COMMERCIAL FISHERIES

Study shows Maine-branded lobster commands premium

Restaurants selling lobster are charging $6.22 more, on average, when it comes from Maine and its provenance is identified by name on the menu, according to a new report issued Tuesday by the Maine Lobster Marketing Collaborative. The Portland-based nonprofit, which was founded in 2013 and is funded by industry license surcharges, based its finding on a 2015 menu survey of about 7,000 American restaurants conducted by Technomic Inc., a food consulting and research firm based in Chicago, said Executive Director Matt Jacobson. The Technomic data contained in the collaborative’s first quarterly report proves what many in the industry have long suspected, but couldn’t prove because of a lack of consumer research, especially in the domestic market, Jacobson said. It will serve as another tool in the collaborative’s arsenal when it begins its summer-long campaign to convince chefs to add Maine lobster to their menus. Only a quarter of all restaurants identify the origin of their lobster dishes, he said, but most of those who do are selling Maine lobster. Read the story.

State: Scallop landings seem healthy

Maine’s rebuilt scallop fishery is enjoying high demand from the culinary world for its prized meaty mollusks, and the 2016 season that ended last month is likely to go down as another strong year. All sea scallops have been growing in value over the past 15 years, and while Maine’s catch is a small fraction of the national total, they are a premium product for which restaurants and consumers pay top dollar. The Maine scallop fishery dwindled to just about 666,000 pounds in 2009 before rebuilding to more than 3 million pounds in each of the last three years. State fishing managers credit new regulations, including a rotational management system that protects localized areas from being too heavily fished. The 2016 Maine scallop season, which began in December and ended in April, apparently also was productive, said a marine resource management coordinator with the state. Read the story.

BANKING & FINANCE

Banks to merge in $143 million deal

Bar Harbor Bankshares is acquiring a New Hampshire bank in a $143 million deal that will make it the only New England-based community bank with operations in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. Bar Harbor announced Thursday in a news release that it is acquiring Lake Sunapee Bank Group, a publicly traded bank in Newport, New Hampshire, with $1.6 billion in assets. At closing, the combined institution is expected to have approximately $3.3 billion in assets, $2.4 billion in net loans, $2.2 billion in deposits and over $2.0 billion in assets under management. The banks, both founded in the late 1800s, intend to continue operating their 50 branches under their respective banners. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION

Portland firm lands embassy contract

A Portland company has been hired to oversee the final stages of construction on a high-tech and highly secure new U.S. embassy near Oslo, Norway. Tilson, which provides information technology services and network infrastructure, began its work on the $228 million embassy project in January, said company CEO Joshua Broder. When completed, the five-building embassy campus will incorporate cutting-edge information technology and advanced security into structures that are designed to be environmentally sustainable and aesthetically pleasing to the Norwegian eye. Tilson, which specializes in technologically complex projects, was chosen by the embassy’s lead contractor, Chicago-based Walsh Global LLC. Broder declined to specify the value of Tilson’s contract, but he said it involves 12 American workers and is expected to take about a year. Read the story.

Construction company transitions to employee ownership

Landry/French Construction Co. of Scarborough has established an employee stock ownership plan and is now employee-owned, the company said Thursday. The company said in a news release that its stock ownership plan is a way to enhance the firm’s client-focused culture and position Landry/French for future growth. It also provides a way to reward employees for their dedication to the company and allows employees to benefit directly from its success by sharing in company profits, Landry/French said. The company said research has shown that employee ownership tends to foster a culture where workers are more motivated and dedicated, which ultimately leads to increased productivity and profitability. Read the story.

ENERGY

Colby solar project expected to cover 16 percent of energy needs

More than 5,000 solar panels will be installed on Colby College property off Washington Street in Oakland this year as part of a solar energy project that will be one of the largest in the state. The array is expected to have a maximum output of 1.9 megawatts and produce 2.5 million kilowatt hours of electricity annually for the campus, according to Colby officials. That is enough to provide power to about 250 homes, the school said. The 5,505 panels will be installed on two sites of about 4.5 acres each and lie to the north and south of a storage building Colby built in 2012 at 182 Washington St., which also is the site of the college’s community gardens. The project will produce enough energy to cover about 16 percent of Colby’s energy needs, diversify its energy supply and create a campus “living laboratory” to offer research opportunities for students and faculty members, according to the college’s administration. Read the story.

Sanford solar project gains momentum

A Yarmouth-based company is moving forward with plans to build Maine’s largest solar energy farm on vacant land at Sanford’s municipal airport after winning key support from the city. The Sanford City Council on Tuesday unanimously authorized City Manager Steven Buck to sign a lease allowing Ranger Solar to use 226 acres of city-owned airport land to build a 50-megawatt photovoltaic array. The utility-scale commercial project would generate power to be sold through the region’s electricity grid. Ranger Solar intends to start construction in 2018. The project will include 176,000 solar panels and could provide enough electricity to power more than 8,000 homes. Read the story.

HEALTH CARE

Six Maine health centers split $4.1 million from U.S.

Six Maine health centers will split $4.1 million from the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services to renovate, expand or build facilities to assist medically underserved populations. Fish River Rural Health in Eagle Lake will get $1 million, Penobscot Community Health Center Inc. in Bangor will get $806,870, Portland Community Health Center in Portland will get $498,000, Healthreach Community Health Centers in Waterville will get $454,423, Pines Health Service in Caribou received $1 million; and Health Access Network Inc. in Lincoln will get $375,000, the agency announced Wednesday. Last year, HHS awarded $994,000 to Maine health centers. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Benefits company acquired by New York firm

Dresser & Associates, a Scarborough company that provides IT services for compliance, benefits, payroll and other human resources administration, has been acquired by a New York City firm, [email protected] The deal was announced Wednesday in a press release. The purchase price was not disclosed. Mark Dresser, president of Dresser, has been named practice director of employer solutions for [email protected] All of the Maine company’s employees will be retained and the office will remain in Scarborough, said Dresser. He also said customers should expect a seamless transition. Read the story.

New York Times loses $41 million in Madison mill closure

The New York Times Co. took a $41.4 million hit in the first quarter as a result of the upcoming Madison Paper Mill closure, the company reported Tuesday. In its latest quarterly earnings statement, the New York Times explained that the one-time charge resulted from “joint ventures related to the announced closure of a paper mill operated by Madison Paper Industries, in which the company has an investment through a subsidiary.” The newspaper publisher said its proportionate share of the mill-related loss was $20.1 million after receiving tax benefits resulting from the mill’s operating losses. Read the story.