MANUFACTURING

Dye house invests in new equipment to expand market

Saco River Dyehouse, which dyes wool and other fibers for a variety of customers, has invested $750,000 in a suite of new machinery from Italy that will allow the dye house to quadruple its production capacity and greatly expand its client base, said Managing Director Claudia Raessler. The new dyeing and winding equipment, by Italian manufacturers Loris Bellini and Fadis, represents the latest in computer-controlled textile machinery. Raessler said it will allow Saco River to expand beyond its existing client base of craft yarn makers to include manufacturers of home products and apparel. The new equipment also will be far more efficient and will use about one-tenth the amount of water per pound of yarn dyed, she said. With the new equipment, which was still being installed and tested Wednesday, the company will be able to boost its annual sales from the current $750,000 to about $3 million, said Raessler. Read the story.

Idexx posts record share price

Idexx Laboratories Inc. of Westbrook closed a banner day on Tuesday, first reporting that its second-quarter revenue of $467 million was up 13 percent from the same quarter in 2015, and then seeing its stock price reach an all-time high when markets closed. Trading of the veterinary diagnostic-test maker’s stock reached a record $105.88 per share when the Nasdaq closed Tuesday. Idexx’s stock received a similar bump after its first-quarter earnings report in April prompted a record $84.35 per share stock price. The company attributed the revenue increase to strong growth in its companion animal group and water quality test kit segment. Idexx results for the second quarter beat analyst expectations by a considerable margin, according to the investor service Seeking Alpha. Its earnings per share beat expectations by 12 cents, and revenue was $21.7 million above analyst projections. Read the story.

Sappi to invest $25 million in Skowhegan mill

Sappi Fine Paper North America will invest $25 million over the next year on new equipment in the paper company’s wood yard on U.S. Route 201 in Skowhegan, adding as many as 100 temporary construction jobs. The investment, coupled with a $60 million capital investment in equipment and environmental safeguards already put into the Somerset plant since 2011, means the South African company is committed to the region for the long haul, mill managing director Tony Ouellette said Thursday. Vendor bid requests will be going out over the next two weeks and work is expected to begin in October during the annual mill shutdown and continue for most of 2017, with a conclusion date of November 2017. The changes are expected to improve reliability, reduce white wood losses and costs, and add efficiency through increased wood chip production. Read the story.

HEALTH CARE

Health insurance co-op holding the line on losses

The finances of Community Health Options, the Maine-based health insurance cooperative, are generally in line with its plan to deal with a potential loss of $43 million this year, according to state regulators. In its latest monthly update, the Maine Bureau of Insurance said the insurer posted a loss in June that was worse than its business plan had anticipated for the month. But the co-op’s year-to-date loss is slightly better than what the plan forecast. The bureau is monitoring CHO closely after it reported a $31 million loss for 2015 and set aside $43 million to cover an expected 2016 loss. The bureau said CHO’s net loss in June was nearly 20 percent worse than had been forecast in the business plan for the year, but that the insurer’s year-to-date loss was 0.8 percent better than expected. The co-op’s drawdown from a $43 million reserve was 2.7 percent more than what was planned for the month, but the year-to-date drawdown is 4.3 percent better. Read the story.

EMHS lays off 35 from IT department

Thirty-five employees within Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems’ information system department were notified Tuesday that they are being laid off. The staff reduction is part of an effort to close a $3 million gap in the department’s budget before the hospital system begins its next fiscal year in October. The department looked at other ways to save, including changing processes, delaying projects or reducing their scope, and offering early retirement buyouts to 42 workers age 55 or older with at least 10 years of service. Thirteen employees accepted the offer, but it wasn’t enough to achieve the cost-savings goal. The employees were given 30 days notice. Read the story.

FOOD

East End wine bar draws Bon Appetit’s acclaim

Portland wine bar Drifters Wife is on Bon Appetit’s list of this year’s 50 best new restaurants. The East End wine bar is one of nine restaurants named in the Northeast category, including five in New York City. The food magazine will narrow the list of 50 to its “Hot 10” on Aug. 16. In 2014, Portland restaurant Central Provisions, which was one of the magazine’s 50 best new restaurants along with Palace Diner in Biddeford, went on to make the top 10 list. Read the story.

ECONOMY

Maine coalition backs immigration reform to aid workforce development

Maine business and economic development leaders have joined a push to reform the nation’s immigration laws, arguing the aging state desperately needs young and skilled workers. On Wednesday, a coalition of national business leaders and elected officials released detailed information on the economic impacts of immigration in each state. The reports from the Partnership for a New American Economy – a group headed by former New York City Mayor Michael Bloomberg and media mogul Rupert Murdoch of News Corp. – are part of a campaign to pressure Congress to reform federal immigration laws. The Maine-specific report states that 4,017 immigrants were self-employed in Maine in 2014 and that immigrant-owned businesses generated $60.8 million in business income while employing another 14,659 people. Immigrants to Maine were 53 percent more likely than Maine natives to hold graduate degrees and accounted for 40 percent of all computer systems analysts, 19 percent of physicians or surgeons, and 10 percent of those working in tourism-related “traveler accommodation” fields. Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce, said Wednesday that the immigrant community can help address some of the “severe challenges” facing the state’s employers while helping to contribute to the economy. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

S.W. Cole acquires N.H. drilling company

A Bangor engineering firm has acquired a New Hampshire drilling company to expand its footprint across New England. S. W. Cole Explorations LLC, a division of S.W. Cole Engineering Inc., has acquired the equipment and materials of Great Works Test Boring Inc., according to a release from S.W. Cole. In the deal, S.W. Cole obtained three drill rigs and associated equipment, bringing the number of rigs it owns to five. In conjunction with the acquisition, S.W. Cole has hired former Great Works driller Jeff Lee, who has worked with the Maine company as a subconsultant on hundreds of projects. Read the story.

New investors back organic garden products company

Coast of Maine Organics has received an investment to recapitalize the garden products business and position it for further expansion. Carlos Quijano, the president and founder, said the money from Gemini Investors of Massachusetts allows the seller of garden products to buy out Coastal Ventures Limited Partnership, a fund created by Coastal Enterprises Inc., as well as another early investor in the company and a portion of the stake owned by Quijano and his wife. Quijano will stay on as president and Sid Malone will remain as senior vice president of Coast of Maine. Coastal Enterprises said it invested $260,000 in Coast of Maine in 1996, in one of its first capital investments. The nonprofit economic development corporation said it realized a 10 percent annual rate of return on its investment. Read the story.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

New startup resources offered in Portland

Portland entrepreneurs Jess Knox and Mike Sobol are seeking financial support for a nonprofit lecture series and summer boot camp aimed at aspiring executives of high-growth, high-impact ventures. Knox and Sobol believe their new organization, called Venture Hall, will help raise Portland’s profile as a regional center for innovation and entrepreneurship. They hope to obtain donations and sponsorships from foundations, corporations and wealthy individuals. Venture Hall will develop a year-round schedule of training opportunities for entrepreneurs and will select eight to 10 businesses each summer to participate in a three-month business accelerator program, Sobol and Knox said. The first such program will begin in June 2017. Sobol said the emphasis will be on entrepreneurial “teams” that demonstrate the best attitude and work ethic. Read the story.