Talks To Resume Between UPS, Pilots Sunday, May 1 2016 

Negotiators for United Parcel Service and the Independent Pilots Association will resume talks later this month in hopes reaching a contract agreement.

The latest round of federally mediated negotiations ended last week in Washington.

UPS pilots have been working under the terms of their previous contract for five years. The IPA, which represents some 2,500 pilots, has been preparing for the possibility of a strike.

Earlier this month, the union set up a strike operation center at its Louisville headquarters, a move dismissed by UPS as a publicity stunt.

For a strike to be called, the mediator would have to declare an impasse and release the two sides from talks. That would be followed by a 30-day cooling off period.

Union president Bob Travis said the IPA and UPS have been called back to Washington by the National Mediation Board for what he called “two consecutive weeks of intensive negotiations” starting the week of May 16.

Union officials said some of the remaining sticking points involve flight schedules and crew fatigue. Both sides say there was some progress made in the most recent round of talks.

How A Map Of Internet Speeds Could Boost Equity In Louisville Thursday, Apr 28 2016 

Understanding and ensuring internet access equity depends on data.

It’s easy to speculate about where connection speeds may struggle, but without the data, it’s nearly impossible to know who is getting good, reliable service and where opportunities exist for improvement, said Ted Smith, chief of innovation for Louisville Metro.

Private entities aren’t required to release much data related to broadband connectivity. And what data is available isn’t very useful for cities looking to breach digital divides and boost competition among internet service providers.

For this reason, Smith and a team of entrepreneurs and civic innovation experts are launching a free mapping tool called Speed Up Louisville this week. It’s designed to enable internet users here to record their connection speeds and compare them with others nearby and across the city.

“It makes for a great citizen science project where we can all donate some data about our experiences and, collectively, we can all benefit,” he said.

Its launch comes in the midst of a number of developments relating to fiber connectivity in the city.

Google Fiber announced last year it would examine the feasibility of providing ultra high-speed internet service to Louisville consumers. The news sparked a frenzy of interest from other providers: Time Warner and AT&T followed Google with news that they’d also begin offering gigabit service to residents in Louisville.

A handful of other companies are also seeking franchise status to begin laying fiber lines and hooking residents up to internet expected to be up to 100 times faster than what’s currently available.

Speed Up Louisville’s concept stems from a similar project in Seattle, where civic leaders partnered with tech-centric volunteers to create a map showing internet speeds across the city. In Louisville, entrepreneurs and city innovation teams collaborated with officials in Seattle to get the project off the ground.

A screenshot of Speed Up Louisville. Screenshot

A screenshot of Speed Up Louisville.

Ed Blayney, an innovation project manager for Louisville Metro, said officials in Seattle provided the necessary coding, tips and inspiration needed to see the project to fruition. The partnership, he said, is an example of two cities working together to push boundaries in an effort to improve residents’ quality of life.

“There’s always competition between cities, but people are always sharing,” he said.

The finished product is targeted to anyone who uses the internet — whether it be in a home, in an office or on a phone.

Eric Littleton is the co-founder of PowerUp Labs and helped design Louisville’s internet speed map. He caught wind of Seattle’s project in a Code for America event hosted by Louisville’s Civic Data Alliance earlier this year and decided to tailor a similar tool for Louisville.

“[The tool is designed] to help consumers understand what they’re actually getting, and are they getting the value their neighbor is getting or some other zip code is getting,” he said.

Littleton said the tool’s success depends on the depth of user participation. Since the idea is to record what internet speeds are across the city, it’s important users provide location data.

Users are asked a series of additional questions, like what type of internet they’re using (work or home), who provides their service, what type of service are they paying for and how much they pay, Littleton said. Answering any question is voluntary, and the process takes a few minutes.

All data provided via the tool will be available for public export, he said. Location data will be limited to zip-code level information. Blayney said city officials have no way of accessing user data beyond the public export, which is available to anyone.

Smith is touting the tool as a game-changer in Louisville’s quest for better internet connectivity. He said beyond allowing consumers to see whether they’re getting the service they’re paying for, the mapping program will provide a more accurate view into areas where speeds may be bogging down.

“We only have anecdotes, but we keep hearing them over and over again,” he said. “I really do want to see the data, and we all do, to get some validation for that.”

The hope is providers will be quick to move into struggling areas and meet consumers’ needs, Smith said.

“We win when they compete to provide service,” he said. “We’re losing when no one is trying to close gaps in the market.”

Charter’s Merger With Time Warner Cable Nears Regulatory Approval Tuesday, Apr 26 2016 

Charter Communications has bid more than $88 billion to buy its larger rival, Time Warner Cable, and a smaller competitor called Bright House Networks — and it’s closing in on the required regulatory approval from federal authorities.

The deal would be yet another major shakeup in the telecom industry: It would form the second-largest Internet provider, behind Comcast, and the third-largest video provider, behind Comcast and the newly merged AT&T/DirecTV.

According to telecom analytics from MoffettNathanson, the so-called “New Charter” would have about 21 million broadband subscribers and 17.4 million video subscribers.

Telecom mergers require approval of the antitrust regulators at the Justice Department and the Federal Communications Commission, which decides whether a deal is in the public interest.

The DOJ has now approved Charter’s merger with Time Warner Cable and FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler has also recommended approval — both with conditions. As the New York Times reports, the conditions include protections for the online video streaming industry:

“The Federal Communications Commission and Justice Department imposed strong restrictions on the deals, including an order from the Justice Department that strictly prohibits the combined company from entering anticompetive deals with programmers that would keep shows and movies off streaming services like Netflix and Hulu.

The F.C.C. also imposed conditions to its approval to protect the nascent video streaming industry. The agency said Charter agreed that for seven years it will not impose data caps on users and will abide by so-called net neutrality rules, even if the rules are overturned in a separate federal appeals court case.”

Charter swept in last year with an offer to buy its larger rival after a similar bid from Comcast was rejected in Washington over concerns that a bigger Comcast would exert too much control over the broadband market. Comcast had previously outbid Charter as the two companies vied for a tie-up with Time Warner Cable.

To close the deal, Charter now needs a formal vote from the five-member FCC as well as approval of the California Public Utilities Commission.

The company issued a statement welcoming the moves by the DOJ and the FCC chairman, adding:

“The conditions that will be imposed ensure Charter’s current consumer-friendly and pro-broadband businesses practices will be maintained by New Charter. We are confident New Charter will be a leading competitor in the broadband and video markets and are optimistic that we will soon receive final approval from federal regulators as well as the California PUC.”

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

UPS Pilot Union Prepares For Possible Strike Tuesday, Apr 19 2016 

The second floor room at the Independent Pilots Association is outfitted with desktop computers and flat-screen TVs, and equipped with technology to track the whereabouts of its pilots in the event of a work stoppage.

The union that represents some 2,500 UPS pilots has taken another step to prepare for a possible strike, establishing a “strike operation center” at its Louisville-based headquarters. The facility was opened for media tours Tuesday.

UPS pilots have been working under the terms of their previous contract, which expired in 2011. The two sides continue to take part in federally mediated negotiations, but IPA president Bob Travis says he believes the talks are close to an impasse.

“The National Mediation Board is fully aware that our pilot group is prepared,” says Travis. “We don’t want to go on strike, should they determine there’s an impasse and release us. And they have to make that determination.”

If the mediation board declares an impasse, there would be a 30-day cooling off period before pilots could strike.

UPS spokesman Mike Mangeot dismisses the IPA action as a publicity stunt, calling it “typical of the kind of past tactics the union has used to try to pressure negotiations.”

Mangeot says UPS doesn’t publicly discuss the specifics of contract talks, but is still confident that an agreement can be reached.

“What I can tell you is we do a great job of taking care of our pilots and they in turn do a great job of flying for us,” he says.

Among the sticking points in the talks are flight schedules and crew fatigue.

Travis says the union has put its final proposals on the table and UPS is expected to do the same next week.

Heine Brothers Is Moving Its Headquarters To Portland Monday, Apr 18 2016 

In another indication of growing economic momentum in Portland’s emerging warehouse district, Heine Brothers’ Coffee announced on Monday it is renovating a 100-year-old building on 13th and West Main Street to house its headquarters.

The coffee company, which has 13 locations, will house its corporate offices, roastery and training operations in the facility at 1301 W. Main St. It said 15 employees would work there.

Heine Brothers’, which sells organic and fair trade coffee, will also lease space in the 40,000-square-foot warehouse. Its target opening is late this summer.

The company is looking to piggyback on the planned expansion of Waterfront Park westward, as well as other recent additions to the northern edge of West Louisville.

“There is a lot of momentum on the west side of Ninth Street, and as a local company we see an opportunity to make a positive impact on the neighborhood,” said Heine Brothers’ President Mike Mays in a news release. “To be in a beautiful building believed to be the city’s first steel beam warehouse constructed right after the turn of the century is another big draw.”

Portland, a historically working class neighborhood, has seen a mini-boom of new investment in recent years.

Developer Gill Holland, whose vision and investment sparked the NuLu redevelopment years ago, has been leading a group of investors buying and converting warehouses in Portland. The Tim Faulkner Gallery and Louisville Visual Art were early adopters in the push to bring more arts-based businesses to the area.

Holland has also spearheaded an initiative to revitalize shotgun houses in the neighborhood. According to U.S. Census figures, more than 40 percent of Portland’s 11,000 residents live below the federal poverty line.

Louisville Manufacturers Get Boost From Regional Program Thursday, Apr 7 2016 

Sandra Elliot has a lot of work to do.

She’s an electrical technician at Thermex Thermatron, a mid-sized manufacturing company that exports an array of products from their shop in Jeffersontown.

Elliot is tasked with assembling the electrical components that power presses, generators and other industrial systems made by the company. She’s working overtime to fill orders, but she doesn’t mind. In fact, she enjoys it.

“I love creating, and I love building,” she said.

At a recent trade show, the company got a big order from a new client, said Ray Lund, its president and CEO. Lund had never been to the trade show before and said he may not have gone if he didn’t get a grant from the Bluegrass Economic Advancement Movement.

The program, known by its acronym BEAM, facilitates funding to companies like Lund’s with the hopes of expediting growth. Lund’s company got a $4,500 grant that offset the cost of attending the trade show. Had he not gone, Lund said, he’d probably still have been able to place the order, but he would have had to invest more money in courting the client.

And making investments without the guarantee of a return is tough for a small or mid-sized business like his.

“You have to watch every penny,” he said.

Jeanine Duncliffe recognizes this barrier confronting many businesses in and around Louisville. She’s the director of the city’s international economic development department. She said BEAM is helping tip the risk in favor of the manufacturers by providing the financial support to find new ways to get in front of potential customers.

Sometimes that’s getting the funds to go to a trade show, she said. Other times, it’s buying translation software to communicate with foreign investors.

“These grants make it easier for companies to take a chance,” she said.

To date, the BEAM program — which is funded by a $200,000 grant from JP Morgan Chase — has awarded grants to 40 small or medium-sized manufacturing companies, Duncliffe said.

The aim is to help them export more product, either by breaking into new markets or expanding their presence in existing markets.

“They help a company to make multiple investments in a given year instead of one,” she said.

Louisville Mayor Greg Fischer said there is much to gain by supporting burgeoning manufacturers like Thermex Thermatron.

The 22-county BEAM region, stretching from Louisville to Lexington, accounted for nearly half of the state’s $28 billion exports in 2015, Fischer said. The aerospace industry is the state’s top exporter, followed by the auto industry, according to the U.S. Census.

And as annual export totals continue to tick up — the state tallied about $22 billion in exports in 2012, according to the U.S. Census — Fischer said developing the export ability of small to medium-sized manufacturers is “critical to a prosperous future.”

Sandra Elliot isn’t thinking too much about that future on this day. She’s busy piecing together what appears to be a tangle of multi-colored wires and cables into a giant metal box that, when finished, will be a heavy-duty generator.

She likes the work because it reminds her of an algebra problem.

“The math problem might be like two pages long to get an answer,” she said. “But I enjoy it.”

Amazon Is Bringing Its Same-Day Delivery To Louisville Wednesday, Apr 6 2016 

If you’re in Louisville, it just got even more attractive to impulse-buy on Amazon.

The company announced Wednesday it’s expanding its same-day delivery service to Louisville and 10 other cities. The service, which is available to Prime members at no extra charge, provides same-day delivery of items over $35 seven days a week. Orders must be placed in the morning to qualify and are guaranteed to arrive by 9 p.m.

Amazon said its same-day service is now operating in 27 metro areas and more than 1,000 cities and towns.

Amazon Prime is a $99-a-year subscription service that offers members free two-day shipping on many items and other services, like streaming video.

Amazon operates a 1 million-square-foot distribution facility in Jeffersonville, Indiana, where it employs hundreds of people.

Pfizer, Allergan Call Off Their $150 Billion Merger Wednesday, Apr 6 2016 

Pfizer and Allergan won’t be merging after all, the companies announced Wednesday.

U.S. drugmaker Pfizer and Irish competitor Allergan were planning to combine into the largest pharmaceutical giant in the world.

But the $150 billion agreement has been terminated because of a recent change in U.S. tax rules.

NPR’s Jim Zarroli explained the policy shift on the blog yesterday:

“The Treasury Department on Monday introduced rules aimed at reducing the incentives for companies to carry out inversions. That’s a controversial practice in which a U.S. company merges with a firm in a foreign country, such as Ireland, and moves its headquarters there to take advantage of that nation’s lower tax rate.

“In most cases, the move is something of a legal fig leaf, because the company continues to operate in the U.S. in much the same manner as before.

“President Obama today called inversions ‘one of the most insidious tax loopholes out there.’ He said they allow companies to remain in the U.S., taking advantage of its infrastructure and legal system, adding: ‘But they effectively renounce their citizenship. They declare that they’re based somewhere else, thereby getting all the reward of being an American company without fulfilling the responsibilities of paying their taxes the way everybody else is supposed to pay them.’

“Critics say inversions have become more common because the U.S. corporate tax rate is higher than any other developed country’s, at least on paper. Unlike other countries, the U.S. also requires its companies to pay taxes on income they earn anywhere in the world.”

The change in rules was substantive enough to reduce the advantages expected from the merger, Pfizer says.

Pfizer paid Allergan $150 million to cover expenses related to calling off the deal.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

Kindred Healthcare Selling Long-term Care Hospitals Tuesday, Apr 5 2016 

Kindred Healthcare announced it has signed an agreement to sell 12 long-term acute care hospitals to Curahealth LLC for $27.5 million.

Kindred President and CEO Benjamin A. Breier said in a statement released Monday that the transaction creates both strategic and financial value for the Louisville-based health care giant.

“We are pleased to announce this sale of 12 [long-term acute care] hospitals to Curahealth, as this transaction creates both strategic and financial value for Kindred,” he said. “Optimizing our LTAC hospital portfolio is a key element of our LTAC criteria mitigation strategy, and this transaction is another important step forward in our efforts.”

The hospitals have 783 beds in six states: Arizona, Louisiana, Massachusetts, Oklahoma, Pennsylvania and Tennessee.

Curahealth is an affiliate of a private investment fund sponsored by Nautic Partners. For the full fiscal year 2016, Kindred projects the hospitals will generate combined revenues of approximately $215 million.

According to the statement, officials expect the deal with Curahealth to close in the third quarter of this year.

U.S. Economy Added 215,000 Jobs In March; Unemployment Rate Rose To 5 Percent Friday, Apr 1 2016 

The U.S. economy gained 215,000 jobs in March, the Bureau of Labor Statistics says in its monthly report released Friday. The unemployment rate rose slightly to 5 percent, up from 4.9 percent in the month before.

“The increase in the unemployment rate came because we had more people looking for work,” economist Gus Faucher of PNC Financial Services tells our Newscast unit.

And that’s clear from the labor force participation rate, which shows that “more people who’ve been out of work got optimistic enough to start looking for a job again,” NPR’s Chris Arnold reports.

The Associated Press notes that it’s “the fifth time in the past six months that the proportion of Americans working or looking for work has increased, an encouraging trend after that figure fell to four-decade lows last year.”

The retail trade, construction and health care sectors added jobs, while the numbers dropped in manufacturing and mining.

“We continue to see job growth of more than 200,000 per month. That’s far more than we need to keep up with normal growth in the labor force, so we’re reducing job market slack,” Faucher says.

Average hourly earnings for private sector workers increased by 7 cents, to $25.43, after dropping 2 cents in February, the BLS report says.

The gains in the number of payroll jobs slightly exceeded analysts’ expectations. In a survey conducted by Bloomberg, economists forecast that companies added 205,000 jobs to their payrolls last month. They had expected the unemployment rate to remain unchanged.

The White House said in a blog post after the report’s release that “the private sector has now added 14.4 million jobs over 73 straight months of job growth, the longest streak on record, and wage growth has accelerated over the past year.” It adds: “More work remains to drive even faster wage growth.”

The Bureau of Labor Statics revised January’s jobs gains downward, to 168,000 from 172,000. February’s figures were revised upward, to 245,000 from 242,000. In total, “employment gains in January and February combined were 1,000 less than previously reported,” the report states.

Copyright 2016 NPR. To see more, visit http://www.npr.org/.

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