Insider News Roundup: Ford ramps up production at KTP; Humana hiring more temps; Norton gets a rating boost; and more

Ford to ramp up production at Kentucky Truck Plant

A photo showing the interior of a 2019 Ford Expedition

2019 Ford Expedition. | Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

The Kentucky Truck Plant is about to get busier. Ford will ramp up additional production of the Ford Expedition and Lincoln Navigator, which, along with trucks, have been among the bright spots in the automaker’s vehicle lineup as overall sales have plateaued.

Expedition sales in the second quarter reached 21,796, up more than 50% from a year earlier. Navigator sales, at 4,387, were down 13.2 percent. The vehicles are manufactured at KTP, and the plant will increase its output this month, said Mark LaNeve, Ford’s vice president for U.S. marketing, sales and service.

Ford had announced in November that it was moving 550 jobs from Louisville Assembly Plant to KTP, as demand for the Escape was softening, while sales for the Expedition and Navigator were increasing. Ford had said that the changes would increase KTP’s capacity to build Explorers/Navigators by 20%.

“Expedition has been an absolute bright spot,” LaNeve said Wednesday in a conference call.

Ford sales overall in the second quarter were down 4.1% compared to a year ago, but that was largely due to the company beginning to see the impact of exiting the sedan market.

Car sales were down about 21%, with demand falling nearly 70% for the Taurus and nearly 95% for Focus.

SUV sales in the second quarter fell 8.6%, with demand for the Escape declining 6.3%. LaNeve said that he expects sales for the Escape to pick up in the third and fourth quarters as an all-new model hits showroom floors.

LaNeve said Ford had “another stellar quarter” for pickup truck sales, which increased 7.5%. While consumer interest in the F-Series truck, which includes the Louisville-made Super Duty, fell by 1.3%, the decline was more than offset by demand for the new Ford Ranger. LaNeve said that the reintroduction of the Ranger cannibalized sales for the F-Series less than the company had expected.

He said that Ford sold about 255,000 pickup trucks in the second quarter, its best performance in 15 years.

Ford and other automakers have been moving away from car production and toward SUVs and pickups because of shifting consumer demand and because of higher profit margins in the larger vehicles. SUV and trucks comprised 83% of Ford’s second-quarter sales, up 4 percentage points from a year ago, and the company’s average transaction price was $36,400, up $1,500 from the second quarter of last year. —Boris Ladwig

Humana hiring temps for Medicare enrollment

A photo of the Humana logo on the side of a downtown Louisville office

Photo by Boris Ladwig

Humana plans to hire 475 temporary employees to help process new patients who sign up for Medicare Advantage in October.

The number is nearly 20 percent higher than the number of seasonal workers the insurer planned to hire at a job fair last summer.

The employees will be based downtown and work for six months or less, starting between Sept. 3 and Oct. 7. Open enrollment for Medicare begins Oct. 15. Interviews will be conducted from July 27 to Sept. 13. Candidates should search for requisition number R-218859 on Humana’s careers website.

The seasonal employees will be tasked with reviewing and processing customer applications, responding to inquiries and reconciling application information before it is entered into Humana’s systems. Humana said it is “looking for professionals with customer service experience, attention to detail, and proficiency in Microsoft Word and Excel.”

Humana provided no details about how much the employees would be paid or whether they would get benefits such as health insurance. Last year, the insurer perks include the jobs are conveniently located on a TARC bus line, that workers have access to a fitness center at reduced rates and that the company’s cafeteria “offers healthy choices every day.”

On the jobs website, about 5,400 reviewers gave the job an average of nearly four out of five stars, with some calling Humana a “productive and fun workplace,” an “employee-oriented place to work” and “a great company to work for.” Some negative reviews focused on a lack of advancement opportunities, while one complained about a heavy workload. Humana got the highest scores, an average 3.7, for pay and benefits. —Boris Ladwig

Norton gets bond rating boost

Norton Healthcare’s bond rating has been raised by S&P Global, based on the health system’s improved operations.

S&P said this week that it had raised long-term and underlying ratings on bonds issued for Norton by Louisville and Jefferson County Metropolitan Government.

“The rating action reflects our view of Norton’s ability to execute on its strategic plans at a level that has helped improve operations while also improving the balance sheet,” an S&P Global credit analyst, Brian Williamson, said in a filing.

“The stable outlook reflects our anticipation that the system’s enterprise profile will be sustained as Norton continues to successfully complete its capital spending and execute its strategic plan while maintaining its market position,” the rating agency said.

Bond ratings reflect the rating agency’s evaluation of an issuer’s ability to pay off the bond and interest. A better rating means lower risk to bondholders and lower borrowing expenses for the bond issuer.

A portrait of Adam D. Kempf

Adam D. Kempf

Norton CFO Adam D. Kempf told Insider via email: “As the report noted, a significant part of our plan is investment in our facilities, programs and services to improve access and meet the growing needs of our community. This includes the nearly $165 million in community benefit that we provide through charity care, community service, educational support, sponsorships and unpaid Medicaid support.” —Boris Ladwig

Kentucky Artisan Distillery names Jade Peterson as its master distiller

Jade Peterson

Jade Peterson | Courtesy

Five years ago, Jade Peterson started working at Crestwood’s Kentucky Artisan Distillery, home of Jefferson’s Reserve Bourbon, without having any distilling experience whatsoever.

But with a background in logistics and manufacturing, he quickly worked his way up the still, so to speak, and now has been named the company’s master distiller.

While Peterson was learning the ropes, the distillery has gone from producing 50 barrels a year to more than 2,500 so far in 2019. According to a news release, Peterson has been directly involved with just about every aspect of this growth.

Also of note, Peterson has distilled a new bourbon brand for Kentucky Artisan called Billy Goat Strut, which joins the distillery’s family along with Jefferson’s and the Whiskey Row series. There wasn’t much detail about the product in the release, and Insider’s inquiry for more information was not returned in time for publication.

What the release did say was Billy Goat Strut is a product Peterson can call his own, and he’ll be developing even more brands throughout the years. —Sara Havens

CHANGEMAKERS Conference to feature the author of ‘Uncharitable’

Author Dan Pallotta

Dan Pallotta | Courtesy CNPE

An author who’s known for challenging typical nonprofit ideology will headline the Center for Nonprofit Excellence’s upcoming conference in Louisville.

Dan Pallotta, author of “Uncharitable: How Restraints on Nonprofits Undermine Their Potential,” will be the keynote speaker at the 2019 CHANGEMAKERS Conference, taking place Oct. 15 at the Louisville Marriott Downtown.

The event, which is open to the public, is designed to bring together leaders from the nonprofit, corporate and public sectors and engage them in “critical community conversations,” CNPE Board Chair Tess McNair said in a news release.

“Dan Pallotta’s visit will help our community think differently and boldly about the role our nonprofits play,” McNair said. “More than ever, the prosperity of our community requires courageous leadership and reinventing the way the public, private and nonprofit sectors work together.”

Tickets for the event are available now. Members have access to early bird pricing of $195 until Sept. 15. Non-members can purchase tickets for $395. For more information, call 502-315-2673. —Darla Carter