Business and Economy

Business news

A Maine labor official says the federal government is giving the OK to Republican Gov. Paul LePage's plan to direct more federal funding to job training.

Maine Department of Labor Deputy Commissioner Richard Freund told State Workforce board members in July that the U.S. Department of Labor has conditionally approved the plan. The LePage administration hasn't released a letter describing the approval.

Maine Company Wants A Chance At Bar Harbor-Canada Ferry Service

Jul 27, 2018
Bill Trotter / Bangor Daily News

A company that operates local passenger ferries in Hancock and Washington counties has jumped into the ring on offering ferry service between Maine and Nova Scotia.

Downeast Windjammer Cruises has proposed paying the town of Bar Harbor $2.75 million over 10 years to operate a vehicle ferry to Canada from a defunct ferry terminal that Bar Harbor voters agreed to purchase in June. The company, owned and operated by Cherryfield resident Steve Pagels, also seasonally runs sailing cruises in and around Bar Harbor.

Steve Cookson / AP - File Photo

Central Maine Power's proposal to bring a massive amount of electricity from Canada through western Maine to Massachusetts will lower electricity costs throughout the region, and ease winter-time price spikes as well; at least, that's the pitch Massachusetts officials are making to regulators there.

Workforce expansion, workforce development and workforce retention continue to pose major hurdles for Maine employers, according to a new report from the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, the Maine Development Foundation and Educate Maine.

The three development groups said Thursday that Maine's quality of life, the work ethic of its residents and the state’s abundant natural resources continue to attract new businesses.

A group of Democrats in Congress says fishermen are headed for a financial disaster due to increasing tariffs, and the government should be prepared to provide relief.

The effort is led by Rep. Seth Moulton of Massachusetts. His bill designed to help fishermen who are hurt by heavy tariffs imposed by China on dozens of American seafood items as the U.S.'s trade hostilities with that country escalate.

The U.S. Agriculture department says $12 billion is needed to help farmers who were hurt by the Trump Administration's tariff wars with China, Mexico and Canada.

Maine's Agriculture Commissioner Walt Whitcomb says some of that relief will likely make it to Maine dairy, potato and blueberry farmers. He says some of the administration's maneuvering has been aimed at lowering the 27 percent Chinese tariff already leveled at Maine blueberry exports – a favorite for people in China.

The two unions representing Consolidated Communications workers in Northern New England say their membership has voted "overwhelmingly" to authorize a strike if necessary.

Don Trementozzi with Communications Workers of America Local 1400, says negotiations have been contentious since they began in April, but he says a strike is in no one's best interest, and that both CWA and IBEW are hoping an agreement can be reached "You know a strike is not in the best interest of either party, you know, you lose customers, it costs a lot of money, people lose income," he says

After Complaints, Maine’s Biggest Electricity Seller Faces Suspension

Jul 24, 2018
Darren Fishell / Bangor Daily News

Maine regulators have required the state’s largest private electricity seller, Electricity Maine, to tell them why it should be allowed to keep selling in Maine after a rash of complaints about deceptive sales practices.

The company will now have to explain to the Maine Public Utilities Commission why it should be able to keep its license after alleged violations of state consumer protections laws related to electricity sales.

Analysts expect gas prices in Maine to be fairly stable through the rest of the summer. Gasbuddy's Patrick DeHaan anticipates prices to stay 15 to 20 cents on either side of the current state average of $2.83 a gallon.

“I don't think we'll see prices breach $3.00, barring any unforeseeable issues, but they probably won't sink a whole lot lower either,” says DeHaan.

Maine's unemployment rate was 2.9 percent in June.  That was up from 2.8 percent in May.  But state Labor Department spokeman Glenn Mills says the figure is still down from the 3.5 percent rate in June of 2017.

"Yeah, I've been asked, 'How low can it go?' and, you know, it's really not clear," Mills says. "We've never been in this territory before, so, it's a good question, how low can it go?"

Unemployment in Maine has now been below 4 percent for 31 consecutive months, a record.  In New England, only New Hampshire had a lower jobless rate in June, of 2.8 percent.

Builders Busy In Ellsworth, Where Nearly 100 Housing Units Are Under Review

Jul 20, 2018
Nick Sambides Jr. / Bangor Daily News

ELLSWORTH, Maine — The Jackson Laboratory is opening a $200 million research-mouse breeding center in Ellsworth, and that is happy news to City Manager David Cole.

Susan Sharon / Maine Public

Verso Paper says it plans to make technology upgrades to its No. 4 Paper Machine in Jay. The company says this will increase the machine's capacity to produce “release-liner paper.”

“Release-liner is the paper that's used as the backing for a wide variety of industrial and consumer labels, and my favorite example of that is the familiar ‘Hello My Name’ is label,” says Verso spokesperson Kathi Rowzie.

Rowzie says the investments will advance the company's plan to produce only specialty papers and packaging products in Jay.

Court Asked To Appoint Outside Manager To Handle Bangor Mall Finances

Jul 19, 2018
Lori Valigra / Bangor Daily News

The Bangor Mall, awash in uncertainty since its owner defaulted on a loan last fall, is the target of July 5 court filings that aim to assign an independent person to handle the mall’s finances and property.

Murray Carpenter / For NPR

The feud over tariffs between President Trump and Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau has rattled many towns along the border, but few are connected as tightly as Madawaska, Maine, and Edmundston, New Brunswick. This is where these linked mills make pulp and paper along the St. John River. With a trade war looming, people on both sides of that river are mystified by the deteriorating international ties.

PORTLAND, Maine - Portland is going to continue its jobs-for-panhandlers program thanks to donations from more than a dozen businesses.
The Portland Press Herald reports that the Portland Community Chamber of Commerce delivered a check for $13,000, enough to fund the crew for 10 weeks.
The city launched the Portland Opportunity Crew last year to reduce panhandling on city streets, which has generated complaints from businesses, residents and visitors alike. The program restarted in May with leftover money, but those funds would dry up in July.