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.

River Ridge pays Army debt, symbolically burns master lease

River Ridge Development Authority board members light an enlarged copy of its master lease on fire. | Photo by Caitlin Bowling

River Ridge Development Authority officially owns the 6,000 acres of River Ridge Commerce Center free and clear, a milestone it marked Wednesday with the symbolic burning of the master lease agreement with the former property owner U.S. Army.

After a remediation process, the U.S. Army turned over the final lot, 293.4 acres, on Aug. 5, 2016, allowing the authority to access, prepare and market the land for development, but it still owed the government money.

Some of the property was paid for upon receipt, while the U.S. Army allowed RRDA to pay for other parcels over a period of years. It was beholden to a 25-year lease with an option to extend that another 25 years, if needed, to clear the debt.

“The Army had said that there’s was no way we could get it done in the first 25 years, so we got it done in 15 years,” RRDA’s executive director Jerry Acy told Insider. “The economy and investments and the new companies we have brought in” allowed the authority to pay off its debt swiftly.

The authority recently announced a partnership with development firm Hollenbach-Oakley to construct a Class A office and research park on 600 acres at River Ridge.

While the price varied, the authority paid between $1,100 and $1,700 an acre, Acy said. It also got credit towards its debt for various work it completed on the land.

Norman “Ned” Pfau Jr., RRDA’s longest-serving board member, noted the achievement, saying “I’m really proud of what we’ve done. We’ve got a great future. We’ve got a great team.” —Caitlin Bowling

Event planner launches interior design business

The office of Journey and Jacobs Design Studio. | Courtesy of Lemonade Public Relations

Jaclyn Journey isn’t just planning weddings anymore; she’s also planning the new look for customers’ living rooms, offices and other spaces.

Journey and collaborator Amanda Jacobs, an interior designer, have joined together to start Journey and Jacobs Design Studio, according to a news release. Their design aesthetic is a mix of old-world tradition and modern.

“When we plan a wedding or an event, we spend a great deal of time learning about our clients – their personalities, likes, dislikes, individual style. Those details all go into the planning and design, and we truly see interior as a fine art,” Journey said in the release. “We wanted to bring that same experience into homes and commercial spaces. This is an opportunity to help our clients create spaces which feel like a true representation of their style but are also livable, comfortable and inviting.”

Journey and Jacobs Design Studio has already worked with Ostra restaurant on Frankfort Avenue and Lemonade Public Relations offices.

Insider reported in 2016 that Journey and wedding photographer Whitney Neal opened offices in the Butcherblock development. —Caitlin Bowling

Humana names MD as corporate development officer

Humana has hired a medical doctor with a background in private equity and IT as its new strategy and corporate development officer, in part to establish direction “for merger, acquisition and joint venture activities.”

Dr. Vishal Agrawal, who holds a doctorate of medicine from Yale, comes to Humana from The Carlyle Group, one of the world’s largest private equity and alternative investment firms, which lists among its core industries financial services, technology and health care.

He previously held leadership positions with the management consulting firm McKinsey & Co., the Harris Corporation and Ciox Health, which said on its website that it helps clients “manage, protect and leverage health information to achieve operational improvements, optimized revenue and better patient outcomes.”

Humana said Agrawal will report to CEO Bruce Broussard and will be responsible, among other things, for “advancing the company’s strategic insight and planning process (and) establishing direction for merger, acquisition and joint venture activities.”

Humana in recent months has made several moves to acquire businesses and work more closely with partners. The company this year bought a stake in Louisville-based Kindred Healthcare and partnered with Walgreens on primary care clinics in Kansas City, Mo.

Since its failed merger with rival Aetna, Humana has remained in the headlines about possible tie-ups with Cigna, Walmart, Walgreens and others, especially given continued consolidation pressures in the industry. Aetna, for example, recently was acquired by CVS.

Humana said Agrawal succeeds Christopher Hunter, who recently switched jobs to lead the company’s Group, Specialty and Military business groups. As part of a realignment, the insurer said that its care delivery organization will become part of its finance organization, under the leadership of CFO Brian Kane.

“An important part of Humana’s integrated care delivery strategy involves expanding clinical capabilities with a commitment to providing care delivery solutions to serve the members of many different payors,” Humana said.

Broussard said that the steps will help Humana grow “payor-agnostic care delivery through acquisitions” and surgery centers, which focus on prevention and same-day surgeries, which means the procedures cost less than if they were performed in hospitals. —Boris Ladwig

Growler USA now open

Growler USA opened in Jeffersonville on Dec. 6. | Courtesy of Growler USA

Craft beer bar and restaurant Growler USA officially opened Thursday, Dec. 6, at 3010 Gottbrath Parkway in Jeffersonville.

The restaurant features more than 100 beers on tap and menu items, including a fried chicken sandwich, skillet mac and cheese with bacon and the Bromance Burger, a burger topped with carnitas, barbecue sauce, bacon and crispy onion.

The Jeffersonville location of the Colorado-based franchise is owned and operated by couple Greg and Laura Brown.

Greg Brown told Insider previously that, despite being a franchise, the design of Growler USA will be customized to fit the region in look. It also will serve about a dozen specialty menu items not found at other stores.

The 4,000-square-foot restaurant seats 150 inside and another 60 on the patio around two fire pits. —Caitlin Bowling

State gets $42 million to help with children’s care and development

Courtesy of Creative Commons

A $42 million boost in federal funds will be used by the state of Kentucky to improve the Child Care Assistance Program, officials said Dec. 3.

The Kentucky Cabinet for Health and Family Services received the money through a Child Care Development Block Grant and consulted with stakeholders on ways to better assist families and kids, according to a news release.

“The input and collaboration we received from our key stakeholders and partners were essential,” said Eric Clark, commissioner of the state Department for Community Based Services.

Among other things, the state is raising the reimbursement rates for licensed and certified providers and increasing the amount of money that families can earn without having their child-care funding discontinued.

Also, parents who would normally have to meet a work requirement will be able to substitute other options, such as full-time enrollment in an accredited college or university or a certified trade school. Because of that, “parents will have less barriers to successfully completing their degree, thereby increasing their earning potential and becoming self-sufficient,” said Terry Brooks, executive director of Kentucky Youth Advocates. —Darla Carter

Kentucky Distillers’ Association honors Mayor Fischer for ‘bourbonism’

Rob Samuels and Eric Gregory present Mayor Fischer with the award. | Courtesy of KDA

On Monday, the Kentucky Distillers’ Association gave Mayor Greg Fischer a 100 Proof Award for his role in championing for the bourbon and distilled spirits industry. Fischer is only the 10th person to receive the award and the first Louisville official.

“At a time when Louisville’s Whiskey Row and Urban Bourbon Trail was beginning to experience tremendous growth, Mayor Fischer stepped up and provided real leadership as our industry elevated tourism and expanded into the local food scene,” KDA President Eric Gregory said in a news release.

“He coined the phrase ‘bourbonism,’ convened bourbon-related workgroups and collaborated with the KDA to develop partnerships with Louisville’s culinary and cosmopolitan endeavors, as well as other tourism-related opportunities,” continued Gregory.

It’s hard to believe, but just 10 years ago, there were no bourbon tourism experiences in the city, and now there are 10, with more opening next year. Fischer said at the ceremony that he believes we are only in the early stages of bourbonism, and there is much more to come.

Rob Samuels, chairman of KDA’s board of directors and chief distillery officer of Maker’s Mark, thanked Fischer for his leadership.

“The city of Louisville and Mayor Fischer are partners in the truest sense of the word, and he knows that bourbon is more than just a drink. It’s jobs and investment and economic impact,” Samuels said.

Previous recipients of the 100 Proof Award include Rep. Susan Westrom of Lexington, former Gov. Steve Beshear and U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, among others. —Sara Havens

In Brief

Yum Brands’ subsidiary Pizza Hut is acquiring the online ordering software and service provider QuikOrder; the terms of the deal were not disclosed. The acquisition, one of Pizza Hut’s largest to date, will allow the company to bolster its online ordering experience and delivery in the United States, as well as accelerate digital innovation, according to a news release.

The Foundation for a Health Kentucky and the Friedell Committee for Health System Transformation are merging. The groups said they would speak as a single voice to influence community and statewide health policy change.

Kristen Hadeed, founder of Student Maid, will be the closing keynote speaker at the Best of Leadership Summit on March 6. Early discounted registration ends on Friday, Dec. 14.

This post has been updated to reflect that the state’s announcement about child care assistance was Dec. 3.



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