COMMERCIAL FISHERIES

Lobstermen vote to close fishing zone to newcomers

The lobstermen of Stonington and Vinalhaven, the busiest lobster ports in Maine, have voted to close their waters to additional fishermen, preferring that newcomers wait for others to leave before dropping traps there. Almost three of every four local lobstermen who voted in a referendum this summer supported the adoption of a waiting list system. The majority included many of the small island communities that had previously opposed making newcomers wait for lobster licenses out of fear that it would discourage people from moving to their far-flung communities. Of the nine districts within the regional lobster zone, only one, the district that includes Matinicus and Criehaven, voted against making newcomers go on a waiting list. Results show that local lobstermen of all ages, license types and business size support the closure. The election results now go to the local lobster council for consideration Sept. 8. Read the story.

Swedish scientists stand behind call for ban of American lobster

Swedish scientists readily admit they don’t have the science to prove that American lobsters have invaded North Atlantic waters and become established there, but say the threat to their small native lobster population is real and can only be fully neutralized by an import ban. Their findings, released in advance of an Aug. 31 ruling by a European Union committee on whether U.S. lobsters are an invasive species, argue that American lobsters have mated with native species. The scientists support banning imports of the lobsters as a precaution. At stake are more than $136 million in live lobster exports from Maine and Massachusetts to the EU (most Maine lobster is exported through Boston). Read the story.

ENERGY

Spectra pledges to continue pipeline project

The loss of utility partners and a damaging court ruling in Massachusetts apparently have failed to kill the $3 billion Access Northeast natural gas pipeline project, which proponents consider critical to lowering power costs in Maine and New England and environmental groups have been fighting hard to defeat. Houston-based Spectra Energy said Wednesday that it will move ahead with Access Northeast despite a setback in the Bay State, the region’s largest energy user. Spectra has estimated the project would save New England consumers $1 billion a year. Spectra’s affirmation is of special interest in Maine. Over the objection of environmental groups, the Maine Public Utilities Commission last month gave conditional approval to a plan in which electric customers would help subsidize the construction of private natural gas pipelines. Access Northeast was the larger of two proposed projects approved for consideration. Read the story.

Heating fuel prices drop

The Maine Governor’s Energy Office says heating prices are falling slightly in Maine as residents prepare for the upcoming heating season. The office says the average price for heating oil slipped 2 cents from a month ago to $1.87 per gallon. Kerosene prices have also gone down 1 cent to $2.41 and propane prices have fallen 2 cents to $2.15 per gallon. Read the story.

AGRICULTURE

Grants earmarked for rural jobs

The U.S. Department of Agriculture is giving nearly $300,000 to five Maine communities and organizations to support rural business growth in the state. The largest grant will go to the town of New Canada to acquire land and build a garage and workshop for lease to Allagash View Farm to use for at its Christmas tree and wreath operation. The grant totals nearly $83,000. Other grants will go to the Maine Farmland Trust, the city of Eastport, the Maine Federation of Farmers’ Markets and the Somerset Economic Development Corp. The grant to Maine Farmland Trust will be used to provide a technical assistance program about wholesale farming. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION

Developer swaps retail for hotels

Auburn developer George Schott has sold off a portion of his retail real estate portfolio and is venturing further into hotel ownership. On Tuesday, Schott closed on the sale of three retail centers he owned in Auburn for a total of $20 million in cash and real estate, according to a broker involved in the transaction. The sale included Hobby Lobby Plaza, Mt. Auburn Plaza and Nobility Plaza, said Craig Young, partner at CBRE|The Boulos Co. in Portland, who represented Schott in the sale. The buyers were Thomas Auger Jr. and Nancy Auger Hunt, son and daughter of the late VIP Discount Auto Center founder Thomas Auger Sr. In mid-July, Schott purchased two hotels in South Portland and a third in Portsmouth, New Hampshire, for an undisclosed sum. The hotels include the Portland Marriott at Sable Oaks and the Holiday Inn Express & Suites South Portland, in addition to a Residence Inn in Portsmouth. Read the story.

Sales nudge down while prices increase in July home sales

Sales of single-family homes in Maine dipped slightly in July, while the median sale price increased by nearly 5 percent. The Maine Association of Realtors reported Wednesday that 1,710 homes changed hands in July, 2.2 percent fewer closings than in July 2015. Meanwhile, the median sale price increased by 4.7 percent to $197,700. The median indicates that half of the homes were sold for more and half sold for less. In general, both home sales and median price have been trending upward in Maine. During the three-month period ending July 31, home sales in Maine were up 9.7 percent from a year earlier, and the median price increased by 4.8 percent to $196,000, according to the association. Read the story.

RETAIL

Bangor HoJo’s to close

The closing of one of the last two Howard Johnson restaurants in a couple of weeks will mark the end of its fried clam strips, ice cream and other menu staples that nourished baby boomers, and leave the once-proud restaurant chain teetering on the brink of extinction. The slice of roadside Americana will no longer be served up in Bangor after Sept. 6. The closing will leave only one Howard Johnson restaurant, in Lake George, New York. Before falling on hard times, Howard Johnson took restaurant franchises to a new level. The orange-roofed eateries once numbered more than 800, with the New England-based restaurant chain predating the ubiquitous Howard Johnson hotels. Read the story.

Parent company of Circle K buys Texas rival

The Quebec company that owns Circle K convenience stores intends to buy a San Antonio competitor in a $4.4 billion deal. CST Brands Inc. announced Tuesday that its board of directors has approved an offer from Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. for its 2,000 gas and convenience stores, clustered primarily in the Southwest with some locations in Florida, Georgia, New York and eastern Canada. In 2011, Alimentation Couche-Tard Inc. bought 19 gas and convenience stores owned by South Portland-based Dead River Corp. Alimentation Couche-Tard operates 6,250 convenience stores throughout Canada and the United States. In its statement announcing the intended acquisition, CST Brands said the deal will create the “world’s preferred destination for convenience and fuel.” Read the story.