10 Central Kentucky business sectors to watch in 2013

Herald-Leader business writersJanuary 7, 2013 

The still-fragile economy dominated headlines in 2012, with growth coming slowly in industries such as real estate and finance. What industries and organizations will see major changes in 2013? Here are 10 situations to watch in Central Kentucky.

Racetracks

Racetracks are awaiting word from the Kentucky Supreme Court on whether the justices will review the Family Foundation's challenge of instant racing or send it back to Franklin Circuit Court for discovery. A quick decision could mean more tracks putting in the machines, which allow betting on previously run races. Historical wagering topped $200 million in November with just two tracks — Kentucky Downs and Ellis Park — offering the alternative form of gambling.

Also, with the departure of Republican Senate President David Williams, Gov. Steve Beshear is expected to revive an attempt to put expanded gambling on the ballot for 2014.

The shake-up in Senate leadership is expected to put Sen. Damon Thayer, who sponsored the failed bid in 2012, in as Senate majority floor leader, giving gambling proponents more hope.

Toyota

Expect some employee turnover at Toyota's flagship North American assembly plant in Georgetown.

It's been nearly 25 years since Toyota began operations there. And since 25 years of service also marks the time when employees may receive full retirement medical benefits, the automaker is expecting many of its most veteran employees to retire during the next two years.

In hopes of managing that attrition, the company recently announced a retirement incentive program for eligible employees if they agree to retire in certain intervals throughout 2013 and 2014.

The company intends to fill all the positions that will be opened by hiring from its group of temporary employees and then bringing on new workers for that pool.

Industrial hemp

Agriculture Commissioner James Comer plans to push the General Assembly to pass legislation on industrial hemp.

Comer says Kentucky farmers are clamoring to know when lawmakers will "get out of their way" and let them grow what could be a potentially lucrative crop.

U.S. Sen. Rand Paul has filed a bill in Congress to distinguish between marijuana and hemp legally.

Housing market

Lexington home sales began to bounce back in 2012 with year-over-year growth occurring in every month through November, according to Property Valuation Administrator David O'Neill's office. Sales data for December have not been released yet.

It was an up-and-down year, though, for residential and commercial building permits, showing investment in the market continues to be tough.

Retail

Several new retailers will be heading to Lexington.

Construction is expected to begin on a Costco warehouse store across Interstate 75 from the Hamburg shopping development.

Meanwhile, Hobby Lobby is far along in construction at Hamburg, and it's expected the store will open early this year.

The Mall at Lexington Green, which is morphing itself into a fashion center, is welcoming Anthropologie in the former Disc Jockey spot.

Health care

Expect construction efforts by local hospitals to continue. Central Baptist Hospital's $20 million expansion project in Lexington is expected to be completed in late 2014 or early 2015. It includes a new cancer center and a women's center with labor and delivery, surgical and neonatal intensive care facilities.

Nearby, the $592 million hospital bed tower at the University of Kentucky medical complex awaits a next phase, which will cost an additional $264 million over the next five years. That will require a sequence of moving beds from Kentucky Children's Hospital and the old Chandler Hospital into the new tower, called Pavilion A. That will fill most of Pavilion A and leave space to retrofit Kentucky Children's Hospital next door.

More change is coming, too. The Shriners Hospital for Children plans to leave its longtime Richmond Road site in favor of building a new facility near the UK health complex. Shriners would pay for the construction, and UK would lease back 50,000 square feet for an ophthalmology clinic.

Masonic Homes of Kentucky has had informal discussions with officials at Shriners about purchasing the Richmond Road property for a seniors community.

Richmond Road

A renaissance of sorts is happening on Richmond Road. The long-dilapidated Lexington Mall property has been replaced with a satellite campus of Southland Christian Church, which began worship services there over the weekend.

Restaurant Coba Cocina, in the Idle Hour Shopping Center, is expected to open early this year. The restaurant, which is being developed by Cheddar's franchisees Phil and Lee Greer, will feature the world's largest jellyfish tank.

Apartments are also being renovated. Plans are in place to make over the former Pennington Place apartment complex that had fallen into disrepair. Also, the Sonnet Cove Apartment complex on Laketower Drive is being renamed Lakewood Park and being redeveloped into luxury apartments and townhomes.

Rupp Arena

Heated discussion in recent years about the future of Rupp Arena and Lexington Center will continue in 2013.

In November, a consultant was hired to create a strategic financial plan for proposed renovations to Rupp, relocation of the Lexington Convention Center and development in the Arena, Arts and Entertainment District.

Downtown hotel

Plans were announced for a downtown hotel, but it wasn't the long-awaited CentrePointe project.

Instead, 21c Museum Hotels announced plans to open a hotel in the historic First National Bank Building on Main Street.

City and state officials have signed off on financial incentives for the project, which is expected to open in 2014.

Tempur-Pedic

It was a rocky 2012 for Lexington-based mattress maker Tempur-Pedic. The company struggled with increased competition from other mattress makers and saw lower sales and profit than expected as the year went on.

But the company also announced a $1.3 billion deal to acquire rival Sealy that's expected to close during the first half of this year.

On top of that, it recently moved into a new global headquarters in the Coldstream Research Campus off Newtown Pike.

Scott Sloan: (859) 231-1447. Twitter: @HeraldLeaderBiz. Janet Patton: (859) 231-3264. Twitter: @janetpattonhl. Cheryl Truman: (859) 231-3202. Twitter: @CherylTruman

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