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.

Brown-Forman shares jump on earnings report

Brown-Forman is continuing to take advantage of strong demand for American whiskeys, especially its Jack Daniel’s brand, which helped boost quarterly sales by 9 percent.

Thanks to JD and growth in emerging markets, the Louisville-based distiller announced better-than-expected quarterly results and raised its outlook for the year.

“Fiscal 2018 is off to a strong start,” CEO Paul Varga said in a press release. “We continue to foresee growth potential for our brands, most notably in American Whiskey.”

Net sales improved 9 percent year-over-year, to $723 million. Sales in the U.S. jumped 10 percent and in Europe rose 13 percent, with demand in Poland spiking 29 percent, thanks primarily to the increasing popularity of Jack Daniel’s, the distiller’s flagship brand.

CFO Jane Cecil Morreau said in a conference call that the company is seeing some stabilization in emerging markets, as sales in some markets, such as Turkey, improved because of diminished political turmoil.

Jack Daniel’s brand products sales improved 10 percent compared to the first fiscal quarter of last year, with demand for ready-to-drink products, such as Jack Daniel’s & Cola and Jack Daniel’s Cider, spiking 24 percent. Brown-Forman also said that its premium whiskey brands, including Woodford Reserve and Gentleman Jack, recorded double-digit sales growth.

While the company said that the global economy “remains volatile, particularly in the emerging markets” and competition has intensified,” Brown-Forman predicted diluted earnings per share this year of about $1.90, about 2.7 percent higher than its previous forecast.

Recently, Forbes added Brown-Forman to its list of most innovative companies, at #67.

Brown-Forman shares on Wednesday gained 3.8 percent, while the S&P 500 rose 0.46 percent. —Boris Ladwig

Affordable apartments proposed in Middletown

A basic rendering of the apartments | Courtesy of Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government

Nonprofit The Housing Partnership has put forth plans to build an 80-unit affordable housing development off Urton Lane in Middletown.

“With the property being located along one the busiest shopping and service-oriented areas of Shelbyville Road, the applicant believes the proposal will fill that much-needed housing type for this area,” according to a letter from Matthew Wolff of engineering and planning firm Sabak, Wilson & Lingo.

According to the plans submitted to the city, the 80 units would be spread across four buildings and a total of 76,015 square feet. Three of the buildings are three stories tall, while the fourth is two stories and includes an attached one-story community building. The plans call for 141 parking spaces.

The Housing Partnership has developed 44 single-family and multifamily affordable housing projects, a total investment of more than $202 million, according to its website. The nonprofit has developed 2,335 affordable units.  —Caitlin Bowling

Kentucky State Fair attendance soars this year

The Kentucky State Fair ran Aug. 16-26. | Courtesy of KSF

Just shy of 610,000 people entered the gates to the Kentucky State Fair during its 11-day run this year. Attendance was up by 44,618 compared to last year.

Kentucky Venues, which hosts the fair each year, attributed the increase to good weather, free admission days for older attendees and military as well as new features such as cheaper advanced tickets and a new mobile application.

“We want to preserve the Fair’s heritage, while also introducing exciting new events, foods, music, entertainment and features to make the fair-goer’s experience better every year,” Jason Rittenberry, CEO and president of Kentucky Venues, said in a news release. “This year was a marked success based on attendance and the response from fair-goers, including our interaction with fair-goers on social media.”

Between Facebook, Instagram and Twitter, there were more than 13 million impressions, 30,000 engagements and a 100.9 percent increase in fans. The mobile application, which included concert times and a map of the fairgrounds, was downloaded 14,000 times.

While the attendance didn’t break records, a couple of state fair contestants did: Dwight Slone of Prestonsburg, Ky., now holds the record for the largest pumpkin (1,223 pounds) entered into the fair, and Frank Mudd of Flaherty, Ky., clinched the record for largest watermelon with his 296.5-pound entry. —Caitlin Bowling

Imagine Greater Louisville 2020 puts out a call to artists

The steering committee of Imagine Greater Louisville 2020 put a competitive call out for proposals this week to help implement the 2020 Arts Plan, the so-called master plan for arts for Greater Louisville. “Arts in so many ways reflect the soul of our city,” said Mayor Greg Fischer during a press conference.

Louisville Metro and Council and Metro Louisville are chipping in $250,000, with an additional $250,000 from the Jennifer Lawrence Arts Fund to award grants, according to the announcement. The fund was created in the spring of 2016 and is part of the Fund for the Arts and the Jennifer Lawrence Foundation.

The process will distribute $250,000 in grants, with a portion allocated to fund grants of less than $5,000, and the rest supporting larger projects.

Proposals must support the overall vision of Imagine 2020 and specifically address at least one strategy within the five priorities: access, cultivation, education, equity diversity and inclusion, promotion.

Informational sessions will be held at 6 p.m. on Sept. 6, at the California Community Center, 1600 W. St. Catherine St., and at 9:30 a.m on Sept. 7, at the Southwest Regional Library, 9725 Dixie Highway.

The deadline to apply is 11:59 on Sept. 25 and individuals, organizations, groups, partnerships interested in advancing the priorities of the plan are invited to apply. Applicants will be notified of winners on Nov. 20 and projects should be ready to begin in January. —Mickey Meece

Estimate: Harvey damage among five worst

Texas National Guardsmen rescue a resident by boat during flooding caused by Hurricane Harvey in Houston. | Courtesy of the U.S. Department of Defense

Economists estimate that Hurricane Harvey will cause damages of about $35 billion, making it one of the five worst hurricanes in U.S. history, according to Yahoo Finance.

While economists disagreed over the storm’s long-term economic impact, data from Morgan Stanley Research and the National Climatic Data Center ranked Hurricane Katrina as the most costly, by far. Figures are inflation-adjusted and in billions:

  1. Katrina (2005): $160.
  2. Sandy (2012): $70.2
  3. Andrew (1992): $47.8
  4. Ike (2008): $34.8
  5. Harvey (2017): $30-$40

Economists noted that a temporary spending slowdown could be offset by post-storm rebuilding, though Harvey also might disrupt exports, and jobless claims, at least initially, would spike.

Michael Ferioli, of JP Morgan, told Yahoo, “As a general rule, hurricanes tend to be a short-run depressant and a medium-run boost to economic activity.” —Boris Ladwig

Slowing loan growth worries FDIC chairman

Martin Gruenberg

While banks recorded solid profits in the second quarter, loan growth slowed for the third quarter in a row, raising recession fears.

In the 12 months ended June 30, loan and lease balances among U.S. lending institutions rose $337.6 billion, up 3.7 percent, according to the Federal Deposit Insurance Corp. However, the rate was 4 percent in the 12 months ended March 31, and 5.3 percent in the quarter ended Dec. 31.

FDIC Chairman Martin J. Gruenberg noted the length of the economic expansion when he talked about the slowing loan growth rate.

“As the economy enters the ninth year of an expansion characterized by modest growth, the annual rate of loan growth continued to slow,” he said.

As borrowing from businesses and consumers slows, they have less money for expansions, homes, cars and other items that fuel economic growth.

But the FDIC also noted positive trends: The number of borrowers who were 90 or more days past due fell, and the organization’s number of “problem banks” fell from 112 to 105, the smallest number since March 31, 2008.

The FDIC insures deposits at the nation’s banks and savings associations, and promotes the safety and soundness of these institutions by identifying, monitoring and addressing risks to which they are exposed. —Boris Ladwig

Four Roses to release a fruity 2017 Limited Edition Small Batch

Get it while you can. | Courtesy of Four Roses

Taste truly is in the eye of the bourbon holder, and what one detects while taking a sip might be completely different than another. But for its latest Limited Edition Small Batch release, the folks at Four Roses Bourbon have concocted a fruit-forward blend that is sweet and delicious.

The bourbon was chosen from a blend of three of the 10 recipes the distillery uses, all three being some of the lowest rye mashbills of the lot. And a low rye mashbill usually means the bourbon will more sweet, as opposed to spicy.

“The magic happened early on with this Small Batch Bourbon,” explained master distiller Brent Elliott in a press release. “After only my third test blend, I knew we had hit the target and then some. In subsequent blind samplings, this one always stood out.”

The limited-edition bourbon contains juice from 12-, 13- and 15-year-old barrels and is bottled at barrel strength, which is a respectable 107.3 proof. According to the tasting notes, there are hints of apricot, vanilla, allspice and even a bright raspberry flavor. And, of course, as it finishes, you get hints of brown sugar and cinnamon.

Insider was lucky to try a sample of the Small Batch, and we agree with the above descriptions, although we’ll add some candy apple to the mix. There definitely are sweet caramel notes, and the finish is long and smooth.

Our favorite Four Roses release remains the Limited Edition 50th Anniversary Small Batch that paid tribute to brand ambassador Al Young this summer, but this one is an excellent follow-up. The bourbon will be released at both the distillery and the warehouse/bottling facility on Saturday, Sept. 16, and then in stores after that. Suggested retail price is $130. —Sara Havens

In Brief

Frédérique Dame, a Silicon Valley angel investor, who helped propel Uber from 80 people to over 7,000 and expand the company from 14 cities in four countries to over 400 in 68 countries, will be the keynote speaker at EnterpriseCorp’s Evening of Entrepreneurship on Oct. 4. Tickets are $25 through Sept. 8 and $35 up until the day of the event.

Local video game creators, part of the nonprofit Louisville Make Games, are releasing a pay-what-you-want bundle called Kentucky Fried Pixels at the Republic Bank First Friday Trolley Hop. The event is being held at Warp Zone Louisville at 612 W. Washington St., located in museum row between Sixth and Seventh off of Main Street.

EVolve KY, the local nonprofit electric vehicle group, has installed its latest fee-free electric vehicle charger at the Passionist Earth & Spirit Center off of Newburg Road through its Adopt a Charger program. EVolve is raising funds on Indiegogo to promote electric vehicles in Kentucky.