Local News Uncategorized

Yale Students Present Downtown Distillery Designs for Louisville

Design by John Lacy

The students from the Yale School of Architecture who visited Louisville in February have unveiled their designs for a distillery downtown.

The students studied the region on their visit, with a specific focus on Louisville’s downtown and the bourbon industry. Their task was to each design a distillery that could stand near First and Main streets, across from the Whiskey Row buildings.

Bringing the traditionally rural practice of distilling bourbon to an urban environment was only one challenge the students faced. During their visit, professor and architect Deborah Berke told WFPL “I think they’ll be torn from wanting to make something that’s very modern that reflects distilling technology and the 20th century environment they want to be a part of and responding to the historic context.”

The designs also had to follow building codes and laws and balance the infrastructure realities of the city with designs that could bring large trucks, pollution and other side effects of manufacturing downtown.

Local News

General Electric Begins Manufacturing New Hybrid Water Heater in Appliance Park

General Electric is trying to reverse decades of outsourcing by doing something it hasn’t done in over 50 years, opening a new manufacturing operation in Louisville.

China is where earlier versions of the GeoSpring Water Heater were manufactured. But Louisville’s Appliance Park has since advanced, and will now build the new energy-efficient hybrid GeoSpring.

“The product was designed, engineered and assembled right here in Louisville. The previous generation of GeoSpring was made overseas and we actually brought that manufacturing back here to Louisville,” said Steve Downer, a general manager at Louisville’s Appliance Park.

GE’s $800 million commitment to the plant is part of the company’s larger $1 billion commitment in 2009 to bring 1,400 jobs to the United States by 2014; for Louisville’s Appliance Park, this means 1,000 jobs.

The facility currently has around 4,000 employees and has recently added 100 new workers to build the new model of water heater.

“Any future expansions and employees will be driven by market adoption and how well this thing performs,” said Downer.

State and local governments have offered GE $17 million in tax incentives, based on performance goals the company must meet. Employees will start at $13 an hour, which is significantly less than current employees make, but Downer said that was part of the agreement to develop locally.

GE is also investing in its Bloomington, Indiana and Decatur, Georgia facilities.

Local News Next Louisville Politics

Fischer Chooses Economic Development Director to Lead Bloomberg Project

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer has chosen a member of his cabinet to lead a grant-funded project to develop a new manufacturing region with Lexington.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is giving Louisville and several other cities grants to form so-called innovation teams to carry out municipal improvement projects.

Fischer has tapped interim Economic Development Director Margaret Handmaker to lead the project locally. Mayor’s spokesman Chris Poynter says Fischer interviewed many potential candidates in and out of Metro Government. Bloomberg officials helped choose Handmaker and will continue to work on the project for the next three years.

“Basically, Bloomberg’s role, in addition to funding the initiative, they will be bringing in their experts from around the country to Louisville for meetings and to work directly with Margaret and the team Margaret is about to assembly to work on what we call the innovation teams,” says Poynter.

Bloomberg gave Louisville $4.8 million for the project. The city is contributing an additional $2.4 million.

Handmaker has been conducting a review of the city’s economic development strategy. She’ll assume her new duties in December and step down from her current post.

“The mayor’s goal is to have a permanent [economic development] director named by the end of the year, which would coincide with Margaret’s report of changes to the city’s economic development strategy,” says Poynter.

Handmaker’s salary in the new position and the salaries of her appointees will be paid from the project fund.

Local News Next Louisville Politics

Louisville to Receive $4.8 Million Bloomberg Grant

Louisville is among five cities chosen to receive money and assistance from the philanthropic arm of the Bloomberg company.

Bloomberg Philanthropies is giving a total of $24 million to Louisville, Atlanta, Chicago, Memphis and New Orleans. The money will essentially pay for brain power, through what the charity is calling innovation teams. They’ll work with local governments to address pressing issues identified by city leaders.

In Louisville, the team will take on two tasks: government efficiency and jobs. That means creating LouieStat, Mayor Greg Fischer’s proposed public database of most city information, from department spending to pothole locations and repair schedules.

The team will also look at Fischer’s plan for a so-called super region with Lexington. The two mayors proposed the idea earlier this month, and the Bloomberg grant will be used to research how an updated manufacturing industry can link the cities.

Louisville will receive $4.8 million from Bloomberg over the next three years. That must be matched by $2.4 million in local money. The mayor’s office says that will likely come from the general fund as well as local foundations and businesses.

Local News

Report Finds Rapid Growth of Vacant Properties, Room for More Manufacturing

The epidemic of vacant properties in Louisville is growing. That’s one of the many facts cited in the latest annual Competitive City Report from the Greater Louisville Project.

According to the report, in some areas of the city, more than 15 percent of homes and business are vacant. The 2010 Census puts the average for Metro Louisville at 8.4 percent. But it’s hard to measure. As homes are abandoned, foreclosed, sold and destroyed, the count stays fluid.

What is clear is that neighborhoods in the West End have been hit the worst and the population of the suburbs has grown. But Metropolitan Housing Coalition director Cathy Hinko says those two figures aren’t necessarily related. It’s unlikely that a family would be in foreclosure, then move to a suburb.

Local News

Ford Earnings Surpass Expectations

The Ford Motor Company’s performance in the first quarter of this year was the automaker’s best since 1998.

Ford earned $2.6 billion in the quarter, surpassing Wall Street estimates by half a billion dollars. Company officials attribute the earnings to new vehicles and price increases that offset the rise in cost of raw materials. Ford’s Louisville Assembly Plant is currently being retooled to manufacture new vehicles, including several models of the Escape.

Officials say last month’s earthquake and tsunami in Japan have not significantly hurt the company, as it has Japanese automakers. Ford has stopped production at several Asian plants this week, but the shutdowns are not expected to hurt profits.

Ford is also making progress in paying down a $23 billion loan taken out in 2006. The company ended the quarter with $16.6 billion yet to be paid, after ending 2010 more than $19 billion in debt.

Local News

Toyota Officials Say North American Plants Will Likely Stop Production

A Toyota Motor Company spokesperson says reports from Monday afternoon about impending plant shutdowns were not entirely accurate.

Jim Wiseman says North American Toyota manufacturers will likely face a shortage of parts from Japan, and that will likely lead to some or all of the 13 factories halting production until new parts arrive, but no further decisions have been made.

“We’ve said it’s likely and we continue to think that,” he says. “But beyond that, we don’t really have anything to add at this point until we’re sure how to deal with shortages that may occur.”

Wiseman says it’s not known how long any potential shutdowns will last. That depends on how severe the parts shortage is.

“All automakers use tier one supplies that directly send us parts. And those suppliers, in turn, use tier two or tier three suppliers tat supply them. So this is a very complicated situation and we’re talking about thousands of suppliers if you look down to tier two or tier three and so forth,” he says.

Wiseman says no layoffs are planned, and workers at shut down factories will still be able to show up for work and receive additional training. Workers may also take vacation or unpaid leave during any breaks in production. Wiseman further says many dealerships have ample stocks of Toyotas, and a shortage of vehicles cannot be predicted at this time.

Local News

Toyota Likely to Temporarily Shut Down North American Plants

Due to a shortage of parts from Japan, the Toyota Motor Company will halt production at its North American factories.

Spokesperson Tania Saldana says the plants will remain open, but will not produce vehicles. Workers will not be laid off and may either show up for work and go through additional training or take vacation or unpaid time off. She says it hasn’t yet been decided how long the shutdowns will last or whether all of the automaker’s North American plants will stop producing vehicles.

Toyota employs about 25,000 workers at more than a dozen factories in North America, including facilities in Kentucky and Indiana.

About 15% of the parts used in those plants come from Japan.

Local News

Beshear Says Ford CEO Positive On Louisville's Future

Kentucky Governor Steve Beshear met with Ford Motor Company CEO Alan Mulally this week, and he says the conversation was encouraging.

With Ford upgrading the Louisville Assembly Plant to produce new vehicles, Beshear says he’d been planning to meet with Mulally for weeks. They convened on Monday and Beshear says Mulally told him that Ford’s future in Louisville is bright, though there’s no guarantee of further expansion in the city.

“We don’t have any particular news at this time, but he just indicated that Louisville is part of Ford’s future and I think that’s a good sign for us here,” he says.

Louisville is also home to Ford’s Kentucky Truck Plant. Beshear says he plans to have more meetings with Mulally in the coming months.

State of Affairs

How Can Kentucky Manufacturers Compete in the Future?

Tuesday, July 28, 2009
How Can Kentucky Manufacturers Compete in the Future?
“The fight for American manufacturing is the fight for America’s future,” the New York Times quoted President Obama saying in a recent article. Due to longtime losses to foreign competition and more recent declines associated with the effects of the national recession, the president is surely referring to one tough fight. So what does the future look like for manufacturing in Kentucky? Join us Tuesday as we discuss this topic with local and national manufacturing experts.

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