Welcome to the Feb. 15 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

HopCat parking worries highlight larger transit problems

A preliminary rendering of the bar and restaurant | Courtesy of HopCat

A preliminary rendering of the bar and restaurant | Courtesy of HopCat

It is a truth acknowledged Louisville-wide, that an individual in possession of a good car doesn’t ride the bus.

Obviously, there are exceptions, but according to Louisville’s “Smart Cities Challenge” application, only 3 percent of residents ride Transit Authority of River City (TARC) buses to work. The percentage of residents who ride the TARC for other reasons is likely even lower given 70 percent of TARC trips transport people to school or work, the application states.

While low TARC ridership is a fact of life in Louisville, it’s not universally known, which is why some Highlands residents bristled when Barfly Ventures representatives recently spoke about their bar and restaurant concept HopCat at a community meeting.

Michigan-based BarFly Ventures is investing nearly $4 million to construct a two-story, 12,000-square-foot HopCat with a 600-person capacity. The bar and restaurant, located at 1064 Bardstown Road near Grinstead Drive, will employ 150 people.

“The HopCat people, they aren’t from around here, and they were really, really banking on a lot of their customers using public transportation, and that would be fine if that was the type of culture we lived in now,” said Matt Blair, president of the Original Highlands Neighborhood Association. “I don’t see a lot of sports bar people riding the TARC bus. People who pay $8 for a beer aren’t going to ride the TARC.”

Chris Knape, vice president of marketing and communications for BarFly Ventures, did not return multiple calls for comment.

According to Louisville’s Land Development Code, restaurants must have one parking space per 250 square feet, meaning (based solely on square footage) HopCat is required to have at least 48 parking spaces. That number does not take into account any parking waivers HopCat may request or special conditions the city may require.

A spokesman for Louisville Planning and Design Services said the staff is still reviewing HopCat’s plans and will address parking in its final staff report.

No matter what, though, parking is bound to overflow onto surrounding residential streets.

The HopCat project is a micro-look at a key transportation problem in Louisville — the lack of viable public transit. Just last week, transportation advocates called for improved public transit options. Both city officials and transit activists have stated TARC is often unreliable and inconvenient, prompting those who can to commute by car.

Along Baxter Avenue and Bardstown Road in particular, parking already can be a hassle for residents and people trying to visit various businesses. Some homes and rental units don’t offer off-street parking, meaning residents are battling with visitors for spots.

“We have enough issues with parking and more than enough bars. Find the appropriate amount of parking, or get out,” one Louisville resident wrote on the Original Highlands Facebook page below a story about HopCat.

Another commenter said residents should avoid getting mad and focus on taking action to fix the problem.

Blair said he suggested BarFly talk to nearby churches or other businesses about leasing their parking lots during evenings. Other ideas tossed around were offering valet parking and shuttling customers from a parking lot off Bardstown Road.

“They were very attentive and listened to what we have to say,” he said. “I would really love to see a parking solution that is going to appease everyone.”

Despite the parking and capacity concerns, Blair said he likes the HopCat concept.

“It’s a really nice design,” he said. “They’ve got an awesome food menu.”

Larry Rother, president of the Highlands Commerce Guild, was measured in his statements when asked about parking and the guild’s thoughts about HopCat.

Highlands business owners want to live in peace with residents, he said, and understand that some struggle to find parking in front of their homes. Overall, though, Rother views HopCat as a positive addition to the business district.

“It’s gonna add to the Highlands eclecticism.” —Caitlin Bowling

Professors: Kentuckians would see little impact from Aetna-Humana merger

Humana horizontal

The Aetna-Humana merger would have very little impact on Kentucky’s health insurance industry because Aetna has such a limited presence here, according to the two researchers who analyzed the merger for the Kentucky Department of Insurance.

“When you look at the actual changes in market concentration, there just wasn’t very much,” said William S. Custer, director of the Center for Health Services at Georgia State University.

Custer and his Georgia State colleague Robert W. Klein, director of the Center for RMI Research, last week submitted their research on the merger to the state of Kentucky.

The state insurance commissioner, Brian Maynard, told IL on Tuesday that he had approved the merger “after thorough review by internal financial staff and outside economists.”

Watchdog groups have criticized Maynard for making the decision without a public hearing.

Aetna, based in Hartford, Conn., wants to buy Humana for $37 billion. Humana is based in Louisville and employs more than 12,000 here.

Custer said the researchers looked at data including health insurance premiums, the insurers’ market concentration and the number of covered individuals to determine whether the merger would reduce competition among health insurers and health care providers.

The data came from the companies and the department of insurance, Custer said.

The merger would change dynamics among insurers or providers very little, Custer said, which means the merger would not harm Kentucky consumers.

Nonetheless, Klein said, it makes sense for states to scrutinize such mergers.

“I think it’s a good idea to monitor what happens in these markets (to make sure that a merger) benefits consumers or at least does not harm them,” he said.

The state last summer contracted with the professors to provide expert witness services for $50,000 each.

Shareholders of both companies have approved the merger, but before it can be completed the companies must get consent from the 18 states in which they operate and from the U.S. Department of Justice.

The companies have said they believe consumers will benefit from the merger because they will see more products and services and better, less expensive health care. However, the merger has come under fire from groups including the American Hospital Association and the American Medical Association. Aetna and Humana officials have said they expect the merger to be completed this year.—Boris Ladwig

New Frankfort Avenue shop encourages consumers to ‘gift local’

Courtesy of 5-0-Lou

Courtesy of 5-0-Lou

5-0-Lou’s tagline would be “C’mon in and hang out” if it weren’t already “gift local.”

The new shop, located at 2235 Frankfort Ave. next to The Hub Restaurant, held its soft opening last weekend and will host a grand opening this coming Saturday.

The store offers a broad mix of goods, from regional art and locally pressed T-shirts to Kentucky food products and Red Hot Roasters coffee. Customers can relax in the book nook or let their kids play in a children’s area while they shop.

“We really want people to feel encouraged to come in and taste things and talk,” said Laura Bailey, one of the owners. “It is very much a community atmosphere here.”

Each month in addition to the art displayed daily, 5-0-Lou will feature one 2D artist and one 3D artist. The group also plans to host workshops with artists during the monthly Frankfort Avenue Trolley Hop.

Bailey started 5-0-Lou with Tobie Gurley and Gurley’s mom, Terri Ross, who also happens to be an artist. Ross approached Bailey and Gurley after both left positions at WHY Louisville. The two WHY Louisville stores closed last year.

And while their operations experience at WHY Louisville has helped them set up 5-0-Lou, Bailey said the two Kentucky-loving stores are very different.

“Unlike WHY Louisville, we have sort of eliminated the kitsch,” Bailey said. “Everything we have is either 100 percent regionally or locally handmade.”

They’ve been working for the past six months, visiting markets and any place they might find small-time vendors selling handcrafted goods, Bailey said.

“We tried really hard to offer things we haven’t seen yet in the city.” —Caitlin Bowling

Stoll Keenon Ogden names fourth managing director in 119 years

P. Douglas Barr

P. Douglas Barr

Louisville law firm Stoll Keenon Ogden has named P. Douglas Barr as its fourth managing director since the firm was founded in 1897.

Barr will replace Bill Lear, who is relinquishing the post to focus on his law practice and civic engagement.

SKO said in a press release that Barr is a “tough litigator and thoughtful strategist and quickly became a key member and leader of two of the firm’s most active practice groups: Business Litigation and Intellectual Property.”

The firm said Barr has handled cases involving patent infringement, intellectual property licensing disputes, trade secret litigation and trademark infringement. He also has “successfully represented clients against competitors in high-stakes ‘bet-the-company’ cases.”

In his spare time, Barr enjoys sports including golf, running marathons and climbing.

“Doug has proven himself many times over as a great lawyer and a capable leader,” said Lear. “The management of Stoll Keenon Ogden will be in very good hands.”

Lear will serve as the firm’s chairman emeritus. This fall, he will begin a one-year term as board chair of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce.

“After 22 years as managing director and four years as board chair, I am pleased to hand the reins to Doug Barr and focus on my clients, my family and service to the greater community,” Lear said.

SKO has 140 attorneys and offices in Louisville, Lexington, Frankfort, Evansville, Ind.; and Pittsburgh. —Boris Ladwig

Where Opportunity Knox Hires Whitney Allen as Regional Veteran Connector

Whitney Allen | Photo by Where Opportunity Knox

Whitney Allen | Photo by Where Opportunity Knox

Where Opportunity Knox, an initiative to connect 10,000 veterans and military spouses to jobs by 2017, has hired retired Military Intelligence Officer and Army Lt. Col. Whitney Allen to provide veterans and their families with personalized assistance during their transition to civilian life.

Allen, a Louisiana native, will provide transitioning families with “concierge-style” service, according to his job description. He will help families and individuals connect with possible employers, build a professional network and find the right community for them in Kentuckiana.

Where Opportunity Knox was founded in 2015 and is currently funded by the Duke Energy Foundation, the Gheens Foundation, the James Graham Brown Foundation and the Ogle Foundation.

Allen resides in Louisville with his wife and two children. —Melissa Chipman

GE considers selling lighting division

After having found a buyer for its iconic Louisville-based appliance unit, General Electric is considering selling the portion of its business that helped launch the corporate giant: the lighting division.

GE writes on its website that Thomas Edison in 1879 invented the carbon filament incandescent lamp, “the first commercially practical incandescent.”

But now GE is open to selling that business, according to Bloomberg, which cited “a person familiar with the company’s thinking.”

GE’s Brick Stik LEDs | Courtesy of GE

GE’s Brick Stik LEDs | Courtesy of GE

GE has said it is selling divisions that do not fit into the company’s focus on infrastructure and technology.

In a Valentine’s Day-themed letter, the company also announced it was ditching fluorescent light bulbs in favor of LEDs, telling fluorescents that while GE will “always remember the first time I saw your sweet spiral shape and the way you could light up a room” it’s clear that “LED is my future.”

The company said it would stop production of coiled compact fluorescent lamps for the U.S. market this year and will focus instead on LEDs.

Consumers have complained that CFL light is too harsh, does not work with dimmers, flickers and takes too long to warm up, resulting in CFLs accounting for just 15 percent of sales last year, GE said.

Prices for LEDs have fallen significantly, and GE said it expects that by 2020, LEDs will be used in more than half of all light sockets in the country. —Boris Ladwig

Louisville Better Business Bureau celebrates 100 years

The Louisville chapter of the Better Business Bureau opened in 1916 and was only the third such chapter in the nation at the time. Today, there are more than 100 BBBs in the country, and all continue its founding mission to create marketplace trust between business and consumer.

The local chapter operates out of offices in Old Louisville and serves not only Louisville Metro, but also Southern Indiana and western Kentucky. As part of its centennial celebration, it has revamped its online presence to create an easier way for businesses to get accreditation. Now, most everything can be filled out online at any hour of the day, and the BBB has simplified the forms to make it effortless.

For more information on getting accreditation, or if you just want to check it out because you’re nosy, click here. —Sara Havens

Lead Guild’s tech mentors providing after-school programming to Nativity Academy

lead gulidLead Guild is a nonprofit founded late last year by Alisha Wheatley and Danielle Blank, president of LVL1, to provide tech mentoring to students of all ages and abilities. The organization is fiscally sponsored by Ky STEAM Engine (the folks who put on Makerfaire).

Lead Guilders currently are teaching a technology course for the after-school programming at Nativity Academy, serving about 20 middle-school students twice a week.

“You can’t be what you can’t see,” said Wheatley. Part of the purpose of Lead Guild is to introduce students to vocations they might not encounter in their daily lives.

“Lead Guild promotes awareness of the wide and interesting spectrum of technology jobs in the area, many of which students haven’t heard of or don’t know how prepare for,” said Wheatley. “It’s not just about code!” The curriculum includes 3D design, robotics, coding, game development, and engineering/hacking.

Nativity Academy is an independent Catholic middle school that serves students who have a commitment to education and established financial need. The school educates the students in single-sex classrooms and has a strong morals- and values-based curriculum.

Lead Guild provides all services free of cost, and they bring the materials and technology to the students.

They are currently looking for volunteer mentors for other programs. Anyone with a tech background can apply. IL will have more on Lead Guild and their programs soon. —Melissa Chipman

Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau adds two staff members, promotes two others

On Friday, Insider received word of various staff changes at the Louisville Convention & Visitors Bureau. Two new positions have been added, and two current staff members were promoted.

Scottie Ellis joins the CVB as marketing communication manager/convention services specialist and will help develop and coordinate publicity for the city’s booked meetings business. She’ll also work to increase the meetings’ profile and attendance. She was formerly the director of communications for the Kentucky Department of Travel & Tourism.

CVBJordan Skora also joins the CVB as a marketing communications assistant who will work to keep the marketing department better organized. His background is in group sales and marketing, and he comes to this position from the Belle of Louisville.

Jessica Dillree, who has been with the CVB since 2007, was promoted to marketing communications manager/convention development specialist. And Nicole Fitzpatrick, who has been with the organization since 2005, is now the partnership development manager.

The staff changes and addition of two new positions show positive momentum for the CVB, which also just received ConventionSouth magazine’s 2015 Readers’ Choice Award. The publication covers the South’s meetings industry, and more than 5,000 participated in the selection process. Industry pros were asked to name the convention and visitors bureaus, convention centers, conference centers, hotels, resorts and other meeting sites they believe display exemplary service for group events throughout the year. —Sara Havens