Monday Business Briefing: Health care company to create hundreds of lucrative jobs in Louisville, new venture fund launched, local stocks soar, and more

Welcome to the Feb. 1 Monday Business Briefing, your private business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Health care company plans to invest $42 million, create 650 jobs

An Arlington, Va.-based health care consulting company plans to create nearly 650 jobs and invest about $42 million to create a regional headquarters in Louisville.

Evolent Health Logo (PRNewsFoto/Evolent Health, Inc.)Evolent Health said in filings with the state that it is considering a Medicaid Center of Excellence here “to serve as the regional headquarters of its national Medicaid business.”

The company sees the center as a way “to provide expertise, operational support and innovative patient-centered care solutions” to improve the delivery of Medicaid services.

The filing indicates that the company would invest $26.4 million in rent, $3.1 million in the building/improvements and incur $12.2 million in other startup costs.

It plans initially to create 200 jobs and up to 647 in its fourth year, with average hourly wages of $38 or nearly $80,000 annually.

The company received a preliminary approval for $10 million in tax incentives, according to the Kentucky Cabinet for Economic Development.

The company declined to provide more details on its plans.

Frank Williams

Frank Williams

According to its website, Evolent Health provides “clinical, analytical and financial capabilities  (to help) physicians and health systems achieve superior quality and cost results.” Its services include strategy consulting, technology and risk adjustment.

Evolent, which went public last year, reported a third-quarter net loss of $12 million. Revenues, at $43 million, were up 45 percent from a year earlier.

CEO Frank Williams said he was pleased with the results and said the company remains “on track to meet (its) strategic, operational and financial objectives for 2015.”

The company’s shares, which traded above $22 last summer, have lost more than half their value. Shares traded below $10 on Friday.—Boris Ladwig

Half Court Ventures new early stage venture fund

Native Louisville entrepreneurs Todd Earwood and Rob May have co-founded Half Court Ventures, a venture fund for early-stage companies. They’ve put together a group of 10 investors, many of whom are local and all of whom they know or are friends of friends. They expect to close on a $3 million round in February.

Earwood is founder and CEO of MoneyPath, a lead generation system. May relocated from Louisville to Boston with his company Backupify back in 2012. In late 2014, Datto, which provides cloud computing during disasters and crises, acquired Backupify for a significant, undisclosed sum. Now May is working on machine learning and artificial intelligence.

May and Earwood already have made three investments with Half Court Ventures. They are looking at companies in the tech, SaaS, health care device and AI/machine learning sectors. Those are the fields in which May and Earwood feel like their help, network and advice will be most valuable.

Investments will range between $25,000 and a couple hundred thousand dollars. Earwood said they would be “geo-agnostic,” meaning the location of a company will have no play in their decision to invest. Earwood travels a ton already; he said a travel-tracking app on his iPhone informed him that he traveled 34 percent of the days in 2015.

Earwood said, “The impetus to do this was that we were being asked to look at other deals by other venture capitalists.” He said it was fun to consult with these young companies, but because he wasn’t the one who was investing, usually the relationship ended there. He didn’t get to watch these companies grow (or not) because of the election. He said that his and May’s “lifestyles are already built around startups.”

They’ve been friends for 10 years. —Melissa Chipman

Stocks soar to close out the month; Ford, Humana gain nearly 2 percent

Philippine-stock-market-boardThe Dow Jones Industrial Average soared 400 points Friday, and some stocks of local importance got a nice boost at the end of a terrible month for the markets.

The Dow was up 2.5 percent Friday, as was the S&P 500 — though for the month, the Dow was still down 958 points or 5.5 percent.

Friday’s gains, in percent, for companies with local importance:

  • UPS: 2.42
  • Humana: 1.88
  • Aetna: 3.09
  • Ford Motor Co.: 1.96
  • Yum! Brands: 2.78
  • General Electric: 3.15
  • Kroger: 2.62
  • Kindred Healthcare: 6.04

New hotel proposed near Louisville airport

A new 113-unit hotel is planned at 6600 Paramount Park Drive on the backside of Louisville International Airport.

Brentwood, Tenn.-based General Hospitality Services bought the 2.2-acre property in December for $630,000 and plans to open a Candlewood Suites brand hotel there.

General Hospitality Services will build a 64,000-square-foot, four story hotel with an attached indoor pool and 136 parking spaces. Kentuckiana-based firm Heritage Engineering is working on the project.

No other information was provided in the design plans submitted to Louisville-Jefferson County Metro Government. Calls to General Hospitality Services did not return multiple calls for comment.

Candlewood Suites are typically extended-stay hotels with 24-hour fitness centers, free guest laundry, in-room work spaces with free Wi-Fi and full kitchens in every suite. —Caitlin Bowling

Art gallery, bed and breakfast relocates to New Albany

Linda Williams stood outside Chestnuts and Pearls new location in New Albany. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Linda Williams outside Chestnuts and Pearls new location in New Albany | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Last month, Insider Louisville told you that Bread and Breakfast had closed and a new business was moving in to 157 E. Main St.

Chestnuts and Pearls, an art gallery, antique shop and one-room bed and breakfast, is said business.

Owner Linda Williams is selling Old Bridge Inn, a five-room B&B in Jeffersonville that she ran for more than a decade, and is moving her business to New Albany. She’s also shaking up the business model a bit.

“A little birdie told me I should come over here,” she told IL. New Albany is going through a “renaissance,” and “I want to be a part of that.”

New Albany has seen an influx of new businesses, including several well-reviewed restaurants, and its downtown has sprung to life, so much so that Indianapolis-based residential real estate company Flaherty and Collins Properties is building a 191-unit apartment complex there.

Williams said her B&B in Jeffersonville was successful, but it wasn’t what she wanted to do anymore, which is why she tried running an art gallery — also called Chestnuts and Pearls — out of the Old Bridge Inn for a while. Now, she wants to make art a more full-time gig.

Williams, a visual artist who works with watercolors and acrylic paints, said she wasn’t able to balance the gallery and large B&B. “Having a five-room establishment leaves no room in your day,” she said.

With only one rental room at Chestnut and Pearls in New Albany, Williams will have more time — plus, she won’t be living in her business like she did at Old Bridge Inn. “This is what I call semi-retirement,” Williams said.

Chestnut and Pearls is expected to open in New Albany sometime in March. Williams and her husband are making cosmetic changes to the building, installing new floors and lighting, and upgrading all the appliances and furniture in the former second-floor apartment that will serve as the B&B guestroom.

Chestnut and Pearls will have art and antiques displayed on every floor of the three-story building. It will host art shows throughout the year with artists from the greater Louisville area and Indiana, and Williams plans to offer art classes. She currently is looking for qualified professionals who are interested in hosting classes.

The Main Street business also will serve as the headquarters for the Southern Indiana Guild of Artisans. With fewer B&B duties to worry about, Williams said, she wants to work on building the art organization’s membership. —Caitlin Bowling

Regional home sales jump up nearly 12 percent

Photo of a home in Springhurst Louisville KY

Move-in ready homes sold quickly in 2015.

Homes moved like hotcakes in Louisville in 2015, according to recently released numbers from the Greater Louisville Association of Realtors.

Realtors sold 1,739 more houses and condominiums in 2015 than in 2014, an almost 12 percent increase in sales. The average home price was $191,333, a 6.3 percent rise over 2014. Those numbers include Jefferson, Bullitt and Oldham counties.

Jefferson County alone performed even better, with a 13.2 percent increase in home and condo sales. The average price of the 11,258 homes and condos was $190,764.

National Association of Realtors chief economist Lawrence Yun insinuated that home sales could have been even better nationally.

“Home prices rising too sharply in several markets, mixed signs of an economy losing momentum and waning supply levels have acted as headwinds in recent months despite low mortgage rates and solid job gains,” Yun said in a news release. “While feedback from Realtors continues to suggest healthy levels of buyer interest, available listings that are move-in ready and in affordable price ranges remain hard to come by for many would-be buyers.” —Caitlin Bowling

Dates for Louisville’s eighth Startup Weekend announced

For the first time ever, the College of Business at the University of Louisville, home to nationally ranked entrepreneurial programs, will host the next Startup Weekend Louisville. The 54-hour event will be held March 11-13 at Harry Frazier Hall.

Startup Weekend is an international event where attendees come to pitch and create companies over the course of a weekend. On Friday, people pitch companies, the attendees choose the best ideas and form teams. Then the teams work all weekend long to build a business. At the end, teams pitch to a panel of judges who award prizes. All weekend long, the Startup Weekend crew feeds the teams, brings in mentors and shares advice.

“UofL College of Business students, alumni and faculty share a rich history of entrepreneurship and are frequently recognized in national and international rankings. We are honored to host Startup Weekend’s budding entrepreneurs and look forward to what they create during the weekend event,” said Interim Dean Dr. Rohan Christie-David in a news release.

Tickets are on sale now, and early bird pricing starts at $39. Check it out here. –Melissa Chipman

CEO of email marketing firm Delivra predicts 40 percent growth this year

Neil Berman

Neil Berman

Indianapolis-based email marketing company Delivra expanded its client base by 20 percent last year and expects that growth to double this year, as it opens more offices and adds staff to existing locations, including Louisville.

The company opened an office in Ft. Wayne, Ind., last May, and opened locations in Chicago and Louisville in September. Delivra just hired a fourth employee in its Louisville office. It has job openings in design and sales in various locations.

Delivra provides a web-based email marketing software platform that lets customers customize their messages. The company also provides support services to help the customers reach their email marketing goals. Support services include creating, sending and tracking messages to make sure they reach their targets.

CEO Neil Berman told IL that about 98 percent of email messages sent today are spam, and most of them get filtered, which means a company that simply sends out thousands of marketing emails is likely to see most of them land in spam folders. And, the sender likely won’t have any way of knowing where the message landed.

“We will tell you that.” Berman said.

Delivra also provides dedicated account management and tech support and interviews clients about their goals to customize the email marketing approach. It’s tough to have those conversations over the phone, Berman said, which has prompted the company to open offices in places such as Louisville.

delivra-new-logoDelivra targets privately held companies with revenues between $5 million and $50 million and marketing departments of up to five people.

Berman launched the company in 1999 but had walked away from it in 2009 after his wife died. When he decided to return, he hired a research firm, figured out how to update the business, and implemented the plan in 2014.

Among the company’s biggest accomplishments, he said, is that it has repeatedly been named one of Indiana’s best places to work, an honor that only 100 out of 30,000 companies receive.

Later this year, Delivra will launch a free e-learning academy that will offer anyone — client or not — the opportunity to learn about email marketing. The self-guided course can be helpful for doctors who are trying to reach patients, colleges trying to reach students, or an organization trying to reach its members. —Boris Ladwig

Ford union members to get record profit sharing

Black_Ford_Fiesta_X100_-_008Ford Motor Co. said that based on its record earnings for 2015, eligible hourly United Auto Workers employees at the Kentucky Truck and Louisville Assembly plants will receive record profit sharing March 10.

Per the UAW-Ford contract, each eligible employee will receive about $9,300 on a full-year basis, Ford said. Individual amounts may be higher or lower, based on the number of hours worked. The amount also is subject to income taxes, Social Security and other withholdings.

Ford employs about 10,000 in the Louisville area. Workers produce the Ford F-Series Super Duty, the Lincoln Navigator and Ford Expedition SUVs at the Kentucky Truck Plant, and the Ford Escape SUV at the Louisville Assembly Plant. —Boris Ladwig

Woodford Reserve releases new Distillery Series whiskey: Frosty Four Wood

Frosty Four Wood | Courtesy of Woodford Reserve

Frosty Four Wood | Courtesy of Woodford Reserve

What would happen if you took some already fine bourbon that was aged in American oak and finished it in barrels made from maple, sherry and port wood? Sounds like an experiment of a mad scientist, but Woodford Reserve master distiller Chris Morris is quite the opposite — he knows exactly what he’s doing. The latest in the Distillery Series expression, called Frosty Four Wood, was released last week.

The 90.4-proof whiskey is the last of Morris’ 2012 Master’s Collection release, also called Four Wood. However, during the winter of 2013, as these leftover barrels were still seasoning their whiskey, they were exposed to record-low temperatures during the Polar Vortex, which produced a more fruit-forward spirit with hints of maple due to the excessive flocking, or mineral precipitation.

“Frosty Four Wood is the last of a historic whiskey specialty, as the original Four Wood was the first of its kind to touch four different barrels,” explained Morris in a press release. “It represents a rare moment that extends beyond bourbon and amplifies current flavors found in Woodford Reserve.”

The Distillery Series began in July of 2015 with the delicious Double Double Oaked and the savory Sweet Mash Redux. Frosty Four Wood joins these two on select liquor store shelves and is also available for purchase at the distillery in Versailles for $49.99 for a 375ml bottle. —Sara Havens