ENERGY: Summit chief pledges better results in 2015

Mike Tanchuk, the new president of Summit Natural Gas of Maine, said the Colorado-based utility learned its lesson from mistakes in 2014 and wants to “get it right” this year.

When the utility arrived in 2012, it pledged to spend $350 million to connect 15,000 homes in the Kennebec Valley to natural gas, and $73 million to serve 80 percent of the homes in Cumberland, Falmouth and Yarmouth within five years. But weather, planning and safety delays pushed back construction and left a bad taste with frustrated customers, who were promised gas by the fall but didn’t get it.

Tanchuk said a more-focused strategy of reaching fewer homes and businesses this year, and making sure the ones that are targeted get gas service, is on schedule in 2015. Read the story.

PUC vote triggers bi-artisan effort to restore energy-efficiency funding

The House Minority leader said Thursday he is willing to work with the Democratic majority to find a solution that would restore $38 million to Efficiency Maine’s energy conservation programs. The offer from Rep. Kenneth Fredette, R-Newport, came two days after two members of the state Public Utilities Commission refused to consider lawmakers’ intent or a one-word omission in an 11,633-word energy law and voted 2-1 Tuesday to cap Efficiency Maine funding at $22 million for the fiscal year beginning in July 2016, rather than the $60 million the Legislature apparently intended. Since then, Democrats and environmental groups have accused Gov. Paul LePage’s two appointees to the commission – Mark Vannoy and Carlisle McLean, the governor’s former legal counsel – of exceeding their regulatory authority to effectively change the law that the Legislature enacted in 2013. The vote means that less money will be available for a program that homeowners used to buy 2.5 million discounted low-energy light bulbs last year and that 3,000 businesses – some large industrial companies – used to reduce their electricity costs with rebates or subsidies for a wide range of energy-saving improvements. Read the story.

MARINE INDUSTRY: Upgrades at center of cluster-space renovation

Costly upgrades to a city-owned building on the Maine State Pier in Portland are at the center of negotiations over future use of the building as an incubator for ocean-related businesses. A group of international and local investors wants to transform the second floor of the former municipal transit shed into a home for up to 18 marine-related businesses, called the New England Ocean Cluster. The project has drawn interest from Icelandic entrepreneurs, who with their ambassador met with city and state officials and business leaders on Tuesday. No lease has been determined, in part because of renovation costs to build a new entrance to the second floor. One of the private investors said a collaboration with the city is needed to mitigate the cost. Read the story.

All fish, all the time at seafood expo

Fifteen Maine vendors exhibited at this year’s Seafood Expo North America trade show, a three-day event in Boston that concluded Tuesday. Produced by Portland-based Diversified Communications, the trade show is among the world’s largest, with more than 1,000 vendors, including importers, exporters, wholesalers, logistics companies and equipment manufacturers. Last year, the event attracted more than 20,000 buyers and suppliers in what is commonly called the Boston fish show. On Monday, the event attracted Gov. Paul LePage who met with executives from Eimskip, the Icelandic steamship line that imports frozen seafood into the U.S. through the port of Portland. Read the story.

TOURISM: New markets identified at tourism conference

The state’s 2015 tourism marketing plan unveiled Wednesday said the state needs to increase the number of people visiting Maine for the first time, an opportunity that will pay dividends as visitors return in subsequent years. Last year, there were more than 4 million first-time visitors to the state out of 32 million vitiations overall. The plan also identified three income-based demographics that the state should target to increase tourism spending. Each demographic is defined by lifestyle, values and media habits. The study reported direct tourism spending in Maine of $5.5 billion in 2014 compared with $5.2 billion in 2013. Read the story.

TECHNOLOGY: Clock ticking on Blackstone financing

Funding from Blackstone investment firm is drawing to a close this year, prompting members of Maine’s entrepreneurial community to seek other sources of revenue. The $3 million pledged by the philanthropic arm of Blackstone in 2011 has benefited more than 300 budding entrepreneurs by expanding training programs, growing internships and launching Maine Startup and Create Week. The Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development alone has received $450,000 of Blackstone funding. Although there are discussions with Blackstone to continue its support, nothing final has been decided. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS: Weather knocked wind out of sales

Maine’s harsh winter weather slapped sales at restaurants, retailers, real estate brokerages and car lots, while ski resorts reveled in record-breaking cold and snowfall. According to an analysis by First Data Corp. of sales from Jan. 24 to Feb. 22, Maine’s spending growth dropped 0.3 percent compared with 2.8 percent growth the previous year. Realtors and car dealers expect they will make up for lost business as warmer weather approaches, while retailers are chalking up disappointing winter sales to the vagaries of doing business in Maine. Read the story.

Maine: Old and getting older

Maine’s status as the oldest state in the country was underscored by U.S. Census Bureau data released Wednesday. According to a report on geographic mobility, 9.4 percent of the estimated 30,154 people who moved into Maine in 2012 were 65 or older. Nationally, the percentage of people in that age group who moved to a new state was just 6.2 percent. Maine is the nation’s oldest state, with a median age in 2013 of 44, compared with a national median age of 37.5. The report followed only “in-movers” – people who move to a new location – and not people who move out, and it didn’t say where the in-movers came from. The numbers are annual, but are based on three years of census surveys. The figures for 2012 are the latest available at the state level. Read the story.

Lifestyle magazines join forces

Down East, the 60-year-old Camden-based magazine, announced Monday that it is partnering with a southern Maine arts and music magazine. Down East has signed a cooperative publishing agreement with Dispatch, which covers events, art, music and nightlife in southern Maine, according to a news release. The two publications will immediately share a sales staff charged with selling advertising to both publications. They will also work together on editorial content. Financial details of the agreement were not disclosed. Down East’s publisher said the cooperative publishing agreement with Dispatch is part of Down East’s long-range plan to engage its readers in more ways. Read the story.