Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.

GE Appliances union says company negotiated in ‘bad faith’ before warehouse outsourcing

The local GE Appliances union says that the company negotiated in bad faith when it outsourced the warehousing work being done by 217 employees in Louisville’s Appliance Park.

The IUE-CWA has filed a case with the National Labor Relations Board, a federal agency that prevents and remedies unfair labor practices committed by private sector employers and unions.

The company declined to comment except to say that it is aware of the case.

GE Appliances announced in April that it planned to outsource the work being done in the 47-acre warehouse, which handles finished appliances — made locally, elsewhere in the U.S. and internationally — before they are shipped to customers including retailers or to other distribution centers closer to customers.

GE had said that despite investments of $5 million, the operation continues to be less efficient than other similar distribution centers in the company’s network. However, a union leader told Insider that the inefficiencies were a result of scheduling problems caused by a third party, error-prone software and the company’s slow response to employees’ improvement suggestions.

In its complaint, the union charges that the company violated Section 8(a)(5) of the National Labor Relations Act, which makes it illegal for an employer “to refuse to bargain in good faith about wages, hours and other conditions of employment with the representative selected by a majority of the employees in a unit for collective bargaining.”

GE Appliances told Insider this week that since January, a third party has done the warehousing work. Dart Logistics Services is named in the complaint.

GE Appliances and the local union also said that the outsourcing resulted in no local job losses because affected employees were moved into other buildings at Appliance Park.

After the NLRB regional director issues the complaint and notice of a hearing, the company has 10 days to file an answer. A complaint can result in a trial before an administrative law judge who can take actions including dismissing the complaint or require the company to cease its unfair labor practices and order back pay.

GE told Insider via email: “We are aware of these NLRB charges involving the recent outsourcing of our warehouse operation here in Louisville. We will be responding to them per the normal process steps required.” —Boris Ladwig

Developer breaks ground on $80 million shopping center

SouthPointe Commons is a $80 million retail center. | Courtesy of Barrister Commercial Group

Work has begun on a new $80 million, 363,000-square-foot retail center in Louisville.

After years of planning and a prolonged court battle, local developer Barrister Commercial Group has finally broken ground on SouthPointe Commons that will sit on 48 acres off Bardstown Road near the Gene Snyder Freeway.

“SouthPointe Commons will achieve a unique ambiance through a complement of restaurants, entertainment, fashion tenants and specialty retailers connected with tree-lined streets. The lifestyle center is all about amenities and designs that enrich the consumer experience,” Barrister Commercial Group CEO Frank A. Csapo said in a news release.

During the past several years, the company has been battling a zoning dispute in court, but the Kentucky Court of Appeals sided with Barrister Commercial Group last year.

The center will generate an estimated $193,000 in taxes annually and will create 560 permanent jobs, the release states.

Barrister Commercial Group will release final designs, site plans and list of tenants this summer. TRIO Commercial Property Group is the leasing company for SouthPointe Commons. —Caitlin Bowling

Buffalo Trace Distillery continues its experiments with bourbon — this time with 300-year-old oak

The always experimenting Buffalo Trace Distillery | Courtesy of Buffalo Trace

It’s definitely never a dull time at the Buffalo Trace Distillery in Frankfort, Ky. Known for its many experimentations with the bourbon-making process, the distillery constantly keeps its fans wondering, “What’s next?” Well, looks like what’s next includes making barrels from 300-year-old oak trees.

According to the release, these trees had already been cut down in Kentucky when Buffalo Trace got wind of their availability. And it’s absolutely a rare find because the average oak tree ends its life cycle usually before the age of 200. The distillery worked with Kentucky barrel manufacturer East Bernstadt Company to secure the wood, which took more than a year to procure and another year to season the staves outside.

“It’s a unique opportunity to be able to experiment with a variable that is even older than our distillery, which is 244 years old,” said master distiller Harlen Wheatley in the release. “We are really looking forward to seeing how extremely old wood might affect the taste of the bourbon, and hopefully will make some interesting observations along the way that will be useful going forward.”

The 300-year-old oak barrels will join the more than 14,000 experimental barrels now aging on the property. They certainly know how to keep it interesting over there. —Sara Havens

In other distillery news… Maker’s Mark expands restaurant, led by renowned Bardstown chef

Cocktails will now be sold at Maker’s Mark. | Courtesy of Bourbon Mixer

Starting Wednesday, April 5, visitors to the Maker’s Mark Distillery in Loretto, Ky., can have their cake and eat it, too, so to speak. Not only can they learn about how Maker’s Mark is made, they can enjoy it in cocktails served at the newly expanded and renovated Star Hill Provisions located on the premises.

Chef Newman Miller, who also co-owns Bardstown’s acclaimed Harrison-Smith House, has created the fast-casual menu featuring regional favorites made with fresh, locally sourced ingredients. Also a perk for visitors (and for the first time in the distillery’s history) — Star Hill will offer handcrafted cocktails selected by Miller that complement the menu.

The fare is so local, according to a release, that some of the meat will come from Maker’s Mark employees’ own farms.

Star Hill Provisions is inside the historic Distiller’s Home. It officially opens to the public on Wednesday. —Sara Havens

Report: Humana replaces KFC as Kentucky’s most valuable brand

Humana has replaced KFC as Kentucky’s most valuable brand, according to Brand Finance.

The consulting company said the change symbolized evolving attitudes of consumers, who are turning away from fast food and toward healthier living.

The report, titled, in part, “What the Cluck?,” says KFC “lost more than a quarter of its brand value this year,” falling to $6.16 billion, more than any restaurant chain in the 500 companies that Brand Finance tracks.

“Humana, meanwhile, has positioned its brand around the #StartwithHealthy campaign, which targeted seniors through TV advertising, focusing on the benefits of being healthy,” the consulting firm said.

Humana ranked 82nd overall, and is the fifth-most valuable American health insurer, behind UnitedHealth Group, Anthem, Aetna and Medtronic, the firm said.

The top three most valuable brands, according to Brand Finance: Google, Apple and Amazon.

Ford ranked 25th, Jack Daniel’s 228th.

Brand Finance said it calculates the value of brands through the “Royalty Relief” approach, which includes “estimating the likely future sales that are attributable to a brand and calculating a royalty rate that would be charged for the use of the brand, i.e., what the owner would have to pay for the use of the brand — assuming it were not already owned.” —Boris Ladwig

Tour of New Homes returns for its third year

The tour includes finished and substantially completed homes. | Courtesy of BIA

Louisvillians will get the chance to talk to homebuilders and see some of the city’s most innovative home design and construction during this year’s Tour of New Homes.

The event takes place from noon to 6 p.m., April 29-30, according to the news release. Start the self-guided tour by downloading the ParadeCraze app, which is available on Apple and Android. It contains a map of each house as well as step-by-step directions.

“One of the great advantages of the Tour of New Homes event is that folks visiting the new homes can get a feel for the proximity of schools, restaurants, shopping and parks in neighborhoods throughout the city,” show director Gail Schell said in the release.

The Building Industry Association of Greater Louisville produces the tour. Berkshire Hathaway HomeServices Parks & Weisberg Realtors, Louisville Realty Group, and RE/MAX are sponsoring the event. —Caitlin Bowling

Groundbreaking set for NuLu neighborhood hotel

The AC Hotel will be constructed at the corner of East Market and Shelby streets. | Rendering by Kersey & Kersey Architects

Construction is slated to begin soon on a 150-room hotel in the NuLu neighborhood.

After years of delays, a date has finally been set for the groundbreaking for The AC Hotel NuLu, which will be part of the Marriott family. The groundbreaking will take place at 10 a.m. on April 11.

The $38.6 million hotel, located at 725 E. Market St., will include a 188-space garage and 8,000 square feet of Class-A retail space. It will take 13 months to construct.

The 725 Partners is developing the project. It consists of Creation Gardens executives Ron Turnier, Mollie Turnier and Rob Webber; local developer Terry
Cheynoweth; and Steve Kersey, partner of Kersey and Kersey Architects.

Concord Hospitality Enterprises Co. will manage the hotel and own half of the hotel. —Caitlin Bowling

Ford recalls 230K vehicles, including Louisville-made Escapes, F-450s, F-550s

2017 Ford F-450

Ford Motor Co. has issued a safety recall for 230,000 vehicles, including Louisville-made Escapes, because of the risk for under-hood fires. The automaker also is recalling some Louisville-made trucks to replace the driveshaft.

Ford said it is recalling the 2014 Escape, 2014 and 2015 Fiesta ST, 2013 and 2014 Fusion and 2013 to 2015 Transit Connect with 1.6-liter GTDI engines.

“In the affected vehicles, a lack of coolant circulation could cause an engine to overheat, resulting in a crack in the cylinder head,” Ford said in a press release. “A cracked cylinder head can result in a pressurized oil leak. Oil that comes into contact with a hot engine surface increases the risk of a fire in the engine compartment.”

The automaker said that it was aware of 29 fires in the U.S. and Canada related to the issue, though no injuries have been reported.

The company said it would mail customers instructions on how to check and refill coolant.

“Customers can continue to drive their vehicles, but should see their dealer if their vehicle exhibits a coolant leak, overheating or frequently needs coolant added,” Ford said. “When service kits are available, dealers will install a coolant level sensor with supporting hardware and software at no charge to the customer.”

Ford also said that it is recalling 548 2017 F-450 and F-550 trucks, some of which were made at Kentucky Truck Plant.

Ford said that drivers of those vehicles may experience vibration at speeds above 75 mph “caused by a powertrain system resonance condition … that may fracture transmission and/or driveline components.

“Fracture of the transmission and/or driveline components may result in a loss of motive power without warning while driving, or unintended vehicle movement in park if the parking brake is not applied, increasing the risk of injury or crash,” Ford said.

The company said dealers would replace the two-piece driveshaft with a new three-piece at no charge to customers. —Boris Ladwig

Report: Kentucky is among worst states for retirees

Despite low crime rates and cost of living, Kentucky is one of the worst state for retirees, according to a new report by Bankrate.com.

The financial publishing company examined eight factors, with cost of living being the most important, followed by health care quality and crime. The remaining criteria: cultural vitality, weather, taxes, senior citizens’ well-being and the prevalence of other older residents.

While Kentuckians’ cost of living tied for the ninth-lowest, and crimes ranked 10th-lowest, the commonwealth got poor grades on other measures critical for retirees:

  • The state’s health care quality ranked 41st.
  • Cultural-vitality: 46.
  • Retiree well-being: 49. Only West Virginia faring worse.
  • Weather: 25.
  • Tax: 27.
  • Proximity to other older residents: 26.

Courtesy of Bankrate.com

Bankrate.com said that popular retirement destinations such as Arizona, Florida and Nevada did not make the top 10, which reflects that what people want in retirement may not be what they need.

“It’s about a lot more than sunny skies, beaches and golf courses,” Bankrate.com Analyst Claes Bell said in a press release. “As you get older, practical considerations like health care, taxes and proximity to family and friends become much more important.”

New Hampshire, despite ranking sixth-worst for weather, ranked first overall, thanks to good grades for well-being (second), crime (third-lowest) and health care quality (fourth.) Colorado, Main, Iowa and Minnesota also placed in the top five.

Alaska finished worst overall, in part because of last places for weather and percentage of older residents, the second-highest crime rate and the third-highest cost of living. The four other states that fared worse than Kentucky: West Virginia, Arkansas, New Mexico and Louisiana. —Boris Ladwig