Welcome to the Feb. 18 Monday Business Briefing, your weekly business intelligence digest from Insider Louisville.

Brown-Forman has a new data analytics group

Tim Nall

A Brown-Forman executive told The Wall Street Journal that the distiller has created an advanced analytics group to improve decisions about everything from pricing to new products.

Chief Information Officer Tim Nall told the paper that the Louisville-based company created the data group about a year ago, pulling “every data scientist and visualizer in the corporation who had been floating around in miscellaneous groups under me.”

Nall said that Brown-Forman combines information from about 200 external data feeds — including shipment data from distributors, data from retailers and from online sources such as Google — with company financial information to gain better insights.

“Things that can impact our revenue are the ones that I think are the most powerful,” Nall said. “We’ve given the field tools to see how we’re moving on our price compared to our competitor’s price. They can actually see in real time how price is affecting our volume and how we’re priced against the competition. That’s had a very positive impact.”

The data analysis also prompted Brown-Forman to introduce an Old Forester rye.

“… we showed with data analytics that there’s definitely room for our product to play in these emerging categories,” Nall told the WSJ. “Even though we already have a Woodford rye and a Jack Daniel’s rye, with the size of the pie we were able to show that there was room out there.”

Brown-Forman reported net income of $249 million in the quarter ended Oct. 31, up $10 million, on essentially flat sales. Income rose primarily because of lower income taxes, which fell by $31 million from a year earlier. The distiller next will report quarterly earnings in March. —Boris Ladwig

Rental rates, units rise in Louisville

The Edge on Fourth, shown on June 7, 2018, is now leasing apartments downtown. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

Renters in Louisville are paying $34 more a month in early 2019 compared to early 2018, according to data recently released from website RENTCafé. The research was conducted by the apartment information service Yardi Matrix.

The data only shows part of the picture when it comes to apartments, as it only factors in complexes with 50 units or more, but it does provide some insights into shifts in the multifamily housing market. The data looks at apartment units overall and does not break them down by bedroom.

According to Yardi Matrix’s research, the average rental rate for an apartment in Louisville is $929 per month, a 4 percent increase compared to January 2018. The average apartment size is 912 square feet.

For comparison, Cincinnati’s average apartment costs $967 a month, up 2.5 percent; Indianapolis costs $850 a month, up 3.8 percent, and Nashville apartments average $1,348 a month, up 6.2 percent.

Just more than 50 percent of Louisville apartments are rented for monthly rates ranging from $701 to $1,000. Twenty-three percent of apartments go for $1,001 to $1,500 a month, and 18 percent are $501 to $700 a month. The cheapest average rents —$582 a month — are found in the Jacobs neighborhood, just southwest of Churchill Downs, according to RENTCafé.

For those concerned about rising rents, RENTCafé noted that an influx of new units could slow that. The Central Business District alone is expected to add roughly 1,033 new apartment units by the end of 2019. —Caitlin Bowling

Hang tight, Louisville, the annual pothole blitz is coming soon

Potholes on Main Street | Photo by Mickey Meece

Harold Adams and his crew at Louisville Metro’s Department of Public Works had their hands full last week, what with the rain and flooding and street closures, but he had good news to share to angst-ridden drivers: the city’s annual pothole blitz is just a few weeks away.

The mission of the annual blitz is clear, Adams said, with a laugh: “Do a systematic grid search-and-destroy” of potholes.

Since 2015, the city says the number of potholes has been on the decline. The number peaked that year at 171,000. It dropped sharply in 2017, to 46,510, and was expected to have declined last year. Those estimates will be available when the city releases its 2019 pothole advisory in March, Adams says.

In the most recent budget, Mayor Greg Fischer allocated over $18 million for road paving. During last year’s advisory on the 2018 pothole blitz, the city said the number of miles paved increased to about 130 miles yearly in 2016 and 2017, from 26 in 2014, adding that newly repaved roads are less susceptible to the formation of potholes.

Still, for some, potholes are more than an annoyance.

“My annual accounting question,” wrote Gregory Maupin on Twitter this week, “can Louisvillians just mail Metro Revenue tire repair receipts in lieu of tax checks?”

Dustin Feige of Southern Tire Service, established in 1920, said in a phone interview that customers had been coming in for new tires and rims because of the pothole damage. Rims can set you back a few hundred dollars, he said, and up to $1,100 if you drive a big truck. “It does seem like it’s been bad this year,” Feige said. —Mickey Meece

Renovation project kicks off for UofL’s optimal aging institute

By summer, the old Dulworth building in the Central Business District will be transformed into the new home of the University of Louisville Trager Institute for health care and research to benefit the community’s aging population.

A $1 million renovation project is underway to ready the building at 204 E. Main St. for Trager, which used to be known as UofL’s Institute for Sustainable Health & Optimal Aging.

The space will include the Republic Bank Optimal Aging Clinic, which will offer comprehensive care to help people achieve optimal physical and mental health as they age. The clinic will have an interdisciplinary team of various professionals, including physicians, nurses, physical therapists, dentists, life coaches and others, and focus heavily on lifestyle medicine while also promoting telehealth.

Moving into the new building, which used to house the Dulworth Office Furniture Co., will allow the institute to offer more clinical trials plus technology development and testing, and there will be training space to help support aging-care workforce development.

The building also will have a kitchen for nutrition counseling and classes, a fitness area, and space for physical therapy and audiology testing.

The project was made possible by gifts from the Trager Family and Republic Bank Foundations. The institute is currently located in the Nucleus building. —Darla Carter

Publicly funded projects up for a vote

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Residents of District 6 and 8 can vote on how to spend $200,000 for projects to improve health, safety and well-being, according to the city, as part of the Our Money, Our Vote budgeting initiative. Voting started on Friday and runs through March 15.

The initiative is being piloted using $100,000 in capital infrastructure funds set aside by Council President David James (District 6) and Councilman Brandon Coan (District 8), plus $50,000 in funds from Louisville Metro Public Health and Wellness, and $50,000 from the Humana Foundation. Each district will receive $100,000, according to a news release.

District 6 includes Algonquin, California, Limerick, Old Louisville, Park Hill, Russell (the section N of Broadway, S of Plymouth, W of 22nd, East of 26th), Taylor-Berry, University and Victory Park.

District 8 includes Alta Vista (Cherokee Seneca), Belknap/Bonnycastle, Braeview (Cherokee Gardens), Cherokee Triangle, Deer Park, Germantown, Hawthorne, Highlands Douglass, Kingsley, Original Highlands, Seneca Gardens, Seneca Vista (Bowman), Strathmoor Manor, Strathmoor Village, Tyler Park and Upper Highlands (Gardiner Lane and Hayfield Dundee).

Residents of those districts can vote on projects such as alleyway and sidewalk improvements, implementing community center programs, adding street lights, litter bins or drinking fountains, and enhancing playgrounds. A link to request a voter access code, as well as a sample ballot, can be obtained at www.OurMoneyOurVoice.com.

“Participatory budgeting is a way for residents of a community to work together to better meet their needs while having a direct say in government decisions,” stated Dr. Sarah Moyer, director of the Louisville Metro Department of Public Health and Wellness and Chief Health Strategist for the city. —Mickey Meece

Forecastle Foundation’s total donations reach more than half a million

Since the nonprofit environmental activism arm of the Forecastle Festival began in 2011, it has donated more than $550,000 to its philanthropic partners, which includes nature conservancies and land trusts in Kentucky and all over the world. The Forecastle Foundation contributed $145,960 in 2018 alone.

According to its website, the mission of the foundation is “to protect and connect the world’s natural awesome by educating the public and funding projects that help protect the world’s natural resources with a focus on biodiversity hotspots.”

Its partners that were the recipients of some of the funding in 2018 include the Kentucky Natural Land Trust, the Future Fund Land Trust (of Kentucky), the Guayaki Foundation (Argentina, Brazil), and the Nature Conservancy (of Indonesia), among others.

For those who like stats, the foundation has been active across three continents and five countries and has helped protect and preserve more than 6,500 acres of land and over 250 miles of waterway since its inception. —Sara Havens

In Brief

Bláz Bush of New York has been chosen to lead the LGBT Center at the University of Louisville Health Sciences Center, starting Feb. 25. His experience includes being director of care coordination for the Callen-Lorde Community Health Center, one of the largest LGBT community health centers in the world.

The Technology Association of Louisville Kentucky on Wednesday will host a Smart Enterprise Summit to focus on the Internet of Things.

Michael Douzuk Jr. has been named the chief financial officer of UofL Health. The role includes leading the financial teams of both UofL Hospital and UofL Physicians. Previously, he was the senior vice president of finance operations at Quorum Health in Brentwood, Tennessee.