COMMERCIAL FISHING

Maine lobster exports on pace to beat record

Maine’s lobster industry is on pace for its best year ever, having sold $103 million worth of lobster abroad in the first half of 2016. That’s more than twice as much as the $48.3 million it sold over the same period in 2015, and is even better than in 2014, when Maine had sold $54.7 million worth of lobster by July and ended the year with a record $365.5 million in foreign sales. State trade officials credit this year’s 113 percent jump in midyear exports to huge growth in Canadian sales, which is basically Maine helping to fill its neighbor’s global orders, and a 43 percent growth in exports to China. Marketing efforts by Maine lobster dealers to open new markets, particularly in Asia, were also credited for increasing sales. Read this story.

LABOR

LePage expects Fairchild buy will mean lost jobs

Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday that the sale of Fairchild Semiconductor International to a Phoenix rival will likely result in the loss of hundreds of jobs in Maine. Speaking on a WVOM morning radio show, LePage said Fairchild was one of the companies he was referring to last spring when he predicted there would be 900 to 1,200 good jobs leaving southern Maine this summer. The Sunnyvale, California-based microchip maker employs roughly 650 workers at its offices and a manufacturing operation in South Portland. Fairchild, now part of Phoenix-based ON Semiconductor, has not announced any immediate staff changes or layoffs in the wake of the sale. Company officials have spoken generally about cutting costs, but they said no consolidation of manufacturing operations as a result of the sale would occur until mid-2018 or later. LePage’s comment came in response to a question about the news last week that Bath Iron Works failed to win a major contract and the sale Monday of Fairchild to ON Semiconductor. Read the story.

Coalition urges businesses to recruit more immigrants

Maine Development Foundation and the Maine State Chamber of Commerce released a report Thursday calling for stronger initiatives to recruit immigrants into the workforce. The report said the state’s aging population is creating a smaller workforce that already is restricting economic growth by making it hard for employers to fill vacant jobs. The two groups called for setting a statewide goal to attract more immigrants to Maine, and expanding efforts to help them integrate into society and the workplace. Dana Connors, president of the Maine state chamber, said the impact of immigrants on the economy will grow dramatically. He said 83 percent of the growth in the U.S. workforce between 2000 and 2050 will be immigrants and their children, and Maine needs to tap into that. Read this story.

Unemployment rate still beats national average

Maine’s unemployment rate rose slightly in August, but is still well below where it was a year ago and well below the national average. The state’s preliminary jobless rate was 4.0 percent, according to data released Tuesday by the Maine Department of Labor. In July, the rate was 3.9 percent, having inched up from the 2016 low of 3.4 percent in April. Last year, Maine’s August unemployment rate was 4.3 percent. The national unemployment rate for August was 4.9 percent, unchanged from July and down from 5.1 percent one year ago. Read this story.

REAL ESTATE, CONSTRUCTION

Portland Co. complex redevelopment plan unveiled

A former railroad foundry on Portland’s eastern waterfront would be transformed into a shiny high-end neighborhood with six blocks of housing, shops, restaurants, hotel rooms and marina slips under an ambitious and long-awaited redevelopment plan submitted by local developers. The scale of the development, which features a mix of glass-walled buildings and historic brick structures and is estimated to cost about $250 million, makes it one of the most ambitious projects ever proposed in Maine’s largest city. CPB2 submitted its master development plan for the 10-acre parcel at 58 Fore St. to the city on Monday, and unveiled it at a news conference Wednesday morning. It was the first time that detailed renderings have been made public, although the project has been hotly debated for more than two years. The former industrial land at the entrance to Portland’s inner harbor has been the subject of speculation about its future on and off for decades. Read this story.

Single-family home sales continue to rise in Maine

The sale of single-family homes in Maine continued to increase both in the volume of transactions and in price last month. The Maine Association of Realtors said sales of existing homes in August increased 10.78 percent over the same month last year, while the median sales price ticked up 5.35 percent to $197,000. A total of 1,840 Maine homes changed hands last month. Nationally, single-family home sales rose only 0.6 percent, while in New England it was 6.1 percent. The national median sales price was $242,200, a 5.3 percent increase over August 2015, and in New England it rose 0.8 percent to $274,100. Read this story.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Nonprofit awards $70,000 in startup support grants

Business-development nonprofit Maine Accelerates Growth has issued $70,000 in grants to three organizations that contribute to Maine’s economic growth. It issued $5,000 to the Treehouse Institute for its TEDxDirigo program to increase engagement with entrepreneurs and startups. TEDxDirigo is the Maine-based TEDx program under a free license granted by TED, a nonprofit devoted to spreading ideas in the form of short, thought-provoking talks. It gave $15,000 to the Sustainability Lab, which is organizing the Maine Food Systems Innovation Challenge to take place later this year, and working to help scale new ideas for Maine’s food systems. Finally, it awarded $50,000 to the Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development’s Top Gun accelerator program to help fund its expansion into Lewiston-Auburn. Top Gun is a program for Maine startups. Read this story.

ENERGY

Ad comparing natural gas and oil prices ‘misleading’

A newspaper ad touting the cost benefits of heating with oil over natural gas is being called misleading by a state energy official, and a cautionary note for residents making long-term decisions about how to heat their homes. The Maine Energy Marketers Association, formerly the Maine Oil Dealers Association, ran the ad as part of its MaineEnergyFacts.com campaign. It wants to discourage more homes and businesses from converting from oil, the state’s dominant heating fuel, to competing alternatives, namely natural gas and heat pumps. The full-page ad compares a low cash price of heating oil this summer in the Portland area – $1.70 gallon – with the recently approved residential rate for Summit customers for the entire winter – the equivalent of $2.49 a gallon. A smiley face tops the $1.70 price, and a frowning face with a teardrop is above the $2.49. Read this story.

HEALTH CARE

Mercy announces layoffs after buyouts fall short

Mercy Hospital on Tuesday laid off 31 employees, nearly two months after it offered retirement buyouts to 99 people. The Portland hospital – which has about 1,500 full-time employees – cut workers in building maintenance, housekeeping, environmental services and other clinical and administrative positions. No doctors or nurses were laid off, although some nurses were eligible for the buyouts. Forty-seven had accepted the early-retirement incentive that was announced in July, which was one week’s pay for each year worked, and was offered to selected employees age 60 and older. A Mercy spokesman said not enough people accepted the early-retirement offer, making layoffs necessary. Read this story.