business

U.S. Bank

U.S. Bank is closing its home mortgage call center in Bowling Green, affecting about 100 workers. 

Employees were notified on Wednesday that operations at the Louisville Road facility would cease by the end of September. 

U.S. Bank Regional President Craig Browning says a few of the displaced workers will remain with the company but work from home.  Others will go to a much larger call center in Owensboro.

It's hard enough for employers to find workers to fill open jobs these days, but on top of it, many prospective hires are failing drug tests.

The Belden electric wire factory in Richmond, Ind., is taking a novel approach to both problems: It now offers drug treatment, paid for by the company, to job applicants who fail the drug screen. Those who complete treatment are also promised a job.

U.S. whiskey distillers are fretting over the steep new tariffs they're facing around the world. They're being punished as U.S. trading partners retaliate against the Trump administration's tariffs on steel and aluminum. Now, the distillers fear that a long boom in U.S. whiskey exports could be coming to an end.

Kentucky bourbon has experienced a huge revival over the past decade — thanks in large part to U.S. trade initiatives that have opened up global markets, says Eric Gregory of the Kentucky Distillers' Association.

More than $3 billion worth of U.S. goods — from bourbon and corn to Harley-Davidson motorcycles — are now subject to a 25 percent tariff in the European Union, in retaliation for the Trump administration's tariffs that hit the EU, Mexico and Canada this month.

"The trade that we believe in is built on rules, trust and reliable partnership," Jean-Claude Juncker, president of the EU Commission, said in a speech in Dublin on Thursday night. "The United States' decision to impose tariffs on Europe goes against that. In fact, it goes against all logic and history."

Kentucky Governor Downplays Effect of EU Tariffs on Bourbon

Jun 22, 2018
J. Tyler Franklin

In comments at odds with his home state's whiskey distillers, Kentucky's Republican governor is downplaying fears that the European Union's retaliatory tariffs could disrupt the booming market for the Bluegrass state's iconic bourbon industry.

"There's always the potential for some type of impact, but I don't think it will be a tremendous impact," Gov. Matt Bevin said when asked about tariffs during a TV interview this week with Bloomberg.

Flickr/Creative Commons/Pete Prodoehl

A company that produces aluminum is adding more than 250 jobs and investing over $100 million to improve one of its smelters in Kentucky.

Gov. Matt Bevin announced Wednesday that Century Aluminum will invest roughly $116.5 million for improvements to the smelter in Hawesville and bring back more than 250 full-time jobs. In the fall 2015, Century closed three potlines and laid off about 320 workers at the smelter in a dispute over electricity prices.

Updated at 5:26 p.m. ET

China's leaders followed President Trump in taking another step toward a new trade war, announcing a plan to put steep tariffs on $50 billion of U.S. imports. China's proposed 25 percent tariffs would target a wide range of American products, from soybeans and whiskey to airplanes and cars.

"China currently buys about $14 billion worth of American soybeans each year — almost a third of the entire U.S. crop," NPR's Dan Charles reports for our Newscast unit. "Prices for U.S. soybeans tumbled by 3 to 5 percent" on the news, Dan adds.

Creative Commons

An indoor farming company plans to invest $44 million to grow produce on the site of a reclaimed mine in eastern Kentucky.

Hydroponic Farms USA says it will bring 121 jobs to the region, which has seen rising unemployment with the decline of eastern Kentucky’s coal industry.

Hydroponic Farms USA spokesman Trevor Terry said investors chose to build on the site of a former mine in Breathitt County for two reasons. First, the large, flat space the former mine provided was the perfect for a large indoor growing operation.

Creative Commons/Mike Mozart

Retail giant Walmart is in the early stages of talks to buy Louisville-based health insurer Humana, according to a report published Thursday evening in the Wall Street Journal.

The newspaper cites people familiar with the deal, the terms of which weren’t disclosed. But the move would be the latest in a trend of retail pharmacies acquiring health insurers; in December, CVS bought insurer Humana.

From the Wall Street Journal:

Kentucky LRC

A bill that would overhaul the state’s workers’ compensation system continues to roll forward in the state legislature despite opposition from law enforcement and labor groups.

House Bill 2 is a top priority of the Kentucky Chamber of Commerce and is also supported by the Kentucky Coal Association, who say that businesses have to pay too much for workers’ compensation insurance.

Tyler White is the president of the Kentucky Coal Association.

When President Trump announced tariffs on steel and aluminum imports this month, he said protecting the two industries was vital for national security.

"We want to build our ships. We want to build our planes. We want to build our military equipment with steel, with aluminum from our country," he said at a March 8 White House news conference.

In other words, the U.S. military should be as self-sufficient as possible, and not rely on other countries to supply the essential materials it needs for defense.

Erica Peterson

Add another export to the growing list of American products other countries could tax because of tariffs: met coal.

Metallurgical coal — or “met coal” — is low-ash, low-sulfur coal that’s used to produce coke, an essential fuel for steel-making.

Demand for met coal is tied to the demand for steel. It’s also an American export and a symbol President Donald Trump used often on the campaign trail to demonstrate how he would “Make America great again.”

J. Tyler Frankin

Gov. Matt Bevin was non-committal when asked what he thinks of President Donald Trump’s proposal to institute tariffs on foreign-made steel and aluminum.

The policy could benefit Kentucky aluminum manufacturers like Braidy Industries — the company that Bevin helped attract to the state with a package of economic incentives — and Century Aluminum, which announced it would hire 300 new workers in Hancock County if the tariff went into effect.

President Trump made coal jobs a core of his presidential campaign, repeatedly vowing to bring back "beautiful" coal despite the industry's decades-long decline. And in pockets of the U.S. during Trump's first year in office, it may well have felt like a turnaround was underway.

A review of data from the Mine Safety and Health Administration shows 1,001 more U.S. coal jobs last year compared with 2016, although energy analysts say the reasons are short term and have nothing to do with White House policies.

If the Trump administration starts a trade war, Kentucky bourbon may get caught in the crossfire.

The administration is weighing strict new limits on imported steel and aluminum in hopes of shoring up homegrown metal industries. But European allies are warning of possible retaliation, including tariffs aimed at politically sensitive products such as bourbon and orange juice.

"That's what a lot of countries will look to do," said Rufus Yerxa, president of the National Foreign Trade Council. "Something that will get the Trump administration's attention."

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