HEALTH CARE

Mercy to consolidate, offer buyouts to 99 employees

Mercy Hospital is offering early retirement buyouts to 99 employees in an effort to trim expenses as part of its plan to consolidate operations at its Fore River complex, hospital officials confirmed Thursday. Employees in specific job categories who have worked for Mercy for at least 10 years and are 60 or older are eligible for the buyout, which was described as a “one-time offer” in an email sent to workers Tuesday. Employees have 45 days to decide whether to accept the buyout, which would be a week’s pay for every year of employment, capped at 52 weeks. Nurses and many other job categories are eligible for the buyouts, but doctors, nurse practitioners and physician assistants, nurse anesthetists, managers, and employees who work with patients who have eating disorders are not. Read the story.

TRANSPORTATION

Lyft offers Uber alternative to Greater Portland riders

Passengers in greater Portland have another option at their fingertips to get a lift to their destination. Lyft, the ride-sharing service that competes with industry leader Uber, launched Friday for service in Portland, South Portland, Westbrook, Cape Elizabeth, Scarborough, Gorham and Freeport. Known as Transportation Network Cos., Lyft and Uber use computer software and smartphone apps to connect passengers with drivers who work their own schedules and pick up people in the drivers’ own vehicles. Ride-sharing is becoming increasingly popular throughout the country, but has drawn the ire of regulators and traditional cab companies worried about unfair competition and passenger safety. For example, cab companies face higher insurance and licensing requirements, and their fares are set by the city, whereas ride-sharing companies have no limits on what they can charge for a ride. Read the story.

BANKING & FINANCE

N.H., Maine credit unions seek permission to merge

New Hampshire-based Northeast Credit Union and Maine-based Ocean Communities Federal Credit Union on Thursday announced their intent to merge, subject to regulatory and other approvals. The merger would create one of the largest credit unions in the Northeast, with roughly 124,000 members, the credit unions said in a joint news release. The combined institution would have 20 branches, with 15 locations across New Hampshire, along with another five branches in southern Maine. Ocean Communities has five branches in Biddeford, Kennebunk, Saco, Sanford and Westbrook, along with several remote ATM locations. It has more than 12,000 members and assets of roughly $167 million. Read the story.

 EARNINGS

Unum earnings increase over same period last year

Unum Group said it earned $236.8 million, or $1 a share, for the quarter that ended June 30. That represents an increase over the $224.3 million, or 90 cents a share, in operating income for the same period in 2015, a 5.6 percent increase, the company said. The company had operating income of $227.2 million from its U.S. operations, a 12 percent increase over the operating income of $202.8 million it recorded in the April-June period last year. Read the story.

WEX exceeds analysts forecast despite hurdles

WEX Inc.’s second-quarter earnings exceeded analyst expectations despite continued challenges related to low fuel prices and unfavorable foreign currency exchange rates. The South Portland-based corporate payment services provider said Wednesday that its total revenue for the second quarter increased by 9.5 percent to $233.9 million from $213.7 million in the second quarter of 2015. During the quarter, fuel prices and foreign currency exchange rates negatively impacted WEX’s revenue by $13.6 million and $2.2 million, respectively, when compared to the prior year period. The company’s adjusted net income attributable to the second quarter decreased by 12.8 percent to $42.1 million, or $1.08 per diluted share, which was above the high end of the company’s guidance range, from $48.3 million, or $1.25 per diluted share, for the same period of 2015. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Nonprofit launched to support remote workers

Michael Erard and Misty McLaughlin of South Portland have formed Work in Place, a nonprofit initiative dedicated to remote working, teleworking (or telecommuting), flexible work and working in shared workspaces, from home or other off-site locations. The group’s mission to identify and provide support and assistance to all so-called remote workers and the companies that hire them. They are planning a national summit on remote workers that would be held in southern Maine next spring. The inaugural Work-in-Place Summit would bring together researchers, pioneers and experts in the areas of business, technology and social innovation to share best practices, shape strategies and provide resources to create strong, successful remote-worker programs, they said. The summit would tackle the complex opportunities and challenges associated with such work. Read the story.

Mild winter has Maine GDP soaring in first quarter

A milder-than-usual winter helped propel Maine’s economy in the first three months of the year, pushing the state into the nation’s top 10 in economic performance for the quarter. The Bureau of Economic Analysis said Wednesday that construction; health care and social assistance; durable goods manufacturing; and retail trade all expanded briskly in Maine during the quarter, contributing to the 9th-fastest growing economy in the country. The state’s economy produced $58.1 billion in goods and services in the quarter, up 2.3 percent from $57.6 billion in the final three months of 2015 and $55 billion during the first quarter of last year. The results were a sharp reversal of the state’s economic performance of a year ago, when the tail end of a brutal winter resulted in the state’s economy contracting 11.3 percent, worst in the country. Read the story.

Creditors buy farm where teen died in hayride accident

Two creditors in the failed bankruptcy of Harvest Hill Farms in Mechanic Falls, where a Halloween-themed hayride crashed and killed a teenager in 2014, have purchased the farm in a foreclosure auction. The joint mortgage holders on the property, E-Layne Moulders Corp. and Jaspan Schlesinger LLP, purchased the property at auction for $1 million, said their attorney, Andrew Sparks of Drummond & Drummond in Portland. There were no other bidders, he said. E-Layne and Jaspan were both secured creditors in a Chapter 11 bankruptcy case filed in July 2015 by Harvest Hill owner Peter Bolduc and his company, Andover Covered Bridge LLC. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court ultimately dismissed the case. In July 2015, an Androscoggin County grand jury issued manslaughter and other charges against the farm, where a hayride flipped over in October 2014, killing 17-year-old Cassidy Charette of Oakland and injuring more than 20 others. Read the story.

TELECOMMUNICATIONS

Redzone announces plan for connecting rural communities

Camden-based internet service provider Redzone Wireless LLC is looking to fast-track the development of broadband wireless networks in rural Maine communities in exchange for a five-year service commitment. Redzone on Tuesday announced a new funding program for rural municipalities seeking to increase high-speed internet performance and service, and said it has committed $1 million in initial project funding for 2017. Redzone said its “Fast for 5” program will provide fully funded, 4G LTE community wireless broadband systems designed, constructed and managed by Redzone in exchange for the local community guaranteeing a minimum level of broadband services for a five-year term. The new program was developed to increase efficiency and complement the ConnectME Authority’s existing broadband grant program, as well as other federal and state programs supporting rural broadband development. Read the story.

ENERGY

Group appeals ruling on Efficiency Maine benefits

The Conservation Law Foundation is appealing a decision that it claims restricts the Efficiency Maine Trust from fulfilling its mission. The foundation contends that a July 6 settlement agreement among the Maine Public Utilities Commission, the trust and several other organizations interested in the trust’s three-year operating plan violates the law. The environmental organization wants to push for a better deal, according to a release from the foundation. The environmental group is objecting to the PUC’s removal of more than $250 million in benefits in the trust’s three-year plan, which it equates to a 30 percent budget cut. Read the story.