ENERGY

Oil, gas prices drop in response to lower crude prices

A Maine government survey indicates heating oil prices continue to fall this summer. The Governor’s Energy Office said Tuesday that the latest survey put the average statewide price at $2.17 a gallon. That’s down another 16 cents over the last three weeks. Likewise, statewide gasoline prices have dropped 4.5 cents and on Aug. 9 averaged $2.60 per gallon. The declining prices track with a drop in crude prices. The highest price for heating oil in the state was $2.54 in northern Maine while the low price of $1.76 was found in the southwestern part of the state. Read the story.

Electricity prices decline, but trend may not continue

The mild summer so far has allowed New Englanders to often turn off their air conditioners, helping cut costs with reduced demand for electricity. An abundance of natural gas and more efficient power plants have helped reduce the wholesale price of energy, a respite from soaring heating costs in the winter, said ISO-New England, the region’s grid operator. The average wholesale price in June was 1.96 cents per kilowatt hour, down by nearly 50 percent since June 2014, he said. The decline continued in July, dropping by more than 27 percent year over year, ISO said Tuesday. Costs are falling for some ratepayers, but it’s uneven among New England states and the lower prices are in effect for only a few months. The price for customers of Central Maine Power dropped by more than 13 percent beginning March 1 and extending through the end of the year. Maine Public Utilities Commission Chairman Mark Vannoy cautioned that the trend may not continue due to strong demand for natural gas in New England and the limited capacity to deliver it. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE AND DEVELOPMENT

Memory-care facilities on tap in Wells, Brunswick

A joint venture between two developers of senior housing has filed permit applications to develop two “memory-care” facilities, one in Wells and the other in Brunswick, the companies said Monday. Portland-based Sandy River Co. and the Northbridge Cos. of Burlington, Massachusetts, said the two communities will carry the Avita brand, “the venture’s signature assisted living platform focusing on quality care and meaningful programming.” In fall 2013, the venture opened Avita of Stroudwater at 320 Spring St. in Westbrook, which now serves about 60 families and has created more than 70 permanent jobs, it said. Avita of Stroudwater features a variety of amenities for residents, including a salon and barbershop, computer lab, screen porches, social and recreational programs, assistance with personal care, and a locally sourced menu. Each of the proposed Avita memory care communities in Wells and Brunswick will offer programs and amenities similar to the others. Read the story.

DeCoster linked to local egg farm sale

A company that was at the center of a nationwide salmonella outbreak that sickened thousands and has had close ties to notorious Maine egg magnate Austin “Jack” DeCoster has purchased three Maine egg farms once owned by DeCoster. Pennsylvania-based Hillandale Farms, operating through a subsidiary, purchased the farms in Turner, Leeds and Winthrop from a subsidiary of Land O’Lakes, the Minnesota egg and dairy cooperative that acquired them in a lease deal in November 2011. Hillandale and its founder have longstanding ties with DeCoster, who was sentenced in April to three months in jail for his role in the 2010 salmonella outbreak. Federal officials traced the outbreak to two Iowa farms, one controlled by Hillandale, the other by DeCoster and his son, Peter. It is unclear whether DeCoster is still invested in the Hillandale companies or whether he is involved in the newly incorporated subsidiary that is buying the Maine farms, Hillandale Farms Conn LLC. Employees at Hillandale’s offices in Turner, and in North Versailles and Codorus, Pennsylvania, would not comment for this story, nor were they willing to provide a person who would. Read the story. Read the story.

LEGAL

Payroll manager sued as company prepares IPO

A federal judge has issued a temporary restraining order against a Maine man who was fired Monday from his job at the Planet Fitness corporate headquarters in New Hampshire, prohibiting him from distributing any confidential company information in his possession. The parent company of the popular gym chain filed a lawsuit Monday in U.S. District Court in Portland accusing Jason Cole of Lebanon of stealing “highly sensitive personal and financial information” about Planet Fitness employees in his role as payroll manager. The timing of the lawsuit comes just days after Planet Fitness went public, with an initial public stock offering Thursday on the New York Stock Exchange. In the lawsuit, Planet Fitness accuses Cole of threatening to use insider company information that he received inadvertently to interfere with the company’s IPO, and charges him with three counts – breach of contract, converting the company’s personal and financial payroll information for his personal use, and computer fraud. Cole’s lawyer was reviewing the case and declined comment until he’d had a chance to discuss it with his client. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Nine Maine companies make Inc. list

Nine Maine companies made the Inc. magazine list of fastest-growing companies, down from 14 last year. But the list is not comprehensive because it only includes companies that apply and are willing to reveal revenue figures. Last year, CashStar, which provides software for companies to manage digital gift card and incentive programs, placed No. 600 on last year’s list with 792 percent revenue growth between 2010 and 2013. But the company didn’t make the list this year because CEO Ben Kaplan elected not to reveal revenues. This year’s list includes: Argo Marketing Group, Vets First Choice, Apothecary by Design, Vision Payment Solutions, Winxnet, Tilson Technology, MuniciPAY, Abierto Networks and BlueTarp Financial. Read the story.

Immucell posts year-over-year gains

ImmuCell Corp. posted sales during the second quarter that were higher than a year earlier but down from its record-setting performance during the first quarter of this year, the Portland-based animal health products maker reported Thursday. The company, which trades on the Nasdaq stock exchange under the symbol ICCC, reported sales of $2 million for the second quarter, up 27 percent from the same period of 2014. ImmuCell develops products to prevent and treat diseases among dairy and beef cattle. It reported net income of $94,000, or 3 cents per share, compared with a net loss of $295,000, or 10 cents per share, during the second quarter of 2014. Still, sales dropped off considerably from the first quarter, during which the company reported completing its most profitable quarter in 12 years. Its sales jumped so significantly – to more than $3 million – in the first quarter that purchase orders outstripped the company’s production capacity, a problem it is working to resolve through equipment upgrades and an expansion. Read the story.

BANKING and FINANCE

Poliquin pledges to take on Dodd-Frank reforms

U.S. Rep. Bruce Poliquin said Tuesday that loosening regulations on small banks will be among his top goals after lawmakers return from a recess in September. The freshman Republican from Maine’s 2nd District who serves on the House Financial Services Committee said after a tour of Cousineau Wood Products in North Anson that he’ll be focused this fall on scaling back pieces of the Dodd-Frank Act of 2010, a law championed by Democrats aiming to improve accountability for banks by increasing regulation in the wake of the financial crisis of 2007 and 2008. But smaller banks, including some in Maine, have said the law has hurt them. Poliquin called Dodd-Frank “a massive net” that wasn’t designed for community banks or credit unions and as a result, they have trouble lending money. Read the story.