Monday Business Briefing: Ford emphasizes Louisville commitment; Lexington Road apartments sold; local companies among nation’s healthiest; and more

Welcome to the Oct. 3 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Ford unveils Kentucky Truck plant expansion

A robot at Ford Motor Co.'s Kentucky Truck Plant grabs a Super Duty hood. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

A robot at Ford Motor Co.’s Kentucky Truck Plant grabs a Super Duty hood. | Photo by Boris Ladwig.

Ford Motor Co. has expanded the size of its Kentucky Truck Plant by nearly 1 million square feet to produce the all-new F-Series Super Duty, which is now in showrooms.

The company unveiled the upgrades, part of a $1.3 billion investment, on Friday during the official new Super Duty launch.

Joe Hinrichs, the company’s president for the Americas, said, “Sales are going even faster than we expected.”

To produce the new truck, the company added about 2,000 employees. It also installed 1,000 robots that lift, twist and rotate the aluminum alloy components and bolt them together to form the truck’s cab.

The 2017 Super Duty has a “military-grade” aluminum alloy body, which, Ford officials said, cut the truck’s weight by 700 pounds. Ford added some of that weight back in to strengthen the frame, axles and chassis components. It also comes available with high-tech gadgets including seven new cameras and adaptive steering. The new Super Duty starts at $32,535.

“Super Duty runs America,” Hinrichs said.

Super Duty enthusiast and small-business owner Nate Berges told Ford employees they had built “the most incredible truck ever.”

Berges had traveled to Louisville from Atlantic City, N.J., where he owns an awning company to help put the final touches on his 2017 Ford F-350 Super Duty.

“I felt as though I was watching a birth,” he said.

Ford Super Duty enthusiast Nate Berges gets an up-close look at the assembly line in the Kentucky Truck Plant. | Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Ford Super Duty enthusiast Nate Berges gets an up-close look at the assembly line in the Kentucky Truck Plant. | Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Berges told IL he appreciated Ford’s commitment to customer service and taking a great truck and making it even better.

He said features like the additional cameras will help with maneuvering, while LED lighting saves energy and the panoramic sunroof provides great views.

Berges has 10 employees, and the business owns 10 Super Duty trucks.

“The vehicle is capable no matter what you put up against it,” he said.

Ford employs more than 12,000 in Louisville and makes nearly 1,500 vehicles per day. Those jobs support about 84,000 jobs in the Louisville community, Hinrichs said. —Boris Ladwig

Ford continues to fire back at Trump

Joe Hinrichs

Joe Hinrichs

Speaking of Ford: The company, its employees and leaders have emphasized their investments and job growth in the United States to counteract criticisms from GOP presidential candidate Donald Trump. The billionaire had called Ford’s recent announcement that it would move its remaining U.S.-based small-car production to Mexico an “absolute disgrace.”

Ford had said it will move production of the Ford Focus from Michigan to Mexico “so it can achieve financial success with that vehicle.”

But Ford also said it has continued to invest in the U.S. and will move two new vehicles that have not yet been announced to the Focus plant in Michigan.

Joe Hinrichs, the company’s president for the Americas, said Friday at Kentucky Truck Plant that in the last five years the company has invested $12 billion in U.S. plants and created nearly 28,000 jobs. Ford also employs more hourly workers than any other automaker in the U.S.

“It’s our home,” he said. “It’s where we’ll be forever.”

Hinrichs told IL that the company’s recent $1.3 billion investments in the Kentucky Truck Plant speak to its commitment to Louisville and the U.S.

“We don’t make those investments for the short term,” he said. —Boris Ladwig

Poe Companies sells third apartment complex

The Woods at Lexington Road includes 72 apartment units. | Courtesy of Commercial Kentucky

The Woods at Lexington Road includes 72 apartment units. | Courtesy of Commercial Kentucky

A 72-unit apartment building in the Irish Hill neighborhood is under new ownership.

Louisville real estate development firm Poe Companies sold The Woods at Lexington, at 2139 Lexington Road, for $10.75 million. Craig Collins, executive vice president of Commercial Kentucky, and Michael Kemether, executive vice president of Cushman Wakefield’s Atlanta Multifamily Advisory Group, represented Poe Companies in the sale.

Robert Corry, owner of the California-based property management company Corry Properties, purchased The Woods at Lexington Road, making it the second Poe Companies’ development he has bought.

Under the company name Kentucky Bluegrass LLC, Corry bought The Woods at Lexington Road and the 28-unit Grinstead Place. Corry purchased Grinstead Place from Poe Companies for $4.2 million on Sept. 1, Insider Louisville previously reported.

The Woods at Lexington is the third multifamily development that Poe Companies has sold this year. In addition to Grinstead Place, Poe Companies sold 96-unit Preston Gardens for $8 million to Lakeshore Club LLC, a Louisville-based family-owned company, in February.

Last year, Poe Companies’ founder Steve Poe said he wanted to exit the residential market, with the exception of RiverPark Place along River Road. He still has one more apartment building on the market, the 20-unit Dundee Place. —Caitlin Bowling

Review of Main Street project delayed as developer tweaks plans

The development will include roughly 270 apartments and 5,000 square feet of retail. | Rendering by Dwell Design Studio

The development will include roughly 270 apartments and 5,000 square feet of retail. | Rendering by Dwell Design Studio

Georgia-based developer Flournoy Cos. last week wasn’t prepared to tackle all the questions and suggestions that city planning officials and NuLu Review Overlay Committee members had regarding its proposed $52 million apartment development at Main and Clay streets.

Jeffrey McKenzie, a partner with Bingham Greenebaum Doll who is representing Flournoy Cos., asked the NuLu Review Overlay Committee to defer voting on the project until the company can work out some disagreements about the design plans with Louisville Metro Planning and Design Services staff. The committee, which met last week, reviews developments in NuLu to ensure they meet the design standards of the neighborhood.

In its report, Planning and Design staff asked that Flournoy keep the brick building at the corner of Clay and Main streets, which features a painted-on sign for Service Tanks Welding and Machine Co. Service Tanks still operates at the 4.7-acre site but eventually will move its headquarters, as Flournoy plans to tear down most of the buildings and erect an apartment building with 5,000 square feet of retail.

Flournoy is trying to find a way to incorporate the sign into the new development, McKenzie said, but isn’t sure how it will do so yet. He added that it would be impossible for the company to keep the building because the ceiling heights don’t match up with Flournoy’s plans.

City officials also have asked for better design treatments for the fourth and fifth floors and more information about the planned streetscape design. McKenzie said the company still is working on some of the finer details but did note that the apartment building will have multiple entrances with stoops to create an effect similar to the brownstones in New York City.

Project will transform a forgettable block into “a fairly incredible” development, he said.

The NuLu Review Overlay Committee voted unanimously to defer a vote on the project to a future meeting. A date hasn’t been set. —Caitlin Bowling

Two Louisville companies among nation’s top 10 healthiest

humana logoTwo Louisville health care companies are among the top 10 healthiest workplaces in the country.

Both Humana, at No. 4, and Norton Healthcare, at No. 7 made the top 10 of the Healthiest 100 2016, compiled by Indianapolis-based health analytics company Springbuk.

Springbuk looked at six criteria — vision, culture/engagement, learning, expertise, metrics and technology — to determine which organizations “have comprehensively incorporated the most vital corporate wellness policies, practices and programs in their workplaces.” Companies submit data through online assessments.

Humana said in a press release that it has encouraged employees to get healthier through paid volunteer time off, flexible work arrangements and financial counseling. In this year’s 100 Day Dash step challenge, employees took more than 16 billion steps, or about three times as many as in the inaugural event in 2012.

L-Norton_HealthcareThrough its wellness program, which supports employees with health coaching and other tools, employees have lost more than 100 tons of weight since 2012, and 42 percent of employees have improved their health.

And, Humana said, the prevalence of diabetes has been cut by 20 percent.

Norton previously has said it fosters employee health with walking paths, access to a wellness website, offering membership discounts to athletic facilities and offering healthier options in the cafeterias.

LG&E ranked 53rd, and Yum! Ranked 99th. —Boris Ladwig

Omni Louisville director: Hotel company shaping itself to fit Louisville

Walking into the Omni Louisville, visitors will see Edison lights — a nod to Butchertown’s Thomas Edison House — hanging down over the main entrance.

Once inside, a bourbon tasting room will be to the right, blackened and curved panels will hang overhead, and a copper art display will sit on the lobby floor — all an homage to Kentucky’s favorite liquor.

“We like to say we are distilling our hotel,” said Eamon O’Brien, director of sales and marketing for Omni Louisville.

The Omni Louisville, a 30-story hotel and residence, won’t look anything like the other Omni hotels, he said. Paducah, Ky., native Laura McKoy, Omni’s creative director and vice president of interior design, is overseeing the design.

“Everyone wants that experiential travel. They don’t want the same comforter and same burger on the menu and same armoire in every single room. That’s not really Omni style. We want to have a unique Louisville story because I think Louisville is unique as a city. We want to be representative of that,” O’Brien said. “Instead of the neighborhood acquiescing to the Omni, we want to acquiesce to the neighborhood.”

Omni Louisville guests will find a quiet space to enjoy a drink in The Library, a room that will feature two walls of floor-to-ceiling bookshelves, a fireplace and decor with charcoal, amber and copper tones. The library will offer an afternoon tea service with light food, craft cocktails, wine and beer, O’Brien said. It also will serve as a place for guests to work, read or chat quietly.

For a more lively atmosphere with a spirits and craft cocktail-driven menu, visitors can visit the first-floor speakeasy, which will include a four-lane bowling alley.

“There is going to be no signage saying speakeasy this way,” O’Brien said, but it will have two entrances: one from the hotel and one in a back alley.

The Omni Louisville is working with a local artist to craft an interesting entrance to the speakeasy and is trying to find historic signage for the alley, he added.

“If you are in Louisville, Ky., you are going to know you are in Louisville,” O’Brien said of the local Omni design. —Caitlin Bowling

Two Louisville brands expanding internationally

Taco Bell is taking Glen Bell’s vision of sharing Mexican-inspired food to one of the world’s largest markets: São Paulo, Brazil. | Photo by Business Wire

Taco Bell is taking its vision of sharing Mexican-inspired food to São Paulo, Brazil. | Photo by Business Wire

Louisville-based pizza chain Papa John’s International and fast-food chain Taco Bell, which has Louisville ties, both recently announced that they are growing internationally.

Yum Brands subsidiary Taco Bell stated in a news release that the company has entered a brand new market: São Paulo, Brazil. The expansion is backed by new franchisee Sforza Holding, a Brazilian private investment firm.

“Brazil is a natural step forward as we continue to expand globally and bring our craveable, Mexican-inspired food to the world,” Melissa Lora, president of Taco Bell International, said in the release. “Sforza is an amazing franchisee who is great at operating consumer focused businesses.”

The first Brazilian Taco Bell opened on Sept. 23 in a mall. It has “a relaxed lounge atmosphere” with free Wi-Fi and charging stations throughout the restaurant. Its menu will feature Brahma, a Brazilian beer sold by Anheuser-Busch InBev, and ingredients sourced from the country.

In the pizza sector, Yum Brands competitor Papa John’s has signed a new agreement with decade-long franchisee Vantage Egypt to expand its presence in the African country. Vantage Egypt already runs 36 Papa John’s restaurants and will open 18 more in Egypt, according to a news release.

“Vantage Egypt is one of our best success stories in the Middle East and we are proud of their growth,” Tim O’Hern, senior vice president and chief development officer, said in the release. —Caitlin Bowling

It’s beginning to look a lot like Christmas? Holiday Bootcamp for retailers

41vCtCQQ2iLIt may seem like jumping the gun to hold a holiday-focused event in October, but for retailers, October is not too soon to start getting their businesses ready for the winter holiday push. That’s why the Louisville Small Business Development Center and the Louisville Independent Business Alliance have banded together to host the Small Business Holiday Bootcamp, Tuesday, Oct. 11, from 8:30 a.m. to 10:30 a.m., at Office Environment Company at 1136 West Market St.

The SBDC will offer 10 must-dos for the holiday shopping season, including staffing, stocking and arranging inventory in your store.

Shop Small Business Saturday is Nov. 26, the day after Black Friday, so both SBDC and LIBA want to help area small businesses be in ship shape for the big day.

“October is the time to have your ducks in a row, because come November, it’s ‘go time,’” David Oetken, executive director of Louisville’s SBDC, said in a news release. “Many retailers and small businesses live or die by holiday sales. For the shop local movement to succeed, it’s crucial Louisville entrepreneurs and managers have all the tools at their disposal.”

According to LIBA, Shop Small has gained greater momentum annually since American Express started the movement in 2010.

The cost of the course is $10 and a discount is available for LIBA members. —Melissa Chipman

Midwestern startup panel at IdeaFest urges entrepreneurs to think big and be fearless

IdeaFestival midwestern startup panel | Photo by Melissa Chipman

IdeaFestival Midwestern startup panel | Photo by Melissa Chipman

John Shieber, TechCrunch editor, said that “embracing the danger of new ideas” was the overall theme of IdeaFestival during a panel of Midwestern entrepreneurs at IdeaFestival.

“Nine out of 10 startups fail, which is a daunting concept to have to face down,” he said. So startup entrepreneurs know how to “embrace danger.”

“It’s never been easier to start a business in this country than now,” he explained. The internet has provided people with greater access to the things they need to start a business, including access to markets, talent and capital.

The final panel on entrepreneurship focused on Midwestern entrepreneurism; participants included three entrepreneurs and Wendy Lea, CEO of Cincinnati’s Cintrifuse, a private-public partnership that helps fund and support startups.

Lea said investors are looking for more big ideas, not just good ideas. “Go for broke,” she said. “Really big, crazy-ass, disruptive ideas.”

April Foster, founder of Inked, which works with influencers in the scrapbooking and paper products space, said she was successful because, “nobody told me I could fail.” She said, “Entrepreneurism is where it’s at, and the Midwest is where it should happen.” Our attractiveness comes from our “humble talent” unlike the inflated egos of many in the coastal startup communities.

Drura Parrish, CEO and founder of manufacturing software company MakeTime, said that in the Midwest, we are very close to so many problems that need solving — hunger, illness, environmental issues. Parrish repeatedly urged entrepreneurs to “go big.”

Stacy Griggs, president and CEO of El Toro, was the only local member of the panel. When Parrish complained about the government of Kentucky’s lack of helpfulness to entrepreneurs, Griggs countered: “Louisville has a very entrepreneurial government … We have great connectivity.” However, he wants the federal government to “just get out of our way.” —Melissa Chipman

Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs sponsors showing of ‘Gleason: The Movie’ to support colleague with ALS

For several years, staffers at Wyatt, Tarrant & Combs LLP have gone out of their way to show support to corporate lawyer Rick Alsip, who was diagnosed with ALS, otherwise known as Lou Gehrig’s disease.

“To show our support for Rick, we have doused each other in the Ice Bucket Challenge and raised the most money in the annual ALS Walk, but we’re always looking for other ways to help out,” said Andy Payton, chief marketing officer.

In order to raise awareness of the disease, WTC is sponsoring the area’s only showing of “Gleason: The Movie,” an audience favorite at Sundance. The film is about the life of Steve Gleason, former star special teams performer for the NFL’s New Orleans Saints, husband and father of three, who was diagnosed with ALS in 2011.

The firm has bought out the entire theater to share the film with clients, friends, attorneys and staff.  It is inviting the general public to take the other 100 tickets or so.

This is not a fundraiser, it’s an awareness-raiser, as per the wishes of the Gleason Family Foundation.

The film will be shown at 6:45 p.m. at the Baxter Theatre on Wednesday, Oct. 5. —Melissa Chipman

SkuVault CEO invited to hang with Leo and Obama on White House South Lawn today

white house

The White House | File Photo

We thought we were friends. If we were friends, why didn’t SkuVault’s CEO Andy Eastes dish about his upcoming visit to the White House when we talked to him last week about his status as a new Endeavor Louisville entrepreneur and the recent funding SkuVault received?

Kidding, of course.

Eastes has been invited to attend an event called “South by South Lawn” modeled after South by Southwest in Austin, the festival that celebrates both music and innovation. He’s there as a successful tech entrepreneur who has hired two graduates of Code Louisville, one of the programs the government looked to when creating it’s TechHire program to encourage middle class America to take tech jobs. Both Code Louisville and TechHire are coding classes for entry-level tech job seekers.

Today’s festival will include musical performances, panel discussions, interactive booths, and the White House Student Film Festival.

And yeah, when we say “Leo,” we mean that Leo, Leo DiCaprio, who will share his thoughts on climate change. There also will be musical performances by the Lumineers and Sharon Jones.

Eastes also will attend a post-event briefing with White House officials and local leaders at noon on Tuesday. Melissa Chipman