Welcome to the Feb. 20 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.
Forest Giant seeks to be a pioneer in edge computing
After losing a million-plus-dollar contract in December 2016, the partners laid off close to half of their staff and decided to pivot from being a digital media and design shop to focus on a single product: the Otis.
The move surprised many. Forest Giant was known for its stellar design, from internal projects to the design of the firm’s still new-ish offices on Frankfort Avenue. Now the company is focusing on something, frankly, so complex that its function is hard to explain to non-geeks.
CEO Dave Durand told IL that people shouldn’t be surprised. “We’ve always been super nerdy,” Durand said. He said that Forest Giant’s main differentiator from other similar firms “has always been our engineers.”
It just so happens that the public wasn’t aware of the work that the Giants were doing on Otis (more on that in a minute) and only associated them with their public-facing work.
Most of what Forest Giant has been doing over the past three or so years they haven’t been able to showcase. The company says it did work with Fortune 10 and Fortune 100 companies that it wasn’t allowed to put in its public portfolio. “Companies leveraging our skill set have been making billions of dollars,” Durand said.
Some of what the company did for these companies led to them developing Otis. Otis is a platform for edge computing.
Currently, devices depend on the cloud, whether it’s a cellphone or a wearable or a laptop. But even though the cloud works quickly, it’s still not instantaneous. For something like a self-driving car, communication with the cloud, though agile, just takes too much time to make decisions like emergency braking or swerving.
Edge computing would take place not in the cloud but in the device that is receiving the data that needs to be acted on. So if you’re in that self-driving car and the car “sees” a raccoon in the road, it doesn’t have to send that data to the cloud to find out what the car should do. The car just does it.
Forest Giant has created Otis as an operating system that can run on everyone’s device and push/pull data all at once in Otis’s environment. Otis is ideal for places where the internet is not good or where data needs to be very secure like hospitals, according to Durand.
“No one has really pioneered an approachable platform for this,” he said.
Durand said that edge computing is the “inevitable future.” The company is currently looking for investors.
He said, “Open source is a core aspect of our platform.” The first two apps for Otis, Iris and Stela, which will debut in mid-2017, will available under an Apache 2.0 license as standalone services for application developers.
Jessica Elle, a digital strategist at FG, explained in an email, “Imagine having a facility comprised of 100 computers that needed to know what each computer was doing, run applications, and share assets between them. Stela allows these computers to discover each other and connect. Iris allows them to communicate to each other.”
Monetization of Otis will come in the form of enterprise tools, the company says, which will enable customers to create a custom platform, installation, maintenance, training, app development and licensing. —Melissa Chipman
Galt House Hotel, which is no longer for sale, hires new executive chef
Jim Anile is the new executive chef at the Galt House Hotel, which company officials have confirmed is no longer for sale.
The Al J. Schneider Co. announced the new hire Friday, noting Anile’s two decades of experience cooking in hotels and restaurants. He most recently served as executive chef and managing partner for Revolution and L’uva Enoteca in Durham, N.C., the release states.
“Chef Anile is going to be a huge asset to the Galt House Hotel,” Nick Briner, general manager of the Galt House Hotel, said in the release. “His deep knowledge of culinary techniques and food styles will benefit our hotel and restaurants as we reinvent ourselves in the future.”
A Pennsylvania native, Anile has cooked at original Melrose Hotel and Rosewood Crescent Court in Dallas, the Bacara Resort in Santa Barbara, Calif., and the Ahwahnee Hotel in Yosemite National Park. He also has been involved with culinary organizations The James Beard Foundation and the North Carolina Pork Council.
The Galt House Hotel at one point was for sale as well. However, potential buyer Columbia Sussex Corp. backed out following turmoil amid the family. The Al J. Schneider Co., which owns the Galt House Hotel, has since brought on a new CEO as well as a chief investment officer and vice president of human resources.
The company is no longer looking for buyers for any of its properties, including Waterfront Plaza office building, according to Amanda Lambert, a spokeswoman for The Al J. Schneider Co. “Nothing’s for sale.” —Caitlin Bowling
Fifth annual biscuit and gravy competition coming up
The Mellwood Arts & Entertainment Center will host the fifth annual Gravy Cup, an event that pits people against each other in a competition to find the best biscuits and gravy.
The event is a fundraiser for Boys and Girls Haven, a nonprofit that provides educational services, mentoring and housing to youth. Boys and Girls Haven has served more than 5,000 abandoned, abused and neglected children.
This year’s Gravy Cup starts at 11 a.m. on Feb. 25, and tickets to taste the recipes are $5 for children and $15 for adults. The contestants can participate in one of three categories: traditional (pork sausage roux), non-traditional (brown, red-eye, chorizo, etc.) and vegetarian.
“The Gravy Cup is a high-energy event with more passion that you thought was possible for biscuits and gravy. Best of all, it supports a great cause,” said Summer Auerbach, owner of Rainbow Blossom Natural Foods. —Caitlin Bowling
The Water Company’s Eastern Parkway project update
The Louisville Water Company’s Eastern Parkway Project’s first phase continues.
Cherokee Parkway is closed between Longest and Willow avenues. This closure will be in effect until Feb. 28. Local access will be through back alleys. Cherokee Parkway will be limited to one lane of traffic
The rest of Cherokee Parkway will be limited to one lane of traffic until 7 p.m. until mid-April.
There will be intermittent closures throughout the construction route for road restoration; yard restoration will not happen until spring.
According to the update, these are the last two stages before the first phase of the Eastern Parkway project is complete.
The 6.4-mile construction project will eventually cost around $25 million and will replace pipes laid between 1923 and 1930. This 48-inch cast iron transmission main carries water from the Crescent Hill Treatment Plant on Frankfort Avenue to downtown and the Cardinal Hill Reservoir in the south end of town. —Melissa Chipman
As AT&T Fiber launches into Southern Indiana, Google Fiber remains in holding pattern
AT&T announced on Friday that it was expanding its 1 gigabit internet service into parts of Southern Indiana, four months after the company touted the expansion of these services in Louisville. AT&T says fiber services are now available to “tens of thousands” of homes, apartments and business locations in the Louisville metro area – just one of the 51 metro areas around the country in which it provides this service.
While AT&T is expanding high-speed internet services in the area, the much-anticipated arrival of Google Fiber to Louisville appears to be stuck in slow motion. Google named Louisville as one of its potential fiber cities in 2015 – followed last February by Metro Council passing legislation to help clear a path for its arrival – but roadblocks emerged last fall. AT&T sued the city over the ordinance, while Google Fiber has shed staff and leadership since it announced in October that operations would pause in potential fiber cities — while it examines shifting to a less-expensive wireless delivery system instead of laying down fiber cables.
Asked if Google Fiber is still a possibility in Louisville, mayoral spokeswoman Jean Porter told IL that Fischer administration officials spoke to Google officials last Wednesday, “and they have confirmed that their plans to bring service to Louisville have not changed.” —Joe Sonka
The Highlands lands a new optometry practice — and a 12-foot pair of glasses
Is someone calling the Highlands old? Apparently, it’s time for a pair of readers for the trendy neighborhood, as Falls City Eye Care opens up at 1562 Bardstown Road and will feature a 12-foot-by-5-foot sculpture of a pair of glasses in its front lawn.
The locally owned practice will be run by Dr. Michael Martorana and his wife, Theresa, who have been working with owner and developer Andy Blieden to restore the 113-year-old building. It officially opens with a reception and sculpture unveiling on Thursday, Feb. 23, from 5-8 p.m.
“I wanted to create a practice that from the moment you walked in, you felt things were done differently here,” said Dr. Martorana said in a press release. “Andy and I have been on the same page from day one on this restoration. We feel really fortunate to have found this property as well as Andy.”
Dr. Martorana commissioned local artist/welder Patrick White to create the sculpture from carbon steel.
Falls City Eye Care is situated near the intersection of Bardstown Road and Alta Avenue, next door to the Hey Tiger boutique and across the street from The Planet Experience. A pair of 12-foot glasses probably won’t stand out much in that part of town. —Sara Havens
Architecture firm moving from East End to Shelby Park
Louisville architecture firm Studio Kremer Architects is taking a big leap with its new headquarters.
The company is moving out of its longtime offices in the suburban Bluegrass Commerce Park and into a historic building at 1231 S. Shelby St.
The 1930s building was formerly a car dealership, according to a news release about the move. Parrish Contracting Corp. is remodeling about 5,500 square feet of the building but the firm will have the ability to expand into another 6,500 square feet.
Company president Scott Kremer and business partners Steven Ward and Diana Dinicola see Shelby Park as a neighborhood with an area “on the verge of growth,” with development activity already taking place, the release states.
Studio Kremer Architects currently has a 12-person staff and hopes to expand in the future.
“We want to be recognized as a design leader and community resource, but we also want to continue to provide the variety of services that all of our clients have come to expect from us,” Kremer said in the release.
UPS pays $1.4 million in bonuses to student employees
UPS has awarded 1,750 student employees more than $1.4 million, or about $800 per person, for reaching coursework, grade and credit hour targets.
UPS, the Louisville area’s largest employer, said it gave students bonuses ranging from $575 to $1,850. Managers handed out checks last week at the Next Day Air sorting operation.
The bonuses exemplify the logistics company’s support of education, UPS said in a press release.
The students attend Metro College, the company’s signature education program in Louisville. Students earn a salary by working at UPS at night, but they also attend the University of Louisville or Jefferson Community and Technical College. UPS pays the college tuition. The company said that the tuition, book reimbursement and bonuses, for which students are eligible every semester, allow some students to obtain a college degree for free.
Students who complete at least six hours of college credit with a grade of C or higher receive $850. Those who complete 30, 60 or 90 hours total also get $1,000. Students with lower grades, withdrawals or incompletes get $575.
Many Louisville employers have said that they’re struggling to find qualified applicants for open positions. The local chamber of commerce said last year that the metro area had 31,000 job openings. Employers including GE Appliances and others have started virtual field trips and supported educational efforts to attract more applicants and provide them with better skills.
Local stocks struggling in last month
Although the Dow Jones Industrial Average and the S.&P. 500 are trading near all-time highs and have posted gains of about 4 percent in the past month, most stocks of local importance have fared worse, especially bank stocks, which enjoyed a significant gain after the presidential election. Analysts said that investors are expecting President Donald J. Trump to loosen banking regulations, which should increase financial institutions’ earnings potential.
An Insider analysis shows that of 14 stocks of importance to Louisville, only three — Churchill Downs, Brown Forman and Yum Brands — outperformed the markets in the last four weeks. Shares of four companies posted gains, but significantly below the market — and six suffered declines.
Churchill Downs shares have galloped ahead about 8.7 percent in the last month. The company will release fourth-quarter earnings on Feb. 28. Brown-Forman has gulped down a 7 percent gain in the last four weeks, and Yum Brands has devoured a 6 percent rise.
PharMerica’s gain in the last month, at 4.95 percent, is in line with broader markets. Papa John’s, Humana, Ford and Stock Yards Bancorp shares have risen between 1.1 percent and 2.6 percent since Jan. 20.
Kindred Healthcare’s shares have declined 2 percent in the last four weeks, CafePress is down 5.4 percent, UPS has delivered a 7 percent decline and Sypris Solutions has dropped 9.4 percent. Republic Bancorp shares have fallen 3.8 percent in the same period, and Porter Bancorp is bringing up the rear, with a decline of 18.3 percent. The corporation completed a one-for-five reverse stock split in mid-December, after which shares sold for $11.25. They rose as high as $12.75 in late-January, but began falling after Porter reported a net loss of $6.4 million in the fourth quarter, caused in part by being on the losing end of a Kentucky Court of Appeals ruling. —Boris Ladwig