Kroger Celebrates 130 Years!

We recently featured our friends at Kroger Co., but also want to make you aware of the company's latest milestone as it celebrated its 130th birthday yesterday. A release has more:

The Kroger Co. celebrates the 130th anniversary of the company’s founding today. On July 1, 1883, a young, hard-working German immigrant named Bernard “Barney” Kroger opened his first store in Cincinnati, Ohio.

In this 130th year, Kroger is poised to pass $100 billion in annual sales, provides employment to more than 343,000 associates, is one of the largest retail companies in the world, announced an industry-leading 37 consecutive fiscal quarters of positive identical sales growth and has been named the most generous company in America.

The heritage of exceptional customer service, passionate community service and entrepreneurial innovation established by Barney Kroger continues today. Highlights include:

  • A new strategy beginning in 2013 that will: strongly invest in existing stores, introduce a variety of new store formats, expand market share in existing markets and take Kroger into new markets across the United States.
  • More than $250 million in community support in 2012, including more than 200 million meals to regional food banks

Kroger: An Indiana Staple

Kroger's web site outlines the history of the supermarket chain, describing how Barney Kroger invested his life savings of $372 to open a grocery store in downtown Cincinnati in 1883. The son of a merchant, he ran his business with a simple motto: “Be particular. Never sell anything you would not want yourself.”

Step forward to now, and if you live in Indiana, there's a likely chance you know someone employed by a Kroger store. Here are some numbers and reasons why this supermarket is a pillar in the state's grocery economy:

  • 18,128 – Kroger associates employed in Indiana
  • $13.3 million – in food, cash, foundation grants and sales-based fundraising was distributed in 2012 from Kroger's Central Division
  • 1,940 – jobs in Indiana created over the last seven years
  • 1,630 – contractors employed statewide
  • 146 – food stores with a variety of options
  • 105 – pharmacies
  • 79 – fuel centers
  • 4 – distribution centers (Bluffton, Shelbyville, Seymour and Indianapolis)
  • 4 – manufacturing plants
  • 2 – division headquarters (Seymour and Indianapolis)

And the Top Manufacturing City is …

No matter the math, Indiana still generally ranks as the most manufacturing intensive state in the nation. That means we have more manufacturing jobs based on our population/workforce. Wisconsin and North Carolina are typically in the same neighborhood.

Manufacturers News Inc. changed the scope recently and put out a top 50 list of most manufacturing jobs by city. Certainly population is a bigger factor here, but there are still some interesting numbers.

The top 10 (list below), lost more than 95,000 jobs between August 2008 and the end of 2010. Big movers included Detroit (falling from 29th to 45th) and Seattle (moving up to 34th from 46th). Five from California (L.A., San Diego, San Jose, Irvine and Santa Clara) made the top 50.

Top 10 Manufacturing Cities

  1. Houston: 228,226
  2. New York: 139,127
  3. Chicago: 108,692
  4. Los Angeles: 83,719
  5. St. Louis: 83,123
  6. Dallas: 81,626
  7. Cincinnati: 81,364
  8. Indianapolis: 79,566
  9. Phoenix: 77,322
  10. San Diego: 70,709

New Jersey to Public Workers: You Want Our Money? We Want Your Taxes

It sounds good on paper, but personally I’m not buying it. In this case, "it" is a New Jersey proposal that says if the state is going to give you your paycheck, you have to live within its borders.

With our capital’s geographic presence in the middle of the state, I can’t imagine too many are commuting from Ohio, Illinois, Kentucky or Michigan to Indy. But state workers are not confined to the big city. The New Jersey bill would impact teachers, police officers and firefighters as well as all city and county government employees.

There are strong Indiana connections to Cincinnati, Chicago and Louisville in addition to numerous other areas in the four neighboring locales. I grew up in Dearborn County, a lot closer to Cincy than Indy, and a tri-state ingredient seems to be active in all four corners of the state.

The full New Jersey article is here. Below is a quick summary:

State Sen. Donald Norcross (D., Camden), the sponsor of the bill, said, "It is very simple. If you want a paycheck from New Jersey taxpayers, you should have to live here, pay your taxes here and be part of your community."

Norcross, who also leads the 85,000-member South Jersey AFL-CIO Central Labor Council, said an estimated 10,000 public employees live out of state, costing the state about $22 million in income taxes.

"What really gets me is when I look at the mass exodus every night out of Trenton to Pennsylvania," Senate President Stephen Sweeney said. "If it’s good enough to work for the state, it should be good enough to live in the state of New Jersey," he added.

Public employee unions said that while relatively few of their members work out of state, they strongly oppose the measure for those who do.

"I think it’s a ridiculous proposal," said Bob Master, regional political director for the Communication Workers of America. "It will have no meaningful impact in the long run on the state’s budget problems and it will cause completely unnecessary hardship for our members."

Master said that if New Jersey’s neighboring states were to adopt similar tactics, the results would not be pretty.

Expansion Now “Front Burner” Issue for Big Ten Conference

How can I justify putting this post on our blog? Hmm, well it’s sort of education-related … and it’s definitely profit-related.

The Big Ten athletic conference is looking seriously at expanding to 12 teams. The last team to join was Penn State in 1990. Schools reported as top candidates to fill the current void include Rutgers, Syracuse, Missouri, Cincinnati and Louisville.

Brian Kelly’s boys in South Bend remain doubtful. The Chicago Tribune explains the rationale behind expansion:

Jim Delany never will be a contestant on "Top Chef," but the Big Ten commissioner frequently has used a cooking analogy when asked about the prospects of Big Ten expansion.

"A back-burner issue," he has called it.

Not anymore. According to a league official, the Big Ten will release a statement Tuesday saying the matter has moved to the front burner.

The first sign of change came from former Wisconsin coach Barry Alvarez, who told Wisconsin’s athletic board on Friday that Delany "is going to take this year to really be more aggressive about it. I just think everybody feels [expansion] is the direction to go, coaches and administrators."

A league source on Monday cited a "growing groundswell" of support among athletic directors for expansion.

In 1990, the Big Ten became the Bigger 11 by adding Penn State. (The Nittany Lions had to wait until 1993 to vie for their first Rose Bowl.) In 1999, Notre Dame stiff-armed the league’s overtures, and that put the issue on ice.

Why is it being revisited now?

The biggest reason, as always, is the stuff that doesn’t grow on trees: money. If the league expands to 12 teams and two divisions — like the SEC, Big 12 and ACC — it would create a Big Ten title game that could be worth $5 million or more to the league. The Big Ten Network would love to televise it, and the conference has a 51 percent ownership stake in the network.

Personally, I must admit that I love the Big Ten Conference. So much so that even though I’m an Indiana man, I even root for Purdue against "outsiders." And I think the conference embodies the characteristics of many Midwesterners like myself — the competitiveness, the penchant for good sportsmanship, and the plight of being terrible at football.

So I have mixed feelings about this move (should it happen). The money would be nice, but I think mega conferences like the Big East can get so convoluted they lose their identity, so expansion should be treaded lightly. Your thoughts?

Duke Energy-Indiana Ties Run Deep

Jim Rogers’ road to the head of Duke Energy and leadership both within his industry and the U.S. business community began, in one sense, in Indiana. 

Who knew in 1988 when he joined Plainfield-based PSI Energy as chairman, president and CEO that PSI would merge with Cinergy (putting Rogers in a similar role out of Cincinnati from 1995-2006) and that the Cinergy-Duke marriage three years ago would elevate him to the leadership position he currently holds.

Rogers made an impact and left an impression in the Hoosier state. He served on the boards of directors of several leading corporations (Indiana National Bank and Duke Realty among them) and earned honorary doctorate degrees from Indiana State University (law) and Marian College (now Marian University) in business administration.

“When Jim Rogers arrived at PSI Energy  in the late 1980s, he brought a level of enthusiasm and vision that challenged the historically conservative power industry,” declares Vince Griffin, who worked for Rogers at that time and is now the Indiana Chamber vice president of environmental and energy policy. “This is unquestionably a challenging time for the electric power industry.”

Duke Energy is also looking at its Edwardsport, Indiana facility as a pilot project for the future with its investment in a 630-megawatt IGCC (integrated gasification combined cycle) facility.

Indiana takes center stage in the energy debate on September 2 with the Indiana Conference on Energy Management. The Duke Energy view, and undoubtedly a heavy dose of Rogers’ philosophy, will be featured in the keynote address from Jim Turner, the company’s second in command and leader of U.S. franchised electric and gas operations.

The Big ‘E’ as in Evansville

Evansville is always an interesting locale. Residents there feel the disconnect from Central Indiana (it’s difficult to have a conversation without the Interstate 69 topic coming up, and I understand to some degree their frustration), but they don’t really have the big out-of-state neighbor (think Chicago, Cincinnati or Louisville) to turn to as an Indiana alternative.

I’ve had the opportunity to report on a number of intriguing stories out of the area known as the Pocket City, River City, Crescent City and probably a few other nicknames. I’m working on one for the next BizVoice magazine that focuses on plans for a new downtown arena and the economic development potential it brings.

Look for a major announcement on that project soon and some analysis in the upcoming BizVoice. Mayor Jonathan Weinzapfel, by the way, says that on its own scale this development will be every bit as important to his community as the Lucas Oil Stadiums and Conseco Fieldhouses are to Indianapolis.

We’ve also compiled community feature sections from Fort Wayne, South Bend and Terre Haute in 2009 editions of BizVoice. There is plenty going on in all corners of the state and in many cities and towns in between. We enjoy bringing you the stories, hope you enjoy reading them and welcome your ideas for future topics.

Argosy Going Hollywood, Adding Jobs in Process

The Argosy in Lawrenceburg is about to get an overhaul and, unlike many business-related overhauls over the past year, this one will actually create jobs.

Cincinnati’s Business Courier explains:

When Penn National Gaming this summer opens its $326 million expansion at Lawrenceburg, it will be celebrated for the 125 contractors it employed during construction.

And the 250 new employees now being hired to operate the Hollywood-themed attraction.

And the glitzy trappings of the Vegas-scale gaming parlor, with its 300 plasma screens and 60-foot video board.

And the fancy décor, with its indoor replicas of the Hollywood Bowl, a city park and an urban streetscape.

But few will recognize the new Lawrence­burg casino for what it really is: an act of self-defense.

“This will expand our boundaries,” said Tony Rodio, general manager of the Penn National property on the Lawrenceburg riverfront, which will change its name from Argosy to Hollywood upon its opening in mid-July.

During a recent tour of the nearly finished casino, Rodio said the 270,000-square-foot expansion and its Hollywood rebranding will be part of a larger attempt by Wyomissing, Pa.-based Penn National to lay down roots in Cincinnati. Rodio wants to reclaim customers lost to two new horse-track casinos in Indianapolis and prevent encroachment by developers who have staked claims to potential casino sites from Louisville to Wilmington…

The casino will have 800 more slots, two dozen more poker tables and a VIP lounge that can host up to 110 people for dinners and private parties. Its 60-by-8-foot serpentine video screen will play movie trailers, promotional messages and memorable movie scenes on a 24-7 scrolling loop.

Domino Effect: What Would You Do?

So you’re a pizza chain franchisee, just minding your own business, and the next thing you know — blam! — an entire frat house wants to see how many pizzas its star mastodon can take down on a Tuesday night. Oh, and unbeknownst to you, you’re providing the pies gratis. Here’s a cautionary tale from a large pizza chain about online marketing:

In December, Domino’s created an online-only promotion for a free pizza using the codeword "bailout," but it never got the green light, said Tim McIntyre, Domino’s vice president of communications. "It had never technically been activated, but we hadn’t turned it off, either."

Monday night (March 30), an "enterprising customer" discovered the deal and spread it on the Internet, McIntyre said. By the time it was shut down at 11:30 a.m. Tuesday, nearly 11,000 pizzas were given away.

"I started getting calls at about 10 a.m. from managers asking what was going on. I said I had no idea," said John Glass, owner of 14 Domino’s franchises in the region. "I called corporate, they had no idea at the time. No one seemed to have any idea, everyone was scrambling. It all kind of snowballed."

Glass thinks he was hit harder than anyone else in the area, since he owns all the Domino’s near college campuses. In total, he thinks he gave away 600 to 700 pizzas.

Fortunately for these franchises, corporate has promised to bail them out. But what would you do in this situation? And what can you do to prevent a similar situation at your business?

Funniest of all, it may not be a total disaster for Domino’s:

There could be a silver lining, Glass said. He’s hoping, in addition to the publicity Domino’s basked in Tuesday, it also gave customers a chance to experience the relatively new online ordering system.

It might have worked.

"When I was working full time, we ordered online at LaRosa’s. You had to go through more hoops to order a pizza," (a customer) said. "This was a lot faster, a lot easier."

Ohio Still Entangled in Lawsuits from Election — the 2004 Election

The Cincinnati Enquirer published an article last week claiming Ohio taxpayers are still "on the hook" for legal fees stemming from lawsuits against the state in the 2004 election. Yikes. It states there were 23 lawsuits against the former Secretary of State, with over $1 million still needed to settle seven of the suits.

All but one of the settled cases involved election law. That one, settled for $73,139, involved a business-records suit in which a Brown County truck driver sued because his Social Security number was posted on a state Web site.

Last week, the Ohio Controlling Board OK’d payment of the latest judgment, awarding five TV networks and the Associated Press $325,521 in attorneys’ fees and expenses from a 2004 case. The lawsuit challenged (former Sec. of State Ken) Blackwell’s order to block ABC, CBS, CNN, NBC, Fox News and the AP from conducting exit polling within 100 feet of the polls on Election Day 2004.

Brunner, a Democrat, fired some of the outside counsel hired to defend those cases shortly after she took office in 2007. But 13 of the cases remain active in state and federal courts, including a lawsuit that challenged Bush’s narrow re-election.

Pretty brutal considering times are tough and taxpayers need all the breaks they can get. No word yet if anyone plans to sue the Bengals for having to endure their games this season.

Hat tip to our very own Glenn Harkness for the info.