Tuesday, March 11, 2014
Commercial Confidential tracks Maine's business leaders and economic indicators.
I'm an economics wonk and an online content producer for the Portland Press Herald.
"On the Move": Submit items of interest regarding new employees, promotions and professional honors — with photos and LinkedIn URLs — to business [at] pressherald.com.
Maine's economic activity, split in half.
Yesterday, I posted a map here (link) that offered a striking visualization of how much a small handful of metropolitan areas contribute to the nation's economy.
Maine's commonly perceived as a rural state, but as it happens, a similar pattern holds up here. Here's a view of Maine's economy split in half: half of the state's economic activity happens in the relatively small southern corner, colored orange, and the other half happens in the much larger blue-shaded portion.
Here's some of the data behind the map (from the same report from the US Conference of Mayors that I cited in yesterday's post):
This fairly amazing map has been making the rounds on Twitter today. Its creator seems to be the Reddit user atrubetskoy.
I checked the data against figures in this report from the US Conference of Mayors, which confirms that this map is pretty accurate. Here's a list of the metro areas depicted in orange in the map above, along with their estimated metropolitan gross domestic products in 2011:
The total GDP for the entire nation in 2011 was $15.5 trillion. The total of these metro GDP figures adds up to a little over $7.5 trillion — which is pretty close to half of the nation's total. I'll give the mapmaker the benefit of the doubt and assume that I might my list above might have missed one or two suburban areas that they colored orange.
It's worth noting that the mapmaker also left some rather large metropolitan areas in the blue part of the map. Denver, Atlanta, Cleveland, Kansas City, Indianapolis, Orlando, Cincinatti and Tampa all have metro economies whose economies are worth over $100 billion.
Back in October I wrote about how developers are adding new housing to Portland's Munjoy Hill neighborhood to target the high end of the market — at their listed prices, you'd need a six-figure income to be able to afford a mortgage for these places.
This Tuesday, the city's planning board approved two more projects that will add 17 more homes to the neighborhood. The larger of the two projects, a 12-unit condo building planned for the hilltop of Congress Street, is advertising prices starting at the "upper $500,000s."
In December, another 29-unit townhouse development planned for the same neighborhood, at similar prices, won planning board approval one day after the developers revealed in a Securities and Exchange filing that they had raised $1.4 million in an equity offering to finance the project's construction. So it's apparently not just empty-nesters who are interested in the neighborhood — investors are also pouring their money in, presumably with expectations of healthy returns.
The Verso-NewPage merger
Portland writer Sara Corbett (who also co-founded The Telling Room, a nonprofit writing workshop) had a great story on this weekend's This American Life about the origins of the on-hold music that's the default setting on Cisco corporate phone switchboards. It turns out, the music has an eclectic fan base that includes Corbett's father-in-law.
Today's business page features a story from Tux Turkel about how Maine environmental groups would like to install more solar power across the state, with a goal of 200 megawatts of solar power capacity by the end of the decade.
If that sounds ambitious, bear in mind that the Wyman Unit No. 4 oil-burning power plant in Yarmouth can generate up to 610 megawatts of power. And in California, where incentives for solar power are much more generous, the solar industry installed 333 megawatts' worth of solar-electric capacity in 2013 alone.
So Maine won't be a leader anytime soon, but its nascent solar industry might benefit from some of California's pioneering spirit.
Solar panels can generate electricity at a price that's quite competitive with the rates you'd pay Central Maine Power (local architect Jesse Thompson runs the numbers in this post on GreenBuildingAdvisor), but most homeowners can't afford to pay, out of pocket, the $25,000 up-front price tag of a typical rooftop system.