Insider News Roundup: Highlands Chase Bank building for sale; excise tax proposed for e-cigs; Ford shares fall; Q2 office market; and more

Highlands Chase Bank building for sale

Chase Bldg 970_Baxter_Ave

The former Chase Bank building in the Highlands is on the market. | Photo courtesy of CBRE

The former Chase Bank building, located at the corner of Baxter Avenue and Highland, is for sale.

Asking price for the 7,282-square-foot Chase Bank building, with an address of 970 Baxter Ave., is $2 million. The property sits on .315 acres and is zoned C-2.

A U.S. Postal Service center also is located in the back of the Chase Bank building, facing Highland. The two-story structure was built in 1923.

The Chase Bank building was put on the market by CBRE and is in a spot surrounded by restaurants and clubs, with a congested residential area and a new residential development underway just a few blocks northwest at the corner of Baxter and Broadway. —Kevin Gibson

Excise tax on e-cigarettes proposed in Kentucky

Screenshot from Foundation for a Healthy Kentucky

Proponents of a proposed excise tax on e-cigarettes think it might help to curb youth vaping. | Screenshot from Vimeo

A bill that would place an excise tax on electronic cigarettes to try to curtail youth vaping was unveiled this week in Frankfort, with the support of various legislators and a coalition dedicated to reducing tobacco use in Kentucky.

State Reps. Jerry T. Miller, R-Louisville, and Kim Moser, a northern Kentucky Republican, were joined by Public Health Commissioner Jeff Howard and others for the announcement of the proposed excise tax.

Right now, Kentucky’s excise tax on regular cigarettes is $1.10 per pack; the proposed 27.5% tax on e-cigarettes would be an equivalent amount, according to the Coalition for a Smoke-Free Tomorrow.

“Adding an excise tax onto the price of e-cigarettes in Kentucky will serve the dual purpose of reducing vaping among teens and pregnant mothers, while also raising badly needed revenue for the state,” Miller said in a coalition news release.

Sen. Julie Raque Adams, R-Louisville, plans to file a companion measure in the state Senate, according to the coalition. “This is very simply a parity issue that aims to decrease e-cigarette use and increase health outcomes in the Commonwealth,” she said. —Darla Carter

Ford shares fall on profit miss, weak forecast

2020 Ford Escape | Photo by Boris Ladwig

Ford Motor Co. shares fell 7% in after-hours trading Wednesday after the automaker said that its second-quarter net income fell by 86%.

Ford said results were dragged down primarily by $1.2 billion in restructuring charges related to its right-sizing its European and South American divisions. The company also said that the value of an investment in cloud-based software company Pivotal Software fell by $181 million.

And Reuters said that Ford’s full-year earnings forecast “fell short of analyst expectations.”

However, Ford said that its automotive division produced earnings before interest and taxes of $1.4 billion, up 19% thanks primarily to its strength in North American trucks and SUVs.

Ford is one of Louisville’s largest employers. Local workers make primarily the Super Duty pickup truck and the Escape SUV. The United Auto Workers Union and the company recently began negotiations on a new labor contract.

The company said in a news release that it made progress in the second quarter on “the fundamental redesign of the business.”

“Midway through this key year of action, we are pleased with the progress we are making

toward creating a more dynamic and profitable business,” President and CEO Jim Hackett.

Second-quarter revenue, at $38.9 billion, was essentially flat. Expenses rose 1.1%. Net income was $148 million, down from nearly $1.1 billion a year ago. —Boris Ladwig

Louisville office market down in Q2

For the first time since the first quarter of 2018, the Louisville office market recorded negative net absorption in the second quarter of this year, according to a report from CBRE.

The culprit, per CBRE, was corporate downsizing in the Central Business District, which posted more than 95,000 square feet in negative net absorption of Class A commercial properties, with several new vacancies in Class B properties as well.

Slight gains in the suburban market had little effect, as Louisville’s overall negative net absorption reached 89,273 for the quarter. However, leasing activity climbed slightly for the overall market, with lease rates rising $.05 per square foot.

Future gains for the market include new construction of a 45,000-square-foot building in eastern Jefferson County which is expected to be completed by year’s end, the sale of a 40,000-square-foot building at 734 W. Main St., and a new 29,000-square-foot building coming to NuLu as an entrepreneurial hub. —Kevin Gibson

Veterans to learn pathways to teaching via UofL workshop

Veterans can learn how to become a teacher through a workshop from the University of Louisville and the Kentucky Department of Education.

UofL will host a free “Troops to Teachers” workshop on July 30 in the Belknap Academic Building to explain different ways veterans can receive their teaching certification and jump into the classroom. Participants will learn “information that will assist veteran’s transitions into the classroom,” according to a KDE news release.

Kentucky, like most states, is facing a “significant” shortage of teachers, Education Commissioner Wayne Lewis has said. Last week, Lewis announced that KDE would launch an initiative called Go Teach KY to attract people into the profession later this year.

The initiative is expected to showcase Kentucky’s different ways of obtaining teaching certifications, especially those designed for those who did not major in education in college. One of those includes an alternative pathway for former military members.

“Part of our campaign is going to center around greater awareness of professionals, folks who have started in other professions, about what the possibilities are for them to get into teaching,” Lewis said in the release.

“I find often in talking to people they’re not aware of all of the routes that are available, and lots of times folks think that the routes are much more onerous than they really are.” —Olivia Krauth

Humana CEO touts Medicare Advantage as a health care solution for all

A portrait of Bruce Broussard

Bruce Broussard

Humana CEO Bruce Broussard said Medicare Advantage plans, like the ones offered by his company, could help cover people who do not get health insurance through work or Medicaid.

“When I think about where Medicare Advantage is, if we do our work the right way, I can see Medicare Advantage being the payment model that is being used where we want to fill that need where people don’t have an employer plan and they’re not being covered by Medicaid,” Broussard said, according to an article in FierceHealthcare.

The CEO made the comments at the Better Medicine Alliance Medicare Advantage Summit in Washington, D.C. He was one of eight keynote speakers, who also included Alex M. Azar, secretary of Health and Human Services; Seema Verma, administrator of the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services; and Larry J. Merlo, president and CEO of CVS Health.

Humana’s share price has come under pressure in the last year, in part because many Democratic presidential hopefuls are pushing for a public option or even a Medicare for All system, which could eliminate private insurance companies. Humana shares on Wednesday traded for about $276, down about 22% from the record high close in November.

Broussard previously has said that he views Medicare for All as a potentially enormous opportunity for the health insurance industry and patients but opposes any legislation that would make private insurance companies illegal.

Humana is scheduled to post second-quarter results on Wednesday. —Boris Ladwig

In Brief

The Community Foundation of Louisville announced the departure of its president and chief executive Susan Barry effective Sept. 3. The board named Senior Vice President and Chief Financial Officer Matt Bacon as interim president and CEO. A nationwide search for Barry’s replacement will be led by board member Dave Calzi.

Kentucky Venues said the Kentucky State Fair app is now available free on both Google Play and the App Store. The state fair runs Aug. 15-25 at the Kentucky Exposition Center.

Nationally renowned poet and teacher Maggie Smith has joined the faculty of Spalding University’s School of Creative and Professional Writing. She will both instruct and mentor the graduate writing students.

Donald Robinson, a deputy director in Louisville Metro’s codes and regulations department, will be the new head of transportation for Jefferson County Public Schools. He doesn’t start until after the first day of school, leaving Chief Operating Officer Mike Raisor and the transportation department to finalize the new year’s bus routes.