Sunday, April 20, 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.
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.
Maine is increasingly competing in a global economy, which means that our local businesses often thrive or die based on events and decisions that happen far beyond our borders. "From Away" is a new weekly roundup of national and international business news that has implications for Maine's local economy. My plan is to publish these roundups once a week on Thursdays — if you have suggestions, email firstname.lastname@example.org or tweet @vigorousnorth.
Quebec has joined California's cap-and-trade greenhouse gas emissions market, via The Globe and Mail. In essence, this means that polluters in Quebec will have to buy credits for the global-warming pollution that they generate, in the same market from which Californian polluters started buying credits last year.
This is going to affect local businesses like the South Portland-based Portland Pipeline Corp., which delivers oil to refineries near Montreal. "The province’s gasoline marketers – including refiners such as Suncor Energy Inc. and Valero Energy Corp. – face the biggest challenge a year from now when fuel distributors will need to hold allowances to cover emissions that result from the burning of every litre of gasoline and diesel they sell," writes reporter Shawn McCarthy.
Happy 2014! If you had a chance to take some time off for the holidays, you might have missed this great year-end story from Press Herald writer Meredith Goad:
Goad surveys a number of local chefs who say that retail spaces for new restaurants in downtown Portland are growing increasingly scarce (and, by the laws of supply and demand, expensive as well).
And in today's paper, staff writer Mary Pols has another story of a young chef who's gone into deep debt to Kickstarter supporters in order to kick off his new enterprise on Congress Street.