Welcome to the April 29 edition of the top-secret, always confidential Monday Business Briefing … the last MBB until after Derby.
This is your private business intelligence briefing, with Insider Louisville staff and contributors vetting tips collected during the past few days and hours.
A few of which are NOT double-verified as with our daily reporting.
But this is the news about business and trends you’ll be reading about in the coming days in the conventional media.
Technology is changing everything including HR and even the way you buy your car. Let’s start with cars, because they’re more fun.
• Okay, advertising friends, you owe us big time for this one. Indianapolis-based MaxTradein is coming to Louisville. From what we hear, this third-party auto bidding model – proven in Indy – now is expanding to Louisville, Cincinnati and other regional cities. The online company’s niche is bringing together consumers and auto dealers at two transaction points – the trade-in and the follow-up purchase. Say you’re going to sell your 2010 Honda Accord, which is cherry, but don’t want sell it on Craigslist or be at the mercy of a single dealer. You go to the Maxtradein.com website and complete a detailed a profile of the car including vehicle identification number. That profile is distributed to dealerships that have signed up with MaxTradein. You set the price, with retailers bidding on that trade-in. The profile is anonymous, so sellers don’t have dealers pitching them directly. Dealers bid because they may need a flawless white, 2010 Honda Accord. The owner takes highest bid, prints it out and goes to the dealership. The dealers buys the car. The deal is on for 72 hours, and consumer can sell them the car and walk away, or they can test drive that little Honda Fit they love and buy the car there in two simple transactions. No dealing, no dancing. Here’s the good news for Louisville’s TV and radio stations. When they’re entering the market, MaxTradein execs flood the market with advertising introducing the concept. Tell ’em we sent you.
• Ah, if Louisville has nothing else, it has cornered the market in big projects. Unfortunately, those big ideas keep running into reality. Last week, new Kentucky State Fair Board Chairman Dr. Mark Lynn, found himself in the uncomfortable position of talking about financial complications related to Ed Hart and his partners trying to reopen Kentucky Kingdom. Seems the partners are having a more difficult time than anticipated raising capital … and they have a lot of capital to raise. The media narrative for this whole project has been – shall we say – ill-informed, with the Courier-Journal repeatedly reporting Hart and Co. were applying for “a bank loan.” Like they’re buying a new car. A bank loan is also called “senior secured debt.” Another way of saying the loan is secured by collateral – real property, inventory or cash – the bank would be first in line to claim in event of a default. Unfortunately, with Kentucky Kingdom, Hart’s group won’t actually own anything except a 50-year lease with the Kentucky Fair Board on the 60-acre property. In a default, the bank would have the right to hand over that lease to a different user … but the question is, who would want it? In his original 2010 pitch, Hart wanted the state of Kentucky to guarantee $50 million in bonds. A proposal that went nowhere. Hart came back with partners — Bruce Lunsford, Ed Glasscock and the Al J. Schneider Co. The group announced they’d put up $20 million and an unidentified local bank was going to lend them $25 million. Under the revised plan, the group now is putting more skin into the game to the tune of $30 million, borrowing $15 million. No large national banks such as Chase are likely to touch this deal. Louisville-based community banks are going to have a tough time lending $15 million on such a deal, so would have to form a syndicate to spread the risk. We’d love to be in that Thursday morning loan committee at Bank X to hear the senior loan officers debating this one. The point we’d like to make is, banks don’t lend to startups. They lend to established businesses based on formulas predicting ability to repay such as cash flow, current assets, current liabilities and cost of units sold. Kentucky Kingdom, um, well, doesn’t have any of those things. Also, loan officers are going to look at the last company to run Kentucky Kingdom and ask, “So, why did they give up … and what has happened in the industry since the park closed?” Our take is, Hart & Co. will have to turn to private equity. Which won’t settle for just interest on their investment, but will want management fees and a direct cut of the revenue. To his credit, Glasscock told IL as much back in January. At those firms, analysts will examine in minute detail revenue potential, including season tickets, concessions, parking fees and how they’re split with the fairgrounds and every variable down to weather projections. They’ll also be looking at Hart and his group, wondering who, exactly, is going to manage Kentucky Kingdom. Hold on, everyone. We hear a deal is coming, but this ride’s not over yet!
• Is there a deal brewing for the Brown Theatre between AEG and the Fund for the Arts? We heard the first buzz about this even before Los Angeles-based AEG Worldwide took over management of KFC Yum! Center. At that time, it was only that AEG would be managing the Brown Theater. But now we hear AEG is interested in buying, and The Fund for the Arts is interested in selling. More as we know more.
• Thorntons is on the verge of finishing a visually updated store at First and Broadway, the fifth location for the Louisville-based convenience store/gas station chain’s new prototype. The downtown store has design elements earlier stores don’t have, including more expensive exterior brick, said Tony Harris, COO of the Louisville-based company. The changes were made to satisfy Metro Louisville permitting and zoning officials, Harris said,”but really, it’s been a positive experience, working with them.” Inside, the new Thornton prototypes will have broader food offerings including salads and fruit. There will also be a self-service ice cream bar with toppings, and expanded hot beverages, Harris said. The store is scheduled to open Thursday, a nice investment in an increasingly busy corner of downtown.
• Will the last company out of the downtown office high rises please turn off the lights …. We got confirmation Friday that BKD, the Springfield, Mo.-based accounting firm, is moving its 50 employees out of downtown at the LG&E Building to 600 North Hurstbourne, the spec building the University of Louisville and NTS built on U of L’s Shelby Campus. That said, we have some good news later this week about a new project on Fourth Street that we saw with our own eyes is nearing completion.
• Also later this week, we’ll have an in-depth look at how Louisville’s largest community banks have fared post-recession. Stock Yards Bank, Republic Bank and PBI Bank were all strong before the Great Recession. But you couldn’t pick three banks with three more different outcomes.
• If your company is still using conventional hiring methodology, about a hundred stories and posts including in the New York Times and Wall Street Journal are claiming you won’t be for long. The WSJ post focuses on Xerox Corp looking for call center workers, relying on past performance as a future predictor of success. Now, new big-data companies are using algorithms to revolutionize the hiring process. Interestingly, data from these startups suggest employee experience doesn’t matter. What does matter in a good call-center employee — one who won’t quit before the company recoups its $5,000 investment in training— is personality, according to the WSJ. A half-year trial cut Xerox call center attrition by 20 percent. So Xerox now leaves all hiring for 48,700 call-center jobs to software that asks applicants to choose between statements like: “I ask more questions than most people do” and “People tend to trust what I say.” A NYTimes post yesterday looks at Gild, a big-data pioneer that created an algorithm that ignores less on traditional talent markers — a degree from M.I.T., a previous job at Google, — and uses data to figure out if skills, performance and work capacity can be quantified. We’re not talking about those Oliver Group Predictive Index profiles. Gild looks at what they think are core predictors: Is the candidate’s code well-regarded by other programmers? How does the programmer communicate ideas? How does he or she relate on social media sites?
Actual briefs in the Monday Morning Briefing:
• The Florida Strawberry Festival has awarded a 3-year agreement to Louisville-based Triangle Talent, Inc. to book entertainment for the 2014 through 2016 Festivals. The Strawberry Festival is one of the top festivals in the country. Past acts have included Blake Shelton, Foreigner, Hank Williams Jr, Lady Antebellum, Lynyrd Skynyrd, Switchfoot and Third Eye Blind. The 2014 Festival is scheduled for February 27 through March 9, 2014 in Plant City, Fla.
• DBS Interactive’s designs for St. James Court Art Show, University of Louisville Physicians and Leadership Louisville were winners at the 11th Annual Horizon Interactive Awards. Louisville-based DBS Interactive won a Gold Award in the Websites-Responsive/Mobile Design for the St. James Court Art Show website. The panel also awarded DBS with a Bronze for the same site in the Advocacy/Non-Profit category. The web design for Leadership Louisville won Silver for Web Design in the Advocacy/Non-Profit category and Bronze for Responsive/Mobile Design. The Horizon Interactive Awards judges also awarded DBS with a Bronze Award in Web Redesign in the Health/Human Service category for the overhaul of the University of Louisville Physicians site. More than 1,000 entries from 25 different countries were judged in this year’s competition.