Monday Business Briefing: Big GLI departure, River Ridge leading growth across the river, flu hits Humana, and more
Welcome to the May 4 Monday Business Briefing.
This is your private business intelligence briefing, with Insider Louisville staff and contributors vetting tips collected during the past few days, hours and minutes before we post.
Let us be the first to welcome you back to reality. We know these past few weeks have been all about Louisville and the Derby, but you’d be downright negligent to miss what’s been happening across the river. There’s a new real estate show coming to local TV, but we don’t think HGTV is concerned. Meanwhile, more big changes are in store for GLI.
GLI VP departing for Chicago
We recently told you that some high-level Louisville Slugger employees were being relocated to Chicago, home base of Wilson Sporting Goods, which just completed its $70 million acquisition of the iconic Louisville brand.
One them is Caroline Reddish, Hillerich & Bradsby’s director of retail marketing. She’s also married to James Reddish, GLI’s VP of economic and workforce development. And GLI confirmed to IL that Reddish, too, will depart our fair city. He’s been with the chamber for five years and will step down in June.
“I sincerely thank James for his five years of service at GLI, during which he closed critical attraction, expansion and retention projects, as well as advanced the ball on workforce and talent,” said GLI president and CEO Kent Oyler.
Reddish didn’t respond to an email requesting comment.
In his position, Reddish had the sometimes difficult task of convincing companies looking to expand or relocate of the virtues of the region’s workforce, which has continued to lag in educational attainment — just 16 percent of the city’s residents older than 25 have a bachelor’s degree — and less than half of that number have a master’s degree. For companies looking to hire computer engineers, developers or others in the field, for instance, the pickings are slim.
Among the efforts to turn that tide is Code Louisville, which offers free software training to residents and recently caught the attention of President Obama. While GLI is a partner to that program, it’s being led by Mayor Greg Fischer and is funded by a federal grant.
Reddish was among a cadre of top GLI officials who remained after last year’s shakeup, prompted by dwindling membership and funding at the chamber and culminating in Fischer’s cancellation of the city’s nearly $1 million contract with the organization. The mayor assumed control of all economic development activities, including expansion, retention and real estate development efforts, under Metro’s Louisville Forward banner.
While Reddish’s departure was unrelated to the changes at GLI, insiders say the chamber is still working to find its footing after a difficult transition. Under Oyler’s direction, GLI has expanded its advocacy efforts, focusing more on education and lobbying — particularly in Frankfort. This session, GLI fought for legislation loosening regulations on telecom providers (it succeeded) and for the local option sales tax (which stalled again).
GLI also has doubled down on its efforts to promote regionalism; on Thursday, Oyler released a statement lauding the Indiana General Assembly for approving the full $84 million in funding for the Southern Regional Cities Initiative, which One Southern Indiana, the region’s chamber, had also pushed. (More on that below.)
More big deals on the horizon for River Ridge, Southern Indiana
Last week was a good one for the economic development folks in Southern Indiana.
As we mentioned earlier, the state’s General Assembly approved a biennial budget that includes $84 million for the Indiana Regional Cities Initiative. That’s leverage funding that could ultimately provide incentives to lure employers to the three-county region across the river. And as IL reported Wednesday, River Ridge — the booming 6,000-acre commerce and industrial park — picked up another expansion, as D.A. Inc., a supplier in the auto parts chain, is pumping $10.6 million into a new 38,000-square-foot manufacturing facility there.
There’s a lot more to come.
Jerry Acy, River Ridge’s executive director, confirmed to IL on Thursday the business park has at least eight more major deals on the horizon. He said he expects at least $50 million will be spent in buildout alone at the park this year.
“We’ve got a tremendous amount of activity and interest in some smaller sites — from five acres up to larger sites, including 175 acres or so,” he said. “And multiple inquiries — we’ve got several pending potential sales we’re negotiating letters of intent on, and other active projects.”
Acy said the East End Bridge is going to fuel additional growth at the park, which is 10 percent full. The I-265 interchange will connect directly to River Ridge via a heavy-haul access road.
But while doubling and tripling down on logistics and advanced manufacturing is a good regional bet, Southern Indiana’s economic development efforts are facing some of the same pressures Louisville’s are; namely, an educated workforce. It’s a chorus we’ve been hearing quite often.
“Almost every company right now will say one of their No. 1 site location criteria concerns is workforce,” said Wendy Dant Chesser, president and CEO of One Southern Indiana, the region’s chamber of commerce. “There are companies looking for people to fill positions they can’t fill.” That goes from desk jobs to floor and line work, she added.
Chesser also praised River Ridge, whose biggest client in terms of square footage is Amazon and its 1 million square foot fulfillment center, saying the business park is part of a big puzzle in Southern Indiana that’s coming together.
Humana’s most recent quarterly earnings conference call showed the firm upping its earnings and revenues. At the same time, it also faced challenges in Georgia and saw an uptick in hospital admissions in March and April.
In a conference call with analysts, Humana CEO Bruce Broussard highlighted the firm’s earnings of $2.47 per share — a 5 percent jump over the past year that still disappointed Wall Street. He also noted the firm’s $744 million in earnings was a record high. Humana also reaffirmed full-year earnings guidance of $8.50 to $9.
Broussard highlighted the firm’s growth in individual Medicare Advantage membership, up 14 percent year-over-year. “We had substantial membership growth in our Medicare Advantage standalone (prescription drug program) and Humana One products,” he said.
Broussard also was excited about Humana’s progress with regard to the Affordable Care Act.
“We believe that health care exchanges are a leading example of the ongoing movement to the retail model, where we have been so effective in Medicare,” he said. He added the firm’s expansion into health care exchanges and its state-based contracts are deepening partnerships with local providers.
Humana also faced some headwinds. Chief Financial Officer Brian Kane noted how the firm had a slight uptick in hospital use by its Medicare Advantage members in March and April, “which … are slightly higher than we had anticipated,” he said. Chief Operating Officer James Murray said this increased hospital use may be linked to respiratory issues that stemmed from an unusually long flu season.
Kane also noted the firm’s “poor results” in Georgia and said recent actuarial claims from that state show its enrollees are skewing toward being a “less healthy state population” than Humana had anticipated and priced for.
Eleven Louisville-area entrepreneurs have made it to the regional finals of the Ernst and Young Entrepreneur of the Year Award for the Ohio Valley. They represent nine out of the 27 companies to put forth regional winners.
The finalists are:
- Steve Huey of Capture Higher Ed
- Jason Mulvane of Blue Ocean Traders
- Mark Eley of ID+A
- Craig Ruteledge of LSS Holdings
- Purna Veer of V-Soft Consulting Group
- Melanie and Josh Rosenthal and Burak Sezen of RowdMap
- Mark Franco of Mixer Direct
- Joe Steier of Signature HealthCARE
- Victor Swami of Areva Pharmaceuticals and ADIO Health Management
The awards gala will be held on June 4 in Cincinnati, and winners will be announced there.
Speaking of GLI’s top execs …
Terry Gill took over GLI’s EnterpriseCorp, the division of the chamber that works with startup and fast-growth — or gazelle — companies, in December. We touched base with him when he first entered the position, and we caught up with him again last week.
We’ll have a more in-depth feature on our discussion with Gill soon. But in general, what has he been up to?
Back in February, he testified on behalf of equity crowdfunding legislation sponsored by state Rep. Steve Riggs. He’s also been working hard behind the scenes to foster corporate and private sector engagement with the startup and small company spaces. For example, he held the most recent board meeting at FirstBuild, so he could show them what corporate engagement could look like.
Next week, Gill is starting a “tour” of cities with exciting entrepreneurial cultures to mine them for some of their best practices. Nashville and St. Louis are first up.
More to come …
Stites & Harbison named a ‘brand leader’
The Louisville-founded law firm Stites & Harbison has been named a “brand leader,” an elite ranking among law firms, by the BTI Consulting Group in its just-released report.
BTI provides research for the law field. To gather information for this list BTI conducted surveys of general counsels at what it called “large organizations,” with $1 billion or more in revenue. There were 648 surveys conducted. No firms can self-nominate, refer clients or pay to be included in the survey. The only law firms included are those identified by clients, without being prompted.
Stites made the list due to improvements it made in client service and its innovation in improving the client experience, said Michael Rynowecer, president of the BTI Consulting Group.
“Stites undertook a number of initiatives,” he told IL. “These include obtaining client feedback from a large number of clients, training attorneys and administrative staff in client service skills, and embedding new procedures which make the client the focus of the firm.”
BTI asked clients which law firms it associated with nine characteristics that would help them hire a firm. And these are the nine:
- Recommended: You are recommended first to peers and colleagues without prompting.
- Short-Listed: Your firm is considered first for hiring in new assignments.
- Be-the-Company: A safe choice for most complex and high-risk work.
- Survivors: More likely than others to be an industry leader over the long term.
- Movers & Shakers: Delivering new and valuable services or behaviors other firms don’t.
- Tech-Savvy: Using technology more effectively or in new ways to add value.
- Value Drivers: Making changes in process or the client experience to add value.
- Client Service Strategists: Making changes other firms don’t to improve the client experience.
- Premium Worthy: Clients pay above market rates and believe you are worth every penny and more.
Naturally, Stites Chair Robert Connolly was pleased. “It confirms our commitment to the highest quality service and the value we place on each and every client relationship,” he said in a statement.
Stites started in Louisville in 1832 (yes, you read that right — it’s one of the oldest law firms in the nation) and now has 10 offices in five states. It’s among the largest law firms in the Southeast.
Because there just aren’t enough shows about real estate on television, WBNA 21 has decided to add one more — this one all local. It’s called “Your Kentuckiana Home,” and it airs at 12:30 p.m. on Sundays.
WBNA describes the show as Louisville’s only local real estate and home improvement program. It will feature local personalities on the real estate, building and remodeling scenes. It’s hosted by Kimberly Greenwell and is an hour long. Remodeling experts from Lowe’s stores provide home remodeling tips each show, with a dedicated home improvement segment.
The first show ran this past Sunday and featured Dave Parks, a broker with Berkshire Hathaway, Parks & Weisberg; Joe and Rocky Pusateri, with Elite Homes and Ken Thieneman Builders; Rocco Pigneri, with Ball Homes; Lisa Lynn Knight, with Lisa Lynn Designs and Semonin Realtors.
Tom Fawbush, general manager at WBNA, explained how the show’s guests are chosen.
“We reach out to the top local builders, developers, remodelers, designers, and real estate agents in the market and ask them to be part of the program if we have a certain segment or topic we need their perspective on,” he told IL in an email.
IL also asked if any of the guests pay to be on the show. “We also have many sponsored segments by these same folks,” Fawbush wrote. “In-show content is much more valuable than just a commercial and many companies realize that. So they are anxious to help us develop the program, and also sponsor the content.”