Diverse Business

post written by Ameerah CetawayoBowling Green’s economy is not only the fastest growing in the state of Kentucky, but its changes are coming in stages of diversification— the “spreading of risk by putting assets in several categories of investments,” by common definition.

You start to see a clusters of certain types of businesses coming into the city and you start seeing trends. Jobs come. Jobs leave. But you get the sense that something is happening.
Welcome to a business reporter’s world.

From the influx of ice cream shops, barbecue restaurants and payday loan centers to the departure of eBay.com-dependent businesses and undercaptilized small businesses, Bowling Green’s economy is becoming more diverse.

A recent story about Houchens Industries published in the Daily News highlights the benefits of diversification.

Houchens Industries is the largest ESOP, or 100 percent employee owned company in the U.S. and a company that surely isn’t putting its egg in one basket. It’s also ranks 140 on Forbes’ list of The Largest Private Companies 2006.

Just look at their business interests: insurance, manufacturing, Web development, retail grocery and convenience stores, fast food (SONIC), construction, paving, trucking, recycling, tanning suppy distribution and property management.

Each industry by itself carries its own risks, but to have your hand in each helps to ride the cyclical nature of the American economy. By diversifying its interests, when one industry is seeing a downward trend, Houchens has another part of its holdings to balance its portfolio.

After selling off its tobacco business, Commonwealth Brands, for almost $2 billion in February 2007, Houchens has plenty of cash to go shopping, as indicated by its purchase of Louisville-based Hilliard Lyons, a deal that will close in the first quarter next year.

But I am wondering what is next on the Houchens’ grocery list.

What would you buy if you were a powerhouse such as Houchens?

Houchens has yet to buy up anything and everything in Bowling Green, but with its name on L.T. Smth Stadium and Bowling Green Area Chamber of Commerce building, what is next?

While Houchens is already busy building 30 new Sonic restaurants in the Cleveland area, according to its CEO, Spencer Coates, maybe Houchens should start buying cities, islands, and creating a tourism experience next.

Why not? Extend the brand further beyond annual events such as the Houchens Sweet 16.


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