Monday Business Briefing: Atria spiffs up and expands in Nucleus; PetSmart gives AlleyCat $86K; retro Pegasus Pin; Venture Sharks is on; and more

Welcome to the Feb. 6 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Atria Senior Living plans $1.4 million Nucleus expansion and renovation

Nucleus building

Atria Senior Living plans to invest $1.4 million through the summer to upgrade and expand its presence in the Nucleus building, which will include a test kitchen.

Atria told IL via email that it will renovate about 30,000 square feet at 300 E. Market St., which houses the company’s support center, and lease an additional 16,000 square feet, bringing its total occupied space in the Nucleus building to about 100,000 square feet.

Atria said it also plans to install a test kitchen on the first floor “to experiment with culinary offerings before rolling (them) out to Atria senior living communities.”

The company said that upscale dining and culinary offerings represent one way in which it tries to differentiate itself from competitors.

The privately held rental apartment operator employs more than 13,500 and serves more than 21,000 senior residents in 28 states and seven Canadian provinces.

Atria also will move an employee restaurant and a fitness center from the eighth floor to the first floor, where both will be expanded. Those moves will open up work space on the 8th floor. The project is expected to be completed by this summer.

According to filings with the city, the renovations will cost $1.4 million. —Boris Ladwig

Alley Cat Advocates receives $86,000 from PetSmart Charities 

If you live in southwest Louisville and have been taking care of homeless cats, you’re in luck. Thanks to a generous donation of $86,000 by PetSmart Charities, Alley Cat Advocates can now offer free spay/neuter services for unowned community cats in the following Zip codes: 40208, 40209, 40213, 40214, 40215, 40216, 40217, 40219, 40258 and 40272.

These areas were chosen because Louisville Metro Animal Services says that’s where the highest intake of homeless cats comes from. Currently, it’s estimated there are about 2,100 unowned cats in those neighborhoods.

“We are excited to increase the total number of spay/neuter surgeries at our organization and look forward to an exciting year as we work to reduce euthanasia of healthy cats in our community,” said Karen Little, executive director and co-founder of the rescue group in a press release. “Our Alley Cat Neighborhoods program has become a model for other organizations across the country, and the continued funding from PetSmart Charities will generate even more enthusiasm for the success our work generates.”

PetSmart Charities is the leading funder of animal welfare in North America. Since 2009, ACA has helped reduce the number of cats in the city’s shelters by 63 percent. If you’d like to participate in the program, call 634-8777. —Sara Havens

Grants available for companies looking to increase their exports

The Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement and JPMorgan Chase Foundation have teamed up to give out $220,000 in grants to companies as a way to promote international business.

Companies can apply for individual grants of up to $5,000 to cover costs related to “activities, services and resources that support export development,” according to a news release, including market research, an export readiness assessment, international business meetings and trade missions.

“We want to make sure we provide our small businesses with all of the tools necessary to help them enter and succeed in foreign markets,” Mayor Greg Fischer said in the release. “With the BEAM 2.0 Grant Program, we will be able to open doors for many companies in our region that are ready to take the next step.”

Detailed grant requirement can be found online. Applications are due by Friday, March 10. —Caitlin Bowling

Metropolitan Sewer District debuts new website with customer service focus

Net Tango has unveiled a brand new website for the Louisville/Jefferson County Metropolitan Sewer District,, which it designed, developed and implemented in partnership with the Louisville communication company, Bandy Carroll Hellige.

Customer Service — report a problem, pay my bill and contact us — is front and center (well, off to the right) on every page. This, at a time where MSD is facing a massive and expensive overhaul of all kinds of its infrastructure, from the Eastern Parkway water main replacement to upgrading Ohio River protections, to the tune of $4.3 billion over the next 20 years. (That’s $215 million a year, by the way.)

“Our team loves the challenge of solving complex problems, and the MSD website was no exception,” said Stephanie Minier, Net Tango Project & Business Development Manager, in a news release. “With its new purpose-built design, Drupal development, applications and system integration, MSD is better-positioned to meet customer needs and build stronger relationships.”

Net Tango has handled the digital needs of a number of local government or quasi-government agencies (MSD is a nonprofit utility service). “Most recent was Nashville Music City Center, which launched in October 2016. Others include City of Irvine, City of Nashville, City of Louisville, Louisville Water Company,” spokeswoman Ceci Conway told IL.

The company has also worked with the Louisville Water Company, KentuckyOne, Yum Brands and the University of Louisville.

Net Tango has been around since 1996; some of MSD’s pipes have been around since the Civil War. Melissa Chipman

Pipeline H20 water innovation accelerator accepts Louisville’s WaterStep

A brand-new accelerator, Pipeline H20, which supports startups that are creating “disruptive water technologies” has enrolled Louisville nonprofit WaterStep in its first cohort. The focus of the accelerator is on taking those technologies to market.

The accelerator is in Hamilton, Ohio, near Cincinnati. Representatives from each startup will spend one week a month for the next four months in residence.

Ali Hawthorne, who does PR for WaterStep, told IL in an email: “The two WaterStep staff members going to Cincy to participate in the program are Kurtis Daniels, director of training and field operations, and Mark Hogg, founder and CEO. There is no cost for the program, that’s what is ‘given’ to the selected companies.” The program lasts from February until May.

According to a news release, Hogg “anticipates the program will build the organization’s networks to identify companies to assist with marketing, manufacturing and design of the Mobile Water System.” The system is a mini-water treatment plant that can start creating clean water just two hours after it is assembled.

WaterStep has developed a number of solutions for water insecurity including purification techniques, well repair solutions and health education programs.

WaterStep is just one of eight startups chosen for the accelerator; there were 66 applications received from across five continents representing 14 different countries. —Melissa Chipman

This year’s Derby Festival Pegasus Pin is a throwback to 1973

This year’s Pegasus Pin is #throwback.

The Kentucky Derby Festival has released the first image of this year’s Pegasus Pin, and it’s a throwback to the very first one ever designed in 1973.

The design features a red pegasus in the center, surrounded by a gray circle with teal and white mixed in for good measure. They’ll be available to purchase starting March 1 for $6, and, as always, it gets you into various Derby Festival events. There also are coupons in the packet, and you always have a chance of winning one of the few golden Pegasus Pins. (By the way, the 1973 Pegasus Pin sold for $1.)

“Funds raised from the Pegasus Pin sales help us to continue producing events for the public and to maintain the high quality of those events,” said Mike Berry, KDF president and CEO, in a press release. “When you consider the average price of a concert or movie ticket, it’s an incredible deal.”

In 1973, when that first pin came out, KDF made 10,000 of them. Now, more than 250,000 are produced each year. —Sara Havens

Eighth-annual Venture Sharks competition: applications open

It’s that time of year again when Kentuckiana startups willingly offer themselves up to the sharks.

Applications are now open for Venture Sharks, the annual “Shark Tank”-style pitch competition sponsored by Venture Connectors, in which startups compete for a $15,000 prize — roughly $5,000 in cash and $10,000 in professional services.

Applications are due March 22. The preliminary round will be held April 12 and the finals will be held at the Venture Connectors’ monthly luncheon on May 3. Both events take place at the Ali Center.

Applicants can be from Kentucky, Indiana, Ohio and Tennessee, but presentations for the preliminary and final rounds of competition must be made in person in Louisville. Businesses must have less than $75,000 in lifetime revenue and have not received more than $50,000 from any source.

Past winners include: Switcher Studio, Logjustrips, Gear Brake, Smart Farm, Wicked Sheets, U.S. Chia and Surgical Serenity Solutions. Some of these companies have taken off — Wicked Sheets, Gear Break and Switcher Studio, most notably.

You can apply or offer to sponsor online. —Melissa Chipman

Herelancer signs up 185 freelancers in just over a month

Co-founders of Herelancer Rachel Dickey and Zack Pennington | Photo courtesy of Herelancer

Brand new freelance-to-project matching service Herelancer has signed 185 Louisville creative and technology freelancers to its matching service. The company was co-founded by serial entrepreneur Zack Pennington, who is also COO of Flying Axes, and Rachel Dickey, an attorney with Weber Rose and frequent freelancer.

Pennington told IL that he wants Herelancer to answer the question: “How does a small business hire locals?”

All projects posted include price range, so no one wastes his or her time interviewing someone who is out of their league price-wise or going to an interview for a job with unacceptable pay.

Herelancer only makes money if the company hires one of its freelancers. Then Herelancer gets a 10 percent of the freelancers’ pay commission. Freelancers pay nothing.

Pennington and Dickey consult with companies to “help them make their projects more attractive to help them find the right freelancer.”

Herelancer has made a “few” matches, Pennington told IL, and he knows that there are currently freelancers interviewing for positions that Herelancer has posted.

The company is keeping things hyper local right now. The founders want to see if they can make this a success in Louisville before trying it out in other cities, but that’s eventually the plan.

Pennington said that he uses Craigslist a lot but he doesn’t see Herelancer as a competitor. The site is only for creatives and techies; you’re not going to find plumbers, gardeners or electricians here.

Projects are listed on the site and Herelancer also sends a weekly email listing of all available jobs on the site. If there is a project that you, as a freelancer, want to be considered for, there’s a contact form on the site.

The company started on Dec. 15, 2016. Melissa Chipman

Industrial segment a drag on UPS earnings

UPS posted adjusted fourth-quarter profit of $1.63 per share, up 3.8 percent from the prior year, thanks primarily to gains in its international package division.

Operating profit for the international package division improved 13 percent, to $706 million, while results for the company’s supply chain/freight and U.S. domestic package divisions deteriorated.

Results were adjusted for pension charges as the company transitions to a new way to account for its pensions.

Fourth-quarter revenue, at $10.9 billion, increased 6.3 percent, in part because of strong e-commerce growth.

The U.S. Census Bureau said that December retail sales rose 0.8 percent overall compared to December 2015, though sales for nonstore retailers, which includes e-commerce, rose 13.2 percent.

UPS said that results were challenged in part by “continued softness in industrial production.”

According to CNBC, the dynamics aren’t good for UPS, because its business-to-business shipping is more profitable than its direct-to-consumer deliveries.

UPS CFO Richard Peretz told CNBC, “We actually had a good fourth quarter, but what we saw was a tremendous shift in the amount of volume that went to the consumer versus to the business.”

For the year, the logistics company reported adjusted EPS of $5.75, up 5.9 percent from 2015.

With about 18,000 employees, UPS is Louisville’s largest employer, by far. —Boris Ladwig

Waterfront Development Corp. receives rare Buffalo Trace bourbon to auction off

IL told you about the lucky folks over at Family & Children’s Place who received a rare bottle of O.F.C. bourbon from Buffalo Trace Distillery to auction off and raise funds for the nonprofit. Now, we hear there’s another beneficiary in town that received one of 200 limited-edition bottles from the generous bourbon company — our very own Waterfront Development Corporation.

The bottle of 1980 O.F.C. (Old Fashioned Copper) Vintage Bourbon can be bid on through Feb. 22 at 1 p.m. The vintage-dated bourbon comes in a lead-free crystal bottle with an O.F.C. decanter that dates back to the early 1900s. It is valued at $10,000.

The first bid of $2,000 has already been placed, and bidding will continue in increments of $50. As of Friday, it climbed to $2,500.

Waterfront Development Corporation is a nonprofit that oversees park planning and construction, park maintenance, and event production and coordination of Waterfront Park. —Sara Havens