March 12, 2010

Southwest triggers sales on late-winter fares

By DAVID KOENIG AP Airlines Writer

— Sanford auto dealer to close; 35 people to lose their jobs

The economic downturn and tight credit continue to take their toll on Maine car dealers.

The latest victim is Miller Ford in Sanford, which is shutting its doors Feb. 28, putting 35 people out of work.

Owner Gary Miller said business has been tough with the struggling economy, falling auto sales and reduced credit for customers. He said the final straw came when his bank decided to cut his line of credit that he uses to buy new vehicles from Ford.

Miller said his collision center and body shop across the street from the dealership will remain open.

Cianbro to lay off 35 more people at Brewer facility

Cianbro Corp. of Pittsfield plans to lay off more workers at its manufacturing facility in Brewer.

Cianbro CEO Peter Vigue said in a statement Friday that the company would immediately cut about 35 jobs and next week would transfer another 75 to other company projects.

This is the second round of layoffs at the Brewer facility in a month. In late December, 50 workers lost their jobs, and employee hours were reduced from 50 to 70 hours per week to a typical 40-hour workweek. The facility initially employed about 700 people.

The Cianbro Eastern Manufacturing Facility opened earlier last year after becoming one of four companies contracted to build equipment and buildings for construction of the first ground-up oil refinery in the United States in three decades. Motiva Enterprises -- a joint venture between Shell Oil Co. and Saudi Aramco -- was reportedly investing billions in the refinery expansion in Port Arthur, Texas.

''One symptom of the recession is that the demand for oil has fallen steeply since Motiva hired Cianbro to produce refinery modules at our facility in Brewer,'' Vigue said in a statement.

''As a result, Motiva has transitioned from a construction timetable that was driven by schedule to one that is driven by cost. Haste makes waste in the construction industry, and there is no reason for a hasty refinery expansion when global refining capacity suddenly exceeds the demand for petroleum products.''

Agency lowers FairPoint's credit rating to negative

An international credit rating agency has lowered its outlook for FairPoint Communications Inc. from stable to negative because it has lost an unexpected number of customers in northern New England.

Fitch Ratings also cut other company ratings, lowering it one notch further into junk status.

FairPoint has lost an unexpected number of access lines since it bought Verizon's land lines in Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont for $2.3 billion. The company reported losing more than 80,000 customers it inherited from Verizon between March 31 and Sept. 30

FairPoint Chief Executive Gene Johnson said earlier this month the company remains confident it will win back old customers and lure new ones after it takes total control of the Verizon system Jan. 31.

Air Force to buy 37 airplanes with engines built in Maine

The Air Force soon will fly commercial planes outfitted with surveillance technologies that can help troops in Iraq or Afghanistan detect mines, explosives and other enemy efforts, a senior service official said Friday.

Air Force Brig. Gen. Blair Hansen detailed previously classified plans to reconfigure used and new Hawker Beechcraft Corp. aircraft under a nearly $1 billion contract to support surveillance and reconnaissance operations. The first two King Air 350 planes are slated to begin flights by April.

The Air Force said it will buy a total of 37 of the modified MC-12 aircraft, which will carry a crew of four, plus two operators, under the so-called ''Project Liberty'' program. United Technologies Corp.'s Pratt & Whitney is building the engines for the nearly 47-foot long aircraft.

Pratt & Whitney has an aircraft engine plant in North Berwick. This week, the plant announced plans to reduce its hourly work force by 50.

-- From staff and news services

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