Welcome to the March 27 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Al J. Schneider Co. executive: Galt House to get “the love that it deserves”

The Al J. Schneider Co. owns the Galt House Hotel. | Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The 1,300-room Galt House Hotel is set to undergo its first major renovation in 12 years.

The Galt House is “getting the love that it deserves,” said Sandy Heydt, chief marketing officer of The Al J. Schneider Co., which owns the hotel, among other properties. “It was time.”

The 45-year-old hotel’s two towers are prominently positioned in Louisville’s skyline, but new hotels are coming online, and soon the hotel will share the skyline with the shiny new 30-story Omni Louisville. The Galt House is renovating its public spaces, entryway, meeting rooms, guest rooms and suites to keep up with the competition.

The entryways will provide a warm welcome; the hotel rooms will “exude residential comfort,” and the hotel overall will have a “uniquely Kentucky essence,” Heydt said, adding that she couldn’t provide specifics about the renovations because executives just recently saw a first draft of the possible new design.

The facilities definitely will be modernized, Heydt said, but renovations are about more than the physical changes.

“It’s about how it feels to be a customer in the hotel, and how it feels to interact with our associates, what you remember about a place,” she said.

Work on the Galt House Hotel is expected to begin in the first quarter of 2018, Heydt said. It is unclear how long it renovations will take, but they will be done in phases.

“Our two-tower design really allows us to move decks, guests and people around,” she said.

There are no plans to make major renovations to any of The Al J. Schneider Co.’s other properties.

Heydt joined the company in October after the planned sale of the Galt House Hotel fell through, and a family feud broke out. The hotel is no longer for sale.

A new CEO was hired, and Heydt was brought in to reposition The Al J. Schneider Co. and its assets.

“I think this is a marketing person’s dream job,” she said. “There are so many opportunities and so many plans for the future that we are working on. I came because I wanted to support the new president and the shareholders in their vision for what the company can become.” —Caitlin Bowling

Kentucky ranked fourth-worst state for innovation

Next to “compassion,” our city officials’ favorite buzzword is probably “innovation.” So it was a bit of a shock to see WalletHub has released research that names Kentucky the fourth-least innovative state in the country. Only Louisiana, Mississippi and West Virginia rank lower.

Here are some key revelations about how Kentucky stacks up, according to the research:

  • 46th – Share of STEM Professionals
  • 42nd – Projected STEM-Job Demand by 2020
  • 29th – Eighth-Grade Math & Science Performance
  • 42nd – Share of Science & Engineering Graduates Aged 25+
  • 44th – Share of Technology Companies
  • 43rd – R&D Spending per Capita
  • 49th – Average Internet Speed
  • 41st – Venture-Capital Funding per Capita

WalletHub looked at the 50 states and the District of Columbia across 18 key indicators of innovation-friendliness to make these determinations.

It’s a bit perplexing for a lot of reasons. “Innovation” is not just a word Louisville leaders throw around; the city has been recognized for its push for innovation by national media and other U.S. leaders.

“The WalletHub ranking is not reflective of what’s happening in Louisville, which Time Magazine has touted as a place of ‘free-wheeling innovation,’” Chris Poynter, spokesperson for Mayor Greg Fischer, told IL.

“In a survey of U.S. mayors by Politico last summer, our mayor was named the most innovative. As the creation of our Office for Civic Innovation and our new LouieLab shows, we put a daily emphasis on innovation. And importantly, we see innovative companies, hackers and entrepreneurs setting up shop here. As we work to grow Louisville as a global leader in the 21st Century economy, that’s where our focus is.”

Kentucky’s three top international exports according to the U.S. Census Bureau are aviation parts, passenger vehicles, and antisera and blood fractures, all of which are industries that demand high-tech employees on many levels.

While we’ll never catch up to our coastal peers, Kentucky is making some strides to foster angel investors and venture capital spending. According to the Lane Report, 70 more angel investors registered with Kentucky just this year, making for 344 added since 2015.

WalletHub says the most innovative places are:

  1. The District of Columbia
  2. Maryland
  3. Massachusetts
  4. California
  5. Colorado

Our neighbor Indiana ranked 32nd and Tennessee ranked 45th.

According to Lex McMillan, president of Albright College, who commented on the research, the best indicators for states open to innovation are: “economic growth, attractiveness to new and startup businesses, lower average age, strong tech support and infrastructure and low tax burden.” –Melissa Chipman

Reports: Trump skepticism about fuel economy standards will help automakers, including Ford

Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Energy

Ford Motor Co. — and Louisville — might benefit from President Donald Trump’s dislike of climate change legislation and fuel economy standards, according to news reports.

Trump recently announced an executive action that will force the Environmental Protection Agency to take another look at corporate average fuel economy standards. Under President Obama, the agency and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration had asked that automakers achieve a fuel economy average of 54.5 mpg by 2025.

Business Insider reported that auto executives, including Ford CEO Mark Fields, had lobbied for a review of the standard because they said it would eliminate 1.1 million jobs and “depress an industry that can ill afford spiraling regulatory costs.”

Environmentalists, however, said changing the standard makes no sense because higher CAFE standards allow consumers to save on fuel and make America less dependent on oil.

Vince Martin, a contributor at InvestorPlace.com, wrote that a rollback of the standards would help General Motors and Ford because they’re making very little profit or are even losing money on some fuel efficient vehicles that the companies have to sell to meet the CAFE standards. Without those more stringent standards, Martin wrote, the automakers can sell more of their bigger, profitable vehicles, such as the Super Duty Ford makes at Kentucky Truck Plant. That vehicle is powered by a 6.2-liter V8 or 6.7-liter V8 turbo diesel that gets mileage somewhere in the low teens. —Boris Ladwig

The Park gets national exposure on list of best co-working spots

Shelby Park’s The Park co-working space has made it on a list of the best co-working spots in the U.S. for 2017. Marija Kovačević for the “Nomad Capitalist” kept it brief but praised the workspace’s “openness” and the policies at the park for its flexibility.

Kovačević wrote: “They believe in ‘Open space for open minds’ and this concept is reflected in its design – from the windows to the glass walls, they keep things open so you have space to breathe and enjoy the natural light.”

Worth noting while scrolling through the other cities’ offerings, The Park is significantly more affordable than just about any other space mentioned. Full-time membership with on-demand access to everything the co-working space offers is only $100 a month at The Park. In most other cities, that’s going to run you $250-$500 a month.

Just another perk of living in Louisville. –Melissa Chipman

SXSW via VIA Studio

Ben Wilson | Photo by VIA Studio

“Everything is political now.”

That was one of the takeaways from SXSW, according to Jason Clark and Ben Wilson of VIA Studio, a Louisville digital advertising and design agency. Wilson said that even panels on things you think are a-political like technology brought up the political climate.

“Even billionaires are nervous,” added Clark.

Last week, Wilson and Clark hosted around two dozen people at VIA for Mellow Mushroom pizza and a recap of what they learned at SXSW.

Clark said the conference was the most diverse he’d ever been to: “It was not white dudes for days.”

And according to Clark, apps are out in the tech space, UX is in. Companies aren’t launching new platforms; they’re improving people’s experience with existing ones. All UX sessions sold out and UX was one of the key buzzwords of the conference.

“Facebook could very well be our New York Times,” Clark said. It’s possible that platforms like Facebook have the same staying power as iconic media.

“Video is now where blogging was a decade ago,” said Clark. Some have predicted that Facebook content could be mostly video in the next few years.

Other recurring themes during the conference were “trust,” championed by retired journalist Dan Rather, and “love,” stressed by Sen. Cory Booker.

Finally, “podcasting was everywhere,” according to Wilson. Some regular podcasters were podcasting multiple times a day from the event.

SXSW tickets go on sale at the end of the summer and if you get them early, they’re less expensive. Clark goes every year and books his hotel room and buys tickets in late-August, securing himself the opportunity to stay at a hotel that is right by the conference center. All told, though, he reckoned it cost him and Wilson around $5,000 for the trip. —Melissa Chipman

Yum Brands appoints new head of KFC in the U.S.

Kevin Hochman | Courtesy of Yum Brands

Louisville-based Yum Brands has promoted Kevin Hochman from chief marketing officer to president and chief concept officer of KFC’s U.S. division.

In his new role, Hochman, 43, will drive KFC’s brand strategy and business performance in the U.S., according to a news release. He already has helped revive the brand during his three years with the company by spearheading the revival of Colonel Harland Sanders as KFC’s spokesman.

Yes, he’s the man to thank for the ads with the ever-changing Colonels.

“Kevin Hochman is an exceptional brand builder and marketing innovation leader with an extremely strong track record of success,” Greg Creed, CEO of Yum, said in the release. “He’s the perfect person to continue to grow and elevate KFC U.S. into a distinctive, relevant brand that people trust and champion.”

Hochman previously worked in brand management and marketing leadership roles at Procter & Gamble since 1995. —Caitlin Bowling

Fresh on the heels of the 10 Year Rye, Michter’s releases 10 Year Bourbon

If you managed to snag a bottle of Michter’s 10 Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Rye earlier this month, it’s time to head back to your favorite liquor store and pick up the 10 Year Single Barrel Kentucky Straight Bourbon. The Louisville distillery is releasing it now to coincide with its former master distiller, Willie Pratt, being inducted into the Whisky Magazine Hall of Fame.

“Willie is like a walking bourbon encyclopedia, and it’s fitting to release our 10 Year Bourbon after his Hall of Fame induction,” said current master distiller Pam Heilmann in a press release. It marks her first special bourbon release since she took over for Pratt last year.

“Willie is an inspiration to all of us who have had the opportunity to work with him,” said Michter’s president Joseph J. Magliocco in the statement. “The quality of this terrific 10 Year Bourbon release underlines Pam’s commitment to uphold the incredibly high standards Willie has set for all Michter’s releases.”

If it’s anything like the 10 Year Rye, you can bet this bourbon is smooth, complex and delicious. Suggested retail price is $120 for a 750mL bottle. —Sara Havens

Employees wanted for seasonal work

Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay is hiring. | File Photo

It’s that time of year again.

Kentucky Kingdom and Kentucky Venues both are hosting job fairs to hire employees for the spring and summer.

Kentucky Venues (formerly the Kentucky State Fair Board) is looking to fill 100 jobs at the Kentucky Exposition Center. To do so, it is hosting a three-day job fair from 10 a.m. to 7 p.m. Tuesday through Thursday, March 28-30 in South Wing B, Room 104 of the expo center, 937 Phillips Lane.

Kentucky Venues has openings for toll gate attendants, security, traffic control and guest services, for all shifts. Pay starts at $8.50 per hour. Applicants should bring a photo ID and another form of identification.

Amusement park Kentucky Kingdom and Hurricane Bay also is hiring for ride operators and public safety officers. Those interested should stop by the park’s human resources building or apply online.

Applicants for jobs at Kentucky Venues and Kentucky Kingdom must be at least 18 years old. —Caitlin Bowling