COMMERCIAL FISHERIES

Last open lobster zone in Maine votes to close

Local fishing authorities in Maine’s busiest lobster region say newcomers must wait for someone else to give up their license before they can set traps in local waters. The lobster council that oversees the area that includes Stonington and Vinalhaven, the top two lobster ports in Maine, voted 6-1 Thursday night to close the state’s last open lobster zone. The state’s other six regions already require apprentices who complete their training to wait, sometimes for as long as a decade, for others in their area to give up their licenses before they can fish. The vote came on the heels of a July referendum of local licensed lobstermen that showed almost three out of four who voted supported a waiting-list system. The final decision to close the zone rests with the Department of Marine Resources commissioner. Read the story.

EU’s effort to ban Maine lobster advances

The scientific arm of the European Union says there is enough evidence to move forward with a review of Sweden’s request to declare the American lobster an invasive species. America and Canada contend Sweden’s bid to protect the European lobster from its larger American cousin, which has been found in small numbers in North Atlantic waters, lacks any scientific evidence of a pending invasion, and had hoped to squelch the proposal this summer. But on Tuesday, the Scientific Forum on Invasive Alien Species, which is made up of experts appointed by each EU member state, confirmed the validity of Sweden’s scientific risk assessment, setting in motion a broader review that could lead to the ban of live imports into the 28-nation coalition. An EU spokeswoman said the opinion is a first step in a long process that would not reach a conclusion until the spring, at the earliest. It will be reviewed and possibly considered for a vote by the Alien Species Committee. If approved, the motion would go to the full European Union Commission for a final vote. Read the story.

Bill streamlines export of sea urchins

A bill that includes a provision to ease federal inspections of sea urchins exported from Maine has passed the U.S. House of Representatives and is headed to the Senate. Seafood processors buy urchins harvested in Maine and Canada and process them in Maine. Almost all of them are then sold to markets in Asia, where they are used in food such as sushi. The urchins are inspected by federal authorities when they come into the state and are then inspected again before they are exported. The bill backed by Maine Reps. Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin would end inspections prior to exportation, which they described as repetitive. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION

Council considers tying wage, hiring conditions to tax incentives

Members of the Portland City Council favor having a discussion about whether the city should set hiring and wage conditions on construction projects involving municipal funds or tax subsidies, but don’t want to impose requirements on a project that already has been negotiated. Some councilors who spoke at Wednesday night’s City Council meeting said they didn’t want to derail a pending $375,000 tax increment financing agreement for biotech firm ImmuCell Corp.’s planned $17.5 million expansion because it already has been negotiated with city staff and recommended unanimously by a council committee. The agreement would give ImmuCell a partial refund on property taxes from its new facility for 12 years. The item was on the agenda for a vote, but the council raised questions about amendments to the TIF agreement proposed by Mayor Ethan Strimling and Councilor Jon Hinck. The council voted unanimously to postpone the vote until Sept. 19. Read the story.

Dennis Paper & Food plans expansion

A Hampden-based food distributor is breaking ground on a 30,000-square-foot warehouse expansion that will allow it to serve more customers in Maine and New Hampshire. The project comes just four years after Dennis Paper & Food Service’s last expansion. President Ron Dennis said the 108-year-old, employee-owned company expects to hire another 75 people over the next five years to handle the increased inventory. It has added 120 jobs since 2002, according to a media release from the company. Read the story.

Dry docks to get $33 million upgrade

The U.S. Navy is planning nearly $33 million worth of repairs and upgrades to the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard. The work consists of $25.7 million to conduct “critical repairs and improvements” to dry dock No. 3, as well as $7.2 million for engineering and design work related to the construction of a super flood basin for dry dock No. 1. Read the story.

 

GENERAL BUSINESS

Two HR firms combine

Dacri & Associates, a human resources firm that has operated in Kennebunk for 21 years, is transitioning its clients to Portland-based Career Management Associates. In a release, Rick Dacri said he intends to pursue a new career path and that his clients will be in good hands with David Ciullo, president of CMA. Ciullo said terms of the transition were not being made public, but he has the highest regard for Dacri, with whom he has shared clients. Read the story.

Bank plans layoffs to enhance efficiency

TD Bank plans to lay off about 35 back-office workers at its Lewiston operations center and outsource their jobs over the next several months, the bank said Wednesday. “In order to enhance our customer experience and grow our business, TD is optimizing its operational efficiencies,” said Judith Schmidt, the bank’s vice president of corporate media relations. “As part of this effort, we have decided to move some roles to a third-party vendor. This will provide technical expertise that allows us to introduce more automation, improving our productivity. We do not expect this to impact our customer experience.” With more than 3,200 employees throughout Maine, including 1,000 at the Lewiston center, Schmidt said TD Bank is committed to maintaining its strong presence in the state. Read the story.

TRANSPORTATION

Elite adds new Florida route

Portland-based Elite Airways has added a new route to Florida and will beginning flying to Sarasota-Bradenton International Airport starting Nov. 17. The flights will run twice weekly – on Thursdays and Sundays – between Portland and Sarasota, on the west coast of Florida. Elite, the only airline offering direct flights from the Portland International Jetport to Florida, added service to Naples, Florida, in February and increased its number of flights to Melbourne, Florida, starting with the April school vacation week, citing increased demand. Read the story.

ENERGY

Solar array gets city endorsement

The Portland City Council voted unanimously Wednesday night to authorize an agreement to build one of the state’s largest municipal solar power arrays on the Ocean Avenue landfill. The vote will allow City Manager Jon Jennings to negotiate an agreement with ReVision Energy LLC at a cost to the city of $150,000 over its first six years. The project would reduce the city’s reliance on fossil fuel-based electricity by 25 percent over the next decade, Mayor Ethan Strimling said. Steve Hinchman, a spokesman for ReVision Energy, said the project will still require approval from the Maine Department of Environmental Protection once a contract has been finalized and ratified by the City Council. Hinchman said construction could begin in 60 days. Read the story.