Welcome to the Sept. 10 Monday Business Briefing, your weekly business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Ford sales rise, stock price falls as uncertainty about recovery plan lingers

2018 Lincoln Navigator | Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

August sales at Ford Motor Co. improved 4.1 percent compared to a year earlier, but the company’s stock price continues to fall as investors remain nervous about the company’s $25 billion restructuring plan.

The automaker said that demand last month was driven primarily by consumers’ greater interest in SUVs, especially in the Explorer, sales of which rose 19.2 percent, and in the Expedition, sales of which increased 94.6 percent, as well as in the Lincoln Navigator, sales of which more than doubled. The Expedition and Navigator are made at Kentucky Truck Plant.

Ford said the Navigator “is flying off the lots.”

“We’re doing everything we can to keep up with Navigator sales, but it is really a hot product for us, people really want these things loaded up. So, 85 percent of our sales for the month were high-end Black Label or Reserve Navigator,” Ford Sales Analyst Erich Merkle said in a news release.

Demand for the Escape, made exclusively at Louisville Assembly Plant, climbed 3.2 percent, to 24,395 units.

Truck sales rose 5.7 percent, with the F-series pickup finding 81,839 new owners, up 6.3 percent from August 2017. The F-series includes the Super Duty, which is made exclusively at Kentucky Truck Plant. Ford said that more than half of the Super Duty sales involved high-end models, which pushed the average price for the vehicle to a record $58,700.

Ford last week also issued a recall for about 2 million F-150 pickups because the seat belts can generate “excessive sparks” upon deployment and may cause a fire.

Shares of Ford Motor Co. have fallen nearly 25 percent since mid-June. | Courtesy of Yahoo! Finance.

Despite solid sales numbers, the automaker’s stock price has been falling steadily since early summer, most recently as investors and employees await details of a “fitness” plan announced by CEO Jim Hackett.

The Detroit News reported last week that the company’s plan to become leaner most likely would involve job cuts in Europe and South America and “could shield the Blue Oval’s profitable North American operations from significant layoffs,” according to two ranking sources familiar with the situation.

Late afternoon Friday, Ford shares traded for $9.27, down 1.75 percent for the day — and down nearly 25 percent from mid-June. —Boris Ladwig

Convention center draws large events following reopening

KICC reopened on Aug. 6, 2018. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Thousands of pastors, ministers and members of the United Pentecostal Church International will descend on Louisville later this month. The church will be the tenth organization to host an event at the newly renovated Kentucky International Convention Center, which reopened in early August after a two-year closure.

The annual four-day conference of the United Pentecostal Church International is expected to draw more than 8,000 people.

A day after that conference ends, KICC will host TEAMS ’18 Conference and Expo, which has an estimated attendance of 1,200 people and an economic impact of $1.4 million.

The convention center has 16 events on the schedule through the end of this year, an estimated impact of $28.2 million, according to updated information provided by Louisville Tourism. Looking ahead to 2019, the convention center schedule has 32 events planned, with a total estimated impact of $85.5 million.

According to previous reports, the convention center, as of Aug. 3, had 84 total events on the books, totaling an estimated $246.6 million in economic impact. The destination for many conventions and trade shows are set years in advance of the actual event date. —Caitlin Bowling

 Steel company announces $650 million investment after Bevin teases news

Ky. Gov. Matt Bevin took to Twitter late Thursday night to tease the announcement of a substantial investment in the state, saying more details would be available this week. However, the company went ahead and broke the news itself Friday.

North Carolina-based Nucor Corp., which manufactures steel products, stated in a news release that it will spend $650 million on the expansion of its the production capability at Nucor Steel Gallatin, the company’s flat-rolled sheet steel mill in Ghent, Ky., roughly an hour east of Louisville. Nucor also owns steel company Republic Conduit, based in Louisville.

The expansion will create 70 new full-time jobs and allow Nucor to nearly double its capacity from 1.6 million tons to 3 million tons annually, according to the release. The new investment is in addition to a previously announced $176 million investment to build a “hot band continuous pickle galvanizing line” that will be operational sometime in the first half of 2019.

“This investment is another major component of our planned strategy for long-term profitable growth,” John Ferriola, chairman, CEO and president of Nucor, said in the release. “Together with the new galvanizing line, this expansion increases our presence in the important Midwest market, specifically in the automotive, agriculture, heavy equipment, and energy pipe and tube sectors.”

Bevin in a separate news release applauded the investment.

“We are excited that, after a substantial investment in 2017, the company has decided to move forward with its phase II project and create additional job opportunities for the county and surrounding communities,” Bevin said in the release. “The steel and primary metals industry are a driving force behind the commonwealth’s surging economy, and this announcement reflects the distinct advantages we have to offer engineering and manufacturing companies.”

Last month, another manufacturer, Century Aluminum, announced $150 million investment in a Hawesville, Ky., facility that will create 300 new jobs by early next year. —Caitlin Bowling

Kosair awards $750,000, three-year grant to Dare to Care


Beginning in October, Kosair Charities will support Dare to Care’s Feeding Kids initiative by awarding the organization $750,000 over a three-year period, the organizations announced. The money will support critical food assistance services to 38,860 children in Kentucky and southern Indiana, they said.

“Kosair has a long-standing partnership with Dare to Care,” Keith Inman, president of Kosair Charities, said in a news release. “Their goal of feeding the hungry in our community directly aligns with our mission of helping children in need. We look forward to the impact of this collaboration for years to come.”

According to the release, the grant will fully fund or support:

  • Sustaining Dare to Care’s food distribution to a network of nearly 300 partner agencies serving vulnerable children.
  • Backpack Buddy’s operations at Churchill Park School and Alfred Binet School, where a majority of students are special needs and from low-income families, as well as additional Backpack Buddy operations at more than 40 schools, benefiting roughly 2,555 children annually.
  • Home Delivery Pilot Program, where approximately 75 children from low-income households will receive a food box twice a month.

Brian Riendeau, executive director of Dare to Care, said, “Kosair Charities’ support of supportive services has impacted hundreds of children from low-income households.” —Mickey Meece

Who’s been funded?

At September’s Venture Connectors luncheon, Lisa Bajorinas, executive director of Greater Louisville Inc.’s entrepreneurial arm EnterpriseCorp, announced recent funding of local companies. So far this year, more than $33 million has been invested in 23 companies, she said.

The update included:

  • Innovative Therapeudix, the creator of Lullafeed, received $250,000 in seed-round funding. Lullafeed is a baby bottle device that uses music reinforcement to encourage infants to drink.
  • Meta Construction Technology, a highway construction logistics firm, garnered $500,000 in seed-round and angel investor funding.
  • Vivorte, which develops bone grafting technology, received $800,000 from undisclosed investors.
  • Beha VR, which creates VR experiences to encourage healthier lifestyles, garnered $1 million from undisclosed investors.
  • Seikowave Dental, a company that created a new way to measure teeth, received $1.4 million from undisclosed investors.

Bajorinas said there were 12 Million Dollar Babies, companies that have raised $1 million in single equity round or reached $1 million in revenue for the first time. —Lisa Hornung

UofL named top LGBTQ-friendly campus again

Keeping pace with past years, the University of Louisville is one of the nation’s most LGBTQ-friendly campuses, according to three rankings.

For the fourth year in a row, UofL made Campus Pride Index’s “Best of the Best” college ranking list, earning five out of five stars. The Index looks at a school’s policies, programs and practices in determining the nation’s top 30 LGBTQ-friendly schools.

The University of Kentucky made the list this year, also earning five out of five stars.

Brian Buford | Courtesy of UofL

For the first time, LGBTOutfitters named UofL the top campus for LGBTQ students, and UofL also ranked 24th on Affordable Colleges Online’s list of LGBTQ-friendly and affordable colleges.

The first center of its kind in Kentucky, UofL’s LGBT Center is wrapping up its 10th year on campus, executive director Brian Buford said. The high marks signal that the center and the school are doing something right, he said.

“Especially in a southern state, being recognized for LGBTQ inclusion is a big deal, and also during a time when we are seeing protections rolled back at the national level,” Buford said in a news release.

In the release, UofL President Neeli Bendapudi said the awards are “a direct result of UofL’s commitment to building an inclusive and LGBTQ-friendly environment.”

Among the advances: UofL’s housing department opened a residence catering to LGBTQ students; the human resources department allows employees to change their gender-marker, and there are more restrooms with “trans-friendly” signage on campus. —Olivia Krauth

In Brief

Leadership Louisville is accepting applications for the Bingham Fellows Class of 2019 through Oct. 22. The nonprofit will host a free information session from 8:30 to 9:30 a.m. on Thursday, Oct. 4. The theme is “It Takes a Village — Mobilizing community for student achievement.”