Welcome to The Closing Bell. This is your last stop for biz scoops and big news before the weekend — a roundup of stories that can’t wait till Monday.

How much is a block in NuLu worth?

An aerial view of the block in NuLu for sale. | Courtesy of PRG Commercial Property Advisors
An aerial view of the block in NuLu for sale. | Courtesy of PRG Commercial Property Advisors

Realtors with PRG Commercial Property Advisors believe the block of property they are selling in the hip NuLu neighborhood is worth $8.9 million.

That is how much the company is asking on behalf of clients Carl Greer and Earl Greer for a 2.72-acre property along East Main Street between Shelby and Clay streets. The actual addresses are 700 E. Main St. and 121 S. Clay St.

“We are getting calls from people all over the nation,” said Tyler Smith, executive vice president of PRG. “I would say there are more out-of-town developers looking at Louisville than ever before. It is awesome. It is fantastic for the city.”

Through Smith, the Greers declined to comment for this story.

PRG is marketing the property for possible mixed-use development, which could include apartments, offices, a hotel or retail. Smith said apartments or a hotel would be a good use for the property even though a new 260-unit apartment complex is under construction directly across the street and a new 150-room AC Marriott Hotel is planned just down the block.

“The city of Louisville needs more apartments and hotels downtown,” Smith said. “We are still behind our peer cities. We are not keeping up the pace.”

The property, which includes almost 80,000-square-feet of buildings, is valued at $2.46 million, according Jefferson County property records. The last assessment was in 2009.

The $8.9 million asking price for the property, Smith said, was based on factors including economic impact, economic climate, properties sold in the area, potential uses and the economics of those uses. PRG spent six to nine months assessing the property and creating a marketing plan before posting it for sale.

Also factored into the price is the rarity of the property. Not only is it an entire block, but it also is owned by a single property owner. Typically, large projects require developers to piece together plots owned by a variety of people, which takes longer to negotiate.

“It makes it really easy for someone to acquire this,” Smith said. “We call it a premiere opportunity because you just can’t find this available.”

The site currently houses Service Welding & Machine Co., which manufactures a variety of above ground and underground tanks. The Greers owned the company but sold it in 2013 to co-owners Jeff Androla Sr., Douglas Voet and Jim St. Clair, according to its website.

When the trio bought the company, Androla Sr. said, it was with the understanding that the Greers planned to put the property on the market at some point and that the business would have to move.

They hope to find a new home within the next 12 months, he said, declining to say where they are looking.

“We’re not sure. We’ve got a number of different avenues we are going down,” Androla Sr. said.

Depending on which avenue they choose, Androla Sr. said Service Welding & Machine Co. would need anywhere from 40,000 square feet to 100,000 square feet. He declined to elaborate. —Caitlin Bowling

Site Selection Magazine ranks Kentucky third in Top State Business Climates

Screen Shot 2015-11-04 at 2.09.20 PMSite Selection Magazine, a trade pub for professionals involved in selecting sites for corporations and plants, named Kentucky the third most favorable state in the country for business climate. The annual ranking is, according to the website, “a closely watched barometer of which states have the right mix of actual project successes and high favorability as indicated by site selectors.”

Georgia and North Carolina ranked higher, but Kentucky only trailed N.C. by two points (584 to 582). Half of the ranking is based on a survey of site selection professionals, the rest is based on concrete statistics like the number of new plants per capita in the past year (we ranked No. 1!).

Last year Kentucky was ranked eighth. —Melissa Chipman

Auto parts maker growing rapidly, strategically locating near Ford

The Spanish auto parts maker planning to invest $13.7 million in Louisville agreed this summer to lease two buildings with a combined square footage of nearly 137,000 square feet in the East End.

“They have been busy installing their production line since executing the lease,” said Steve Gray, who helped broker the deal for the owner, Boland Maloney Realty.

Filings with the Kentucky Economic Development Finance Authority last week indicate Grupo Antolin plans to create up to 200 jobs in Jefferson County.

Grupo Antolin logoGray, senior industrial real estate adviser with Commercial Kentucky, said Grupo Antolin this summer agreed to occupy two adjacent buildings at 12520 and 12530 Westport Road. The properties are less than a mile from the Ford Motor Kentucky Truck Plant.

“You couldn’t get much closer,” Gray said.

The location makes sense: Before Grupo Antolin’s recent acquisition of Magna Interiors, Ford was the company’s largest customer.

Grupo Antolin has seen significant growth in the last few years and has become one of the world’s largest auto parts suppliers. In a corporate presentation, the company said it provides parts for one of every four vehicles produced worldwide.

Employment at GA had expanded by 30 percent in the last four years, and then nearly doubled with the acquisition of Magna.

More than half of the company’s 28,000 employees work in Europe, but it also has about 4,000 employees in North America. About 600 of those work in Hopkinsville in southwestern Kentucky, where they make headliners – sun visors, dome lights, panoramic systems – for such brands as BMW, Nissan and Ford.

Grupo Antolin is based in north-central Spain, and nobody who answered the phones at the Iberian offices this week spoke English or German (the author’s native language) — though the company’s on-hold message repeats a greeting in four languages. Given that yo no hablo español muy bien, obtaining information via phone proved difficult. A spokesman did reply via email, but said only that “In this moment, we are still closing all the details about this investment.”

Kent Oyler, president and CEO of Greater Louisville Inc., said the planned investments fit well within the local economy.

With a greater presence in Louisville, Grupo Antolin will have better access to customers such as Ford, he said. And given the presence here of other automotive suppliers, GA also will have access to a workforce that is familiar with the industry.

Gray said that one of the two buildings leased by the Spanish auto parts maker previously had been occupied for about 20 years by Vistar, a national vending distributor. Vistar had outgrown the facility, and the landlord convinced the company to move to a 122,000-square-foot building at Eastpoint, on Stanley Gault Parkway.

“Everybody wins,” Gray said. —Boris Ladwig

Who’s been funded on the startup scene?

EnterpriseCorp’s Lisa Bajorinas announced some sizable investments that have been made in local companies this month at November’s Venture Connectors Luncheon:

  • Portland Investment Initiative — $250,000: Gill Holland, et al, launched Pii in 2013 to support initiatives to improve the conditions and quality of life in the Portland neighborhood. Some of these initiatives include: the Portland Stroll District, Artists’/Makers’ Row, and the East Portland Warehouse District. They’ve also invested in building and rehabbing shotgun homes.
  • Edumedics — $250,000: Edumedics is a chronic disease management company that provides services to health care providers, companies and individuals. Diseases addressed include diabetes, hypertension and COPD.
  • SimCave — $350,000: IL just visited Tony Schy’s SimCave a couple weeks ago. The digital gaming arena is set to open later this month. Gamers can book parties where they can compete against their friends/foes in one of the two caves — each player has his or her own flat-screen TV, sound system and gaming system. Or book the disco room for movement-based games.

That brings Bajorinas’ “Who’s been funded?” list to 34 companies in Louisville that have raised $10,671,717 in 2015. We’ve had five major exits this year totaling $1,174,000,000. And yes, there is supposed to be that many zeros.

Worth noting: Tony Schy was only able to raise $50,000 in Louisville for SimCave. The rest of the money came from Las Vegas and Indianapolis.  

Also worth noting: the Venture Connectors Luncheon guest speaker was Chris Bailey, founder of Revio (Gear Brake), who said he is getting ready to close on a half-million round of funding… none of it from Louisville. —Melissa Chipman

Locally made coffee-brewing fridge now available

A locally made top-of-the-line refrigerator – which also brews coffee – is hitting shelves just in time for the holiday season.

The GE Café Series Refrigerator with Keurig K-Cup Brewing System is now available at Lowe’s. The fridges have been manufactured in Building 5 at Appliance Park in Louisville. GE’s operations there employ about 6,000.

GE’s new coffee-brewing refrigerator.
GE’s new coffee-brewing refrigerator.

The fridge makes hot water, tea, coffee or any other of the 400 Keurig K-Cup beverages.

You can even set the brew time with your mobile devices.

The appliance also provides filtered water without any need for refilling and comes with ENERGY Star certification.

GE said the “most buzzed about refrigerator of 2015” is a response to more consumer demand for single-cup brewing systems. The company cited a National Coffee Association survey indicating single-cup brewers were preferred by 29 percent of respondents, up 50 percent from the prior year.

According to GE’s website, Lowe’s stores on Bashford Manor Lane, Dixie Highway and in Clarksville, Ind., have the appliance in stock.

Normally the fridge retails for $3,300, but Lowe’s website shows a 10 percent discount until Dec. 1, which means you can put the 28.8-cubic-foot stainless steel appliance into your (oversized) stocking for a mere $2,969.

Happy brewing. —Boris Ladwig

A bar and bakery concept is in Butchertown’s future

Brooke Nunnelley's bourbon ball cupcake | Courtesy of Just Call Me Cupcake
Brooke Nunnelley’s bourbon ball cupcake | Courtesy of Just Call Me Cupcake

Earlier this week while reporting on the exciting changes with Cellar Door Chocolates, Insider Louisville learning about a new business that may be coming to Butchertown in the next year.

Cellar Door Chocolates’ owner Erika Chavez-Graziano is renting out a portion of her kitchen at Butchertown Market and mentoring Brooke Nunnelley, owner of the cupcake business Just Call Me Cupcake.

Nunnelley sells her cupcakes wholesale and caters events. She provides cupcakes for Cellar Door Chocolates’ downtown store and will do so for its cafe in Butchertown Market.

Next year, however, Nunnelley has plans to open her own business in a separate location “down the street,” Nunnelley told Insider Louisville.

The project is still in the beginning stages of planning, but the concept combines a bar and a bakery. It will have pairing menus of cupcakes and alcoholic drinks. Some treats may also incorporate alcohol, Nunnelley said, such as alcoholic milkshakes.

Sounds like a delicious reason to indulge. —Caitlin Bowling

Papa John’s buying some stores, selling off others

PapaJohnsYum! Brands Inc. isn’t the only Louisville-based restaurant company making changes in the China market. Papa John’s International Inc. plans to sell its China stores to a franchisee within the next 12 months — admittedly a less dramatic measure than spinning off an entire division.

The pizza company does not yet have a buyer lined up for its company-owned stores and commissary, which collectively net $9.5 million to $9.6 million. The stores are located in Beijing and Tianjin.

Papa John’s president Steve Ritchie said the company doesn’t expect a net gain or loss from the sale.

Meanwhile, the company plans to buy 19 Papa John’s locations in Florida for $11 million. The deal is expected to close during the first quarter of 2016.

The company last bought franchisee-run stores in 2012 in Minneapolis and Denver, according to Ritchie.

“This one just worked quite well for us,” Ritchie said. “We are obviously looking for things with great growth potential. This is not a turnaround.”

Papa John’s founder John Schnatter indicated that the company may be looking to buy more franchisee-owned pizza stores.

“We are in the process now of weeding out the franchisees that aren’t engaged,” Schnatter said. “That is why the store closures are a little high, but if folks are not engaged and don’t want to run the business in the Papa John’s way then they probably need to become a customer.” —Caitlin Bowling

Light it up! Four new digital screens to be installed outside Kentucky Center

Kentucky Center gets four fancy new screens.
Kentucky Center gets four fancy new screens.

Main Street is on its way to becoming the next Times Square — on a small, small scale, of course. Four new digital displays — donated by the Louisville Theatrical Association, which powers the PNC Broadway in Louisville series — will be installed along Main Street on the Kentucky Center’s complex by Nov. 10.

“It was the right time to bring in the technology, and it will be a great tool for all of the resident arts groups who perform at the Kentucky Center,” says Broadway in Louisville president Leslie Broecker. “It will add more excitement to an already bustling downtown.”

The first two screens are already up and running, and the final two will be installed next week — just in time for the run of the wickedly popular “Wicked,” which starts Nov. 18. —Sara Havens

Louisville ranked as a top ‘Digital City’ for fifth year in a row

DIGITAL NEWS LOGOAccording to e.Republic’s Center for Digital Government, Louisville tied for second place with Los Angeles in the Large Cities category in the annual “Digital City” assessment.

A news release from Louisville Metro cites the following accomplishments this year:

“Right now city government is in a period of amazing discovery using technology tools and solutions and data to analyze and solve problems,” said Mayor Greg Fischer. “Our Office for Performance Improvement and Department of Information Technology work with outside partners and listen to citizens to uncover smarter, more efficient ways to function and deliver services. This latest award confirms we are moving in the right direction.”

For more on the rankings, visit the Center’s website–Melissa Chipman



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