Ford employees keeping close eye on 2017 Escape launch

Some of Ford Motor Co.’s nearly 5,000 employees at the Louisville Assembly Plant have paid special attention to media reports in the last few days to gauge first reactions to the locally made 2017 Ford Escape.

Automotive media including Car & Driver and Kelley Blue Book recently got a first look at the new Escape during a launch event in Southern California. (Insider Louisville was there, too.) With the new model, which recently started being shipped to showrooms, Ford is banking on an updated design, turbocharged engines and lots of tech, including a smartphone app that will allow drivers to locate their vehicles if they’ve forgotten where they parked.

Paul Cox, a team leader at LAP, which means he assists operators, said after months of work making sure that everything has been properly prepared for the launch, seeing the new Escape roll off the line is immensely gratifying.

“It’s just a huge amount of pride,” he said.

Cox, a member of the United Auto Workers Local 862, has been with Ford for 24 years. He has worked on everything from brake and clutch pedals to dashboards, windows, seat belts and interior wiring. His current team works on the Escape’s exterior, including the rear corners, brake calipers and dust shields.

The employees, from designers to engineers and production workers, handle their work with the utmost dedication, Cox said, because they want the product to be as good as it can be. Engineers constantly ask questions to see if the vehicle can be improved, Cox said, and team leaders and operators pay close attention to make sure the work is done right.

Ford said it sold 28,521 Escapes in March, up 8.4 percent from a year earlier, and the company expects growth in the small SUV segment to continue until 2025, primarily because the interests of the two dominant car-buying generations, millennials and baby boomers, are coalescing.

As an experienced worker, Cox said he helps new employees understand their roles, but also can convey to them the sense of pride they have to take in their work.

Product quality and consumer reaction to a new vehicle have a big impact on the workers, who rely on the wages and benefits to support their families. Higher quality means better sales, more satisfied customers and greater job security.

Cox, of Fairdale, knows this first-hand: His 24-year career at Ford has supported his family, which includes his wife and four children. —Boris Ladwig

Bulleit releases a barrel-strength bourbon

Bulleit Barrel Strength is only available in Kentucky. | Courtesy of Bulleit Bourbon

Tom Bulleit — founder of Bulleit Bourbon (which is now owned by Diageo) — has a new product to unveil, and if excitement from bartenders across the country is any proof, it’s going to be quite dandy. Look for the Bulleit Barrel Strength to hit store shelves any day now, if it’s not already there.

The story goes that Tom Bulleit traveled the country sharing his unreleased bourbon with some of the world’s top bartenders. Because of their enthusiasm for the product — and who wouldn’t be happy with free bourbon? — he’s decided to release it in Kentucky only … for now.

The product uses the same high-rye mash bill as regular Bulleit, but it comes in at anywhere from 118 to 125 proof, since no water is added after it comes out of the barrel. And it’s bottled at the Stitzel-Weller Distillery in Shively.

I was fortunate to sample the product during the media tour portion of the Bourbon Classic in February, and I recall noticing its darker amber color and enjoying its intriguing balance of sweet and spice. It was also smooth but a little hot on the finish.

Bulleit Barrel Strength retails for $29.99 (375ml) and $49.99 (750ml). —Sara Havens

Sullivan University students earn 13 medals at culinary competition

Left to right: Instructor Kendall Knies, Jessica Waked, Jaelin Rifkind, Leyla Davis, Michelle Bryan, Benita Gomez, Markeisha Crutcher, Haylie Ransweiler, Erica Socha, Master Pastry Chef Derek Spendlove | Courtesy of Sullivan University
Left to right: Instructor Kendall Knies, Jessica Waked, Jaelin Rifkind, Leyla Davis, Michelle Bryan, Benita Gomez, Markeisha Crutcher, Haylie Ransweiler, Erica Socha, Master Pastry Chef Derek Spendlove | Courtesy of Sullivan University

Nine students from Sullivan University‘s culinary school brought home 13 medals from the American Culinary Federation competition in Cincinnati this year.

The team won five gold, four silver and four bronze medals, and the highest score of the day went to Sullivan University student Jessica Waked, 20, of Bogotá, Colombia, according to a news release.

Waked crafted a 2-foot tall edible artwork: a bird cage filed with flowers and made out of pastillage and royal icing. She won three of the team’s five gold medals, the highest number ever awarded to a Sullivan University student in its 28-year history.

Jaelin Rifkind, 21, of Louisville, and Erica Socha, 19, of Livonia, Mich., were the other two Sullivan students to take gold. Both won for their cake entries.

The competition categories included hot desserts, cold desserts, show pieces, celebration cakes and petit fours. —Caitlin Bowling

State recognizes Louisville attorney for diversity efforts

Doug Farnsley
Doug Farnsley

The state of Kentucky has recognized Louisville attorney Doug Farnsley for his dedication to advancing diversity in the legal profession.

Farnsley, a partner with Stites & Harbison, has received the 2016 Public Advocacy Award from the Kentucky Department of Public Advocacy, formerly the state’s public defender’s office.

The award recognizes “individuals who have earned a place of honor through dedication, service, sacrifice and commitment to fair process and individual liberties,” according to the law firm.

Farnsley said last year that he wanted to make the promotion of diversity and inclusiveness a tentpole of his presidency of the Kentucky Bar Association.

“We have a broad consensus that communities benefit by having police departments that reflect the racial and ethnic populations that they serve. The same principles are at stake in having a more diverse legal profession,” Farnsley said. “Our citizens are almost certainly going to have more confidence in the legal system if the legal profession reflects the citizens of the commonwealth.”

Farnsley has more than 30 years of trial experience and focuses on civil trial work, such as defense of product liability claims. Last year, he received the Justice Martin E. Johnstone Special Recognition Award, the highest honor for a Louisville Bar Association member. He previously was named the product liability litigation lawyer of the year and the Louisville area medical malpractice lawyer of the year.

A member of the advisory board of the Actors Theatre of Louisville, Farnsley also supports two historic sites in southwestern Jefferson County: the Farnsley-Kaufman House and Riverside, the Farnsley-Moremen Landing.—Boris Ladwig

JCPS launches redesigned website

Hallelujah! I’m not even a parent, but I used to dread getting sent to the Jefferson County Public Schools website to search for information. It was a hot mess. The new site is clean, simple and easy to navigate.

JCPS has migrated old pages to the new site — which includes an overhauled and much improved search engine — and introduced many new features. And the updated “School Menu” section is a vast improvement.

According to JCPS’s recent parent newsletter, here is a partial list of improvements:

  • It’s easier to find information. The new site is lighter, brighter, and more engaging, and the new navigation system focuses on the type of content that parents and students need most often.
  • New menus and pages also are available for employees, business partners, the community and the media.
  • The website now has a more powerful search feature optimized to help users quickly find the information, tools, forms and publications they need.
  • The site now looks and works better on any type of device — desktop computer, tablet or phone.
  • A new calendar compiles all district information in a single location, but filters make is easy to find specific types of events.

The Board of Education first recommended revamping the site in the fall of 2014. In March 2015, the district contracted with Fig Leaf Software, based in Washington, D.C., the same company that helped develop the website for the city of Louisville. —Melissa Chipman