the areas of corporate and civic innovation.” —Sara Havens
Old Dominick Tennessee Bourbon wants a seat at our lunch table
It’s true not all bourbon is made in Kentucky. But 95 percent of it is, and for good reason — it just tastes better. Of course there are many other factors as to why we cornered the market on bourbon (seasonal weather, limestone water, etc.), but every now and then, some other state tries its hand at bourbon distillation and gets mixed results.
I tried a Texas bourbon last Christmas that was absolutely awful, but sometimes other states can reproduce the Kentucky magic in a bottle. Colorado’s Peach Street Straight Bourbon is an example, as well as Texas’ Balcones True Blue, Ohio’s Watershed and New York’s Kings County Distillery’s Small Batch.
Just last week, representatives from Old Dominick in Memphis made the trip north and brought with them several cases of the Tennessee bourbon. They held a tasting at Westport Whiskey & Wine, where you can find the bourbon, which is part of a one-time release for its 150th birthday. Part of the D. Canale & Co. group, one of the oldest businesses in Memphis, Old Dominick bourbon was once one of the largest brands in the Southeast before Prohibition.
The 100-proof bourbon has a relatively high corn recipe at 70 percent, followed by 21 percent rye and 9 percent malted barley. The bourbon had a smooth finish, with most of the taste coming from the back of the palate. With that much corn, it was hard to detect many spice notes, but it wasn’t a bad drink. It’s what I imagine whiskey tasted like 100 years ago before science and recipe precision took over distilling.
Westport Whiskey & Wine has a very limited supply, so if you’re interested, I’d get over there before Christmas. It retails for $74.99. —Sara Havens