Welcome to the Jan. 8 Monday Business Briefing, your business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Dow Jones crosses to a record above 25,000, some local stocks surge

Courtesy of KentuckianaWorks

Solid economic reports from the U.S., Europe and China in the first week of 2018 pushed the Dow Jones industrial average to a new record, above 25,000. Through Friday, the Dow had gained nearly 2 percent for the year, in only four trading days. The broader S&P 500 posted an even bigger gain.

Markets rose on Friday despite a disappointing jobs report from the U.S. Department of Labor.

Shares of some Louisville-based companies, too, have surged in the new year: Humana and Papa John’s each gained more than 5 percent in the year’s first trading week. Churchill Downs was up nearly 2 percent.

About half of Americans own stock, according to Gallup, though the share has been declining from about 65 percent in the last decade. And, Deutsche Bank said last week, most people who do own stocks aren’t invested heavily: The company said that the value of the holdings of only 25 percent of people exceeds $25,000.

U.S. employers added 148,00 jobs in December, the DOL said. Economists had expected 190,000 jobs, according to CNBC. The economy added nearly 2.1 million jobs last year, a solid number — though it was the lowest in seven years.

The nation’s unemployment rate in December was 4.1 percent. Louisville’s unemployment rate last month was 3.5 percent, down 0.2 percentage points from December 2016, according to KentuckianaWorks. The metro’s labor force stood at 664,724 last month, up about 19,000, or more than 3 percent from a year ago. —Boris Ladwig

Sushi restaurant downtown closes

The restaurant closed just before 2018. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Bendoya Restaurant and Sushi Bar at 217 S. Fifth St. has closed.

The sushi restaurant, best known among downtown workers for its 2-for-1 sushi special Tuesday, Thursday and Friday, announced on Facebook just before the New Year that is was closing after 10 years in business.

The post stated: “As some of you may have noticed, Bendoya is now up for lease. Chef Paul wanted a fresh start into the new year. He will be opening something big and new for 2018! Don’t want to spoil too much for you guys. Thank you all so much for the love and support! We will be keeping you all updated on when the new place will be open. Ta ta for now!”

Insider has reached out to Chef Paul to see if he’s willing to reveal any details. We’ll keep you posted. — Caitlin Bowling

Papa John’s is working on partnership with rapper Lil John

While they may seem like the odd couple, Papa John’s is in talks to Lil Jon about featuring the rapper in future promotions for the Louisville pizza chain, including a possible Super Bowl feature, according to AdAge.

After the news broke that founder John Schnatter was stepping down following controversial comments about the NFL, Lil John tweeted that he’d like to be Papa John’s new CEO.

After that, Papa John’s reached out, the company’s Chief Marketing Officer Brandon Rhoten told AdAge.

It’s unclear as of yet how Papa John’s plans to use Lil Jon to market its pizza, but Rhoten said it could include a Super Bowl commercial or “something in the pregame or an activation at a Super Bowl event,” as the company isn’t sure it will air an advertisement during the big game.

Rhoten also told AdAge that Papa John’s will continue to run spots featuring Schnatter, but there is “flexibility” with the brand. — Caitlin Bowling

Rob Samuels of Maker’s Mark named chairman of Kentucky Distillers’ Association board

KDA Chairman Rob Samuels | Courtesy of Maker’s Mark

Rob Samuels, chief operating officer at Maker’s Mark, was named this year’s chairman of the Kentucky Distillers’ Association board of directors.

The position, it seems, runs in the family, as it has been held by his father, Bill Saumels Jr., in 1982; his grandfather, T. William Samuels Sr., in 1961; and even his great-grandfather, Leslie Samuels, in the early 1900s.

“I’m excited about this opportunity for a couple of reasons,” Samuels said in a news release. “One, this is clearly one of the most dynamic times in the history of our industry, and the KDA is uniquely positioned to provide leadership for the greater good of the entire commonwealth. And secondly, I’m humbled to be the fourth generation of the Samuels family to chair the KDA. I’m looking forward to carrying on that tradition.”

The nonprofit trade group advocates on behalf of its 36 Kentucky distillery members, and it has been around since 1880. The KDA is the state’s voice for bourbon and spirits issues and is the organization behind the Kentucky Bourbon Trail.

Samuels joins board members Rick Robinson (Wild Turkey), Larry Kass (Heaven Hill), Pauline Rooney (Diageo), Joseph J. Magliocco (Michter’s), Campbell Brown (Brown-Forman), Ryan Ashley (Four Roses) and Earl Hewlette (O.Z. Tyler). — Sara Havens

F-series pickup props up Ford sales

2018 Ford F-series Super Duty Limited. | Courtesy of Ford Motor Co.

Strong demand for the Explorer and F-series pickup pushed Ford Motor Co.’s U.S. sales up nearly 1 percent in December, to 242,049 vehicles.

General Motors said its December sales fell 3.3 percent from a year earlier. FiatChrysler said its U.S. sales fell 11 percent.

Ford said it sold 89,385 F-series trucks, including the Louisville-made Super Duty, in December, up 2.1 percent from a year earlier. For the Louisville-made Escape, Ford said it found 26,253 owners in December, up 1.8 percent from the same month in 2016.

For the year, Ford said it sold nearly 2.6 million vehicles, down 1.1 percent. GM said sales fell 1 percent in 2017, to just over 3 million. FCA said it sold nearly 2.1 million vehicles last year, down 8 percent from 2016.

Ford said that it sold nearly 900,000 F-series trucks last year, up 9.3 percent from 2016, and the best year since 2004.

Ford said in a news release that demand for higher-end Super Duty and F-150 models pushed the average per-truck transaction price to $47,800, up $3,400, or 7.7 percent, from 2016.

“F-series had an unbelievable year … with strong high-end truck demand as customers continue to opt for our latest technology and equipment packages,” said Mark LaNeve, vice president of U.S. marketing, sales and service.

Ford brand SUV sales improved 3.1 percent to an all-time high of nearly 800,000 last year. Escape sales, at just over 308,000, were up 0.4 percent.

Ford said demand for its cars fell almost 15 percent last year, with all major models posting declines of at least 4 percent. Sales for the Fusion fell 21.1 percent.

GM’s chief economist said that he expects total U.S. vehicle sales this year to exceed 17 million units for the fourth consecutive year. —Boris Ladwig

Taco Bell adds three executive positions as it seeks to grow

Taco Bell is taking Glen Bell’s vision of sharing Mexican-inspired food to one of the world’s largest markets: São Paulo, Brazil. | Photo by Business Wire

Yum Brands subsidiary Taco Bell has created three new executive titles — brand president, vice president of digital and future works, and vice president of e-commerce and performance marketing.

The positions, along with three expanded roles, will help Taco Bell reach is goal of becoming a $15 billion company with 9,000 restaurants globally by 2022, Taco Bell announced in a news release. A major target for growth is China; Taco Bell opened two stores in Shanghai just before the end of 2017.

Julie Felss Masino will serve as brand president, working with franchisees to deliver same-store sales growth through innovation, new store development and positive customer experience. Masino previously led the Fisher Price division of Mattel.

Elizabeth Baicy, formerly of Amazon, will serve as vice president of digital and future works, and Jon Kosoff, formerly of Hot Topic, will serve as vice president of e-commerce and performance marketing. Both positions will focus on new technology initiatives for improved customer and employee digital experiences.

The duties of Chief Food Innovation Officer Liz Matthews, Chief Operations and Development Officer Mike Grams and Chief Brand Officer Marisa Thalberg are being expanded to include some international operations. — Caitlin Bowling

Revisions made to Oakland Hills development near Parklands of Floyds Fork

Fifteen years after it was approved, the development plans for the residential Oakland Hills are changing.

In a letter to nearby residents, attorney Clifford Asburner noted that the original plan was unsuccessful, some of the land originally slated to be part of the residential development is now part of the Parklands of Floyds Fork, and market forces have shifted away from one-size-fits-all to a desire for varied lot sizes and multifamily housing. The property also changed ownership; it is now owned by 21st Century Parks Endowment.

“All of these changed conditions led to a planning effort by the Endowment to create a successful design that relates well to the park and to the surrounding area, including the 90 homes in the first two sections of Oakland Hills,” Ashburner said in the letter.

The new plan is to build 688 lots and 350 multifamily housing units on the property located off Bardstown Road about fourmiles south of the Gene Snyder Freeway. About 416 acres will be preserved and include hiking, walking and bike trails. The original plan called for 736 single-family lots and 319 acres of open space.

The endowment is hosting a meeting at 6 p.m. on Jan. 18 at the Fern Creek Community Center, 6104 Bardstown Road, to answer questions about the changes. —Caitlin Bowling

In Brief

Louisville Spray Foam Insulation has moved into a new headquarters at 1403 Rowan St. in the Portland neighborhood following a year of 33 percent revenue growth in revenue in 2017. The company is hosting an open house at 8 a.m. today, Jan. 8.

The University of Louisville this fall plans to introduce a Master of Science in Business Analytics degree, a 13-month accelerated program that teaches, among other things, data modeling and prediction techniques.

Greater Louisville Inc. says to reserve a spot for its annual meeting soon. The meeting runs from 5:15-9 on Wednesday, Jan. 17 at the Louisville Palace Theater. Kindred Healthcare President and CEO Benjamin Breier will give the keynote.

Mayor Greg Fischer has named Chris Siedt as the new director of the city’s Department of Information Technology, where he has worked over the past decade.

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Our fearless team of reporters and Insiders break stories that you won't find in other Louisville media.


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