Business Notes


Ford plant in Louisville expected to shut down for five weeks

The United Auto Workers union says Ford's Louisville Assembly Plant will be idled for five weeks beginning Dec. 1. The Courier-Journal reports that UAW Local 862 also says that Ford's Kentucky Truck Plant will apparently shut down in mid-December until early February. The plants already had scheduled downtime around the Christmas holiday. Ford and United Auto Workers officials didn't return calls seeking comment. Louisville Assembly Plant manager Mark Bolding said, in a Nov. 6 bulletin the union posted on its Web site, that marketing and sales officials notified the plant of the pending shutdown. Local 862 Kentucky Truck Plant building chairman Scott Eskridge said in a newsletter on the same date that the plant will apparently be idle from Dec. 15 until Feb. 2.

W. Kentucky ethanol plant plan dropped

Plans for an $85 million ethanol plant in Western Kentucky by Kentucky Five Star Energy have been scrapped. The company had planned to build it in an industrial park between Robards and Sebree. The rising cost of corn and increasing public opposition to using food grains for fuel were seen as factors.

TVA cutting rates 6% after 20% increase

The Tennessee Valley Authority, which provides electricity in parts of Kentucky, will soon cut its rates by about 6 percent to account for lower fuel costs, offering some relief for customers after a 20 percent rate hike enacted Oct. 1. The savings starting Jan. 1 should equal about $4 to $8 a month. The change reflects a 25 percent reduction in TVA's fuel cost charge, which is adjusted quarterly.

Unilever expanding at Owensboro

Unilever Foods North America plans a $49 million expansion at its Owensboro plant next year that could create up to 52 more jobs. Plant production manager Dave Hamilton told The Messenger-Inquirer that the company is adding a production line and a kitchen to its frozen-food unit. Employees will combine ingredients for the Bertolli brand frozen meals packaged at the plant. The new line is expected to begin operating in November 2009. That's in addition to a frozen food line expected to begin in March. The plant currently has about 450 employees.


EBay won't handle inauguration tickets

EBay Inc. has decided it won't allow tickets to President-elect Barack Obama's swearing-in ceremony to be sold on its Web sites. The company made the decision after meeting Wednesday with representatives of the Joint Congressional Committee on Inaugural Ceremonies, an eBay spokeswoman said. The head of the committee, Democratic Sen. Dianne Feinstein of California, wants to prevent scalping of tickets to the historic event. Tickets are supposed to be distributed free through congressional offices, which have been overwhelmed with demands. EBay Inc. is the parent company of listing and sales sites eBay, StubHub and Kijiji. Early this week StubHub advertised swearing-in tickets for thousands of dollars, but the postings were gone Thursday.

Bad economy hits Postal Service for a loss

The U.S. Postal Service ended its fiscal year $2.8 billion in the red, battered by a faltering economy that cut the amount of mail being sent. Postmaster General John Potter said the agency is making sharp cuts in hours and overtime, but added there are no plans for layoffs. The mail being sent dropped by 9.5 billion items. By cutting back on spending, the post office had a net operating income of $2.7 billion in 2008, but it still ended up in the red because of the requirement for a $5.6 billion payment to a health benefit fund for retirees. Even so, the $2.8 billion loss was well short of last year's $5.1 billion postal deficit. The Postal Service does not receive a tax subsidy for its operations. Potter said the agency reduced working hours by 50 million in 2008 and hopes to double that to 100 million hours cut this year. The service has been offering early retirement, which has been accepted by 3,685 workers.

Crude drops to 22-month low before rising

Oil prices swung wildly Thursday following a lead from Wall Street, which sank 300 points before investors flooded back into the market. Light, sweet crude for December delivery rose $2.08 to settle at $58.24 on the New York Mercantile Exchange. Crude earlier had dipped as low as $54.67, a price last seen in January 2007, on reports that the world's biggest economies are in recession and that energy demand has declined to decade-ago levels. There was also chatter about yet another extraordinary meeting by the Organization of Petroleum Exporting Countries to cut production for the second time in less than a month. "They might actually mean it this time," said Mike Zarembski, senior commodity analyst at OptionsExpress.

BlackBerry Storm available next week

The BlackBerry Storm, Blackberry's first touch-screen smartphone, will be available beginning Nov. 21, Verizon Wireless announced Thursday. The phone will cost $199.99 after a $50 mail-in rebate with a new two-year customer agreement.

Compiled from Staff, wire reports