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.
100 years later, Kentucky Peerless Distilling to release a rye whiskey on Saturday
It’s going to be a big day for Corky and Carson Taylor, as Kentucky Peerless Distilling Co. releases its first brown spirit in more than 100 years on Saturday. Corky, a fourth-generation distiller, has revived his great-grandfather’s whiskey-distilling legacy, which began in Henderson, Ky., in 1889.
Peerless is now in downtown Louisville at 120 N. 10th St., and while its whiskey and bourbon has been aging, it has released the Lucky brand of moonshine. The state-of-the-art distillery hosts daily tours, events and tastings.
The Peerless Kentucky Straight Rye Whiskey has been aged two years and is bottled at a hefty 107 proof. The distillers used a sweet mash for the product, which also is non-chill filtered. A bottle will set you back $125.
Insider got a chance to taste the whiskey this year during the Bourbon Classic and can attest to its quality and delicious spice notes. Even at only two years, the whiskey is robust and smooth, and it had a delightful warm finish.
The inaugural rye release event will take place from 10 a.m.-5 p.m. on Saturday, May 20. It’s free to attend and open to all. —Sara Havens
Louisville Forward debuts new promotional video
The city’s economic development arm Louisville Forward hired an outside production company to film a new PSA that it hopes will help sell Louisville to business owners.
“Our primary target is largely businesses that may be here and looking to expand and businesses that may be looking to move here, and obviously site selectors,” said Scott Herrmann, economic development director with Louisville Forward. “It’s primary purpose was to really showcase the city in a unique way and honest way.”
The video, created by Louisville-based 180 Degrees, asked the question, “What’s the best thing about Louisville?” and features Mayor Greg Fischer and multiple business and nonprofit leaders, from Louisville Orchestra conductor Teddy Abrams to America’s Finest Filters CEO Michael White.
“If you look at economic development, the main challenge revolves around the workforce piece,” Herrmann said. “We have a talented workforce and a great quality of place.”
The video, he said, highlights Louisville’s diversity, openness and talent development. Future promotional videos will delve further into topics, including innovation, workforce training and the city’s competitive advantages.
TRIO Commercial Property Group adds property management division
Louisville-based real estate company TRIO Commercial Property Group recently expanded its services, starting up a property management division headed by a veteran with more than 20 years in the industry.
Becky Norton, who most recently spent 13 years working for Alabama-based Bayer Properties, is principal and managing partner of TRIO Property Management. She graduated from the University of Louisville School of Business and holds real estate licenses in Kentucky, Tennessee and South Carolina.
“From a personal perspective, my heart is in Louisville,” Norton told Insider. “I am from Louisville originally and just was looking to make a change that would help me better serve the community I live in.”
She added that she knew the principals at TRIO from simply working in the industry and enjoyed working with them in the past.
Insider reached out to TRIO principals Justin Baker, Frank Bellis and Michael Tabor. Tabor was out of town, and Baker and Bellis did not return requests for comment.
Norton is currently the only employee who works strictly on property management, but she expects more staff to be added as the division establishes itself in the market and grows.
Her first task is to reach out to existing contacts, and “just getting the word out that we now offer that as a service is key,” Norton said. “I am excited to work with such a great group and an established group.” —Caitlin Bowling
El Toro introduces a new internship program
The ever clever folks at El Toro have named their new software development internship program “Running with the Bulls.” In its first year, 12 students have received a 15-week opportunity to work with the El Toro team.
Students in this first cohort have come from the University of Pennsylvania, Yale, the University of Kentucky and the University of Louisville.
El Toro’s CEO Stacy Griggs looks at this effort as helping Louisville with tech talent attraction.
“If we want to systematically solve the issue of getting enough data scientists, programmers, and computer scientists at El Toro, we can solve it by having one of the best internship programs in Kentucky and hopefully the world,” Griggs said in a news release.
“Our approach is, ‘Get the best interns, give them real projects, and put them in a startup environment where they’ll feel the pressures and demands of a startup.’ ”
“15 weeks as an intern here will probably be the equivalent to a year anywhere else because of how much we let them into behind the scenes of what we do,” said Maurice Zakhir, director of human resources in the release. “We’ve got projects that we’ll see if they can turn into products.”
El Toro is one of Louisville’s fastest-growing companies and has won multiple awards for innovation and success. The company is a pioneer in target marketing technology.
Applications for the fall cohort Running With the Bulls are being accepted. —Melissa Chipman
Apartment plans filed as part of 106.8-acre development
Louisville developer Kevin Cogan has filed plans for a 274-unit apartment development, part of a massive mixed-use development along Factory Lane just outside the Gene Snyder Freeway.
Insider reported last year that Cogan’s company Jefferson Development Group filed an application for rezoning of 106.8 acres owned by St. Joseph’s Catholic Orphan Society. The rezoning, which will allow the company to develop apartments, offices, a senior living facility and commercial space on the land, was approved in January.
According to the filed plans, the apartment units will be split among four main buildings and three 2,294-square-foot buildings, with a clubhouse and 501 parking spaces, including 24 attached parking garages. The development will cover 9.7 acres with more than 35,000 square feet of open space.
Given the name, Vinings at Claibourne, it seems likely that the development will mirror Cogan’s The Vinings of Hurstbourne, which includes a pool, a lounge with free Wi-Fi and a fitness center. Rents at 159-unit The Vinings of Hurstbourne range from $990 to $2,080. —Caitlin Bowling
Large pharmacy, retail center coming to site off Old Henry Road
Louisville-based developer Schulte Hospitality Group has filed plans with Louisville Metro Planning and Design Services for a new retail center and pharmacy at 2420 Arnold Palmer Boulevard.
The developer is seeking to rezone 3.3 acres from residential to neighborhood form district in order to build a 10,000-square-foot retail space that can either be split up for multiple stores or filled up with one large retailer. The plans also call for a large 14,550-square-foot standalone drugstore/pharmacy and 144 parking spaces.
The size of the project is appropriate, Schulte Hospitality Group wrote in its application, because of large residential neighborhoods such as the nearby Lake Forest subdivision. The document doesn’t state whether the company has lined up a pharmacy company to locate at the site yet.
Brown-Forman unveils revamped Old Forester water tower
On Monday, more than 100 Brown-Forman employees gathered outside on the campus to get the first look at the revamped water tower that is in the shape of an Old Forester bottle. Since the company redesigned the Old Fo bottle earlier this year, it was only right that the iconic tower got a makeover as well.
The Louisville landmark was built in 1936 by the Caldwell Tank Company. It sits 218 feet above the ground and can hold 100,000 gallons of water — or bourbon if you will. In fact, if it were to be filled with bourbon, a bartender could pour more than 8 million drinks at 1 1/2 ounces each. Where does the line start?
“As the first bottled bourbon and the founding brand of this company, it’s appropriate for us to pay tribute to the legacy of Old Forester and the brand’s bright future by celebrating it in giant proportions,” said Old Fo president Campbell Brown at the ceremony.
Generation Tux takes the tape out of tux measurements
Generation Tux, founded by former Men’s Warehouse CEO George Zimmer, has a new online tool that lets people order a tux without needing to be measured by a tailor. The proprietary machine learning algorithm uses a series of questions about body type, age and weight to “measure” the customer.
“Since I started in menswear in 1973, the biggest problem I’ve had to deal with is consistently and properly measuring men with the tape measure. Now that we have eliminated it, customers can now complete the rental process in under 5 minutes,” Zimmer said in a news release.
CTO Brian Webb led the development team for the technology.
“This is a really an exciting time in fashion and machine learning. We believe that this is just the tip of the iceberg. Imagine a world where this can be used to fit anyone into any garment. Whether it’s rental or retail, we can fit custom shirts, jeans, and jackets without ever getting measured. No weird pictures of you in your underwear sent to some strange service or walking into a store to get awkwardly measured by a stranger, ” Webb said in the release.
Generation Tux opened a distribution and customer service facility in Jeffersontown in 2015 and has more than 65 employees. —Melissa Chipman
Sypris Solutions shares spike on Q1 report
Despite a first-quarter loss, shares of Louisville-based Sypris Solutions jumped this week after CEO Jeffrey Gill said that significant restructuring actions are starting to show results.
First-quarter net revenue fell 32 percent, to $18.2 million, but the company’s operating loss narrowed to $5.1 million, compared to $6.4 million a year earlier.
Sypris Solutions recorded a net loss in the first quarter of $3.3 million, 35 percent better than the $5.1 million loss it incurred a year ago.
The company provides cybersecurity solutions for the aerospace and military industries and axle components for the automotive market. It has manufacturing operations in the U.S. and Mexico and employs about 1,200.
The company has lost some big customers in the last couple of years, which has prompted significant restructuring, including plant closures, job and pay cuts. Those actions included the closing of the company’s Broadway plant in Louisville, which, Gill said in an earnings call this week, would be completed this month. Sypris Solutions incurred first-quarter charges of nearly $1 million related to that transition.
Other actions the company has taken in the last couple of years include moving its electronics business into a smaller facility, which cut annual operating costs by $1.7 million, and reducing salaried staff, which cut costs by $2.7 million annually, the company said.
According to filings with the Securities and Exchange Commission, the company in the last two years also has sold a manufacturing facility in North Carolina, cut its workforce “at all locations” and cut staffing costs further “through reduced work schedules, senior management pay reductions and deferral of merit increases and certain benefit payments.”
Gill said the cost-cutting and other restructuring efforts in the last year and during the first quarter “will enable the company’s operations to return to profitability by the second half of 2017.”
He also said that the company’s focus on cost and quality “is resulting in significant new business opportunities” that will add nearly $25 million in revenue in 2019.
The company said in a press release this week that while its margin in the first half of the year would be about 6 percent of revenue, the margin is expected to spike to about 16 percent in the second half of the year.