Sunday, March 9, 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 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 email@example.com 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.
The Bayside neighborhood is in the news this week as city planners get ready to vote on final approvals for an ambitious redevelopment on long-vacant railyards along Somerset Street. Randy Billings had a good overview of the neighborhood's history and past redevelopment efforts on the cover of Monday's paper, and along with it we ran an old aerial photo of the neighborhood from around 1960, part of our new "Flashback" feature in which we share old negatives from the newspaper's archives at the Portland Public Library. The library has actually made prints of more than a dozen of these aerial photos and they're on view on the walls of the second floor reading room.
That photo came from a large-format negative, which gives the picture an amazing level of detail — as you zoom in on the interactive version here, you can make out individual business names on buildings throughout the neighborhood. And a look at those businesses from 50 years ago offers some intriguing insights about the past half-century's economic changes.
Here are some of the things I noticed:
Reporting and explaining the global economy is difficult: the narratives are complicated and they literally span the globe.
NPR's "Planet Money" team took on the challenge with a product that seems relatively simple: a t-shirt. Reporters and videographers went from the cotton fields of Mississippi to the textile plants of Indonesia to the sewing factories of Bangladesh, and the resulting story is both beautiful and amazing.
It's also a really nice example of web-based journalism. They even financed all the globetrotting by pre-selling the t-shirts on Kickstarter instead of relying on pledge drives.
Occupy Maine, take note: if you want your business leaders to get worked up about the ills of capitalism, forget about fast food workers and focus on your local pro sports teams.
We often hear from Chamber of Commerce types that government ought to be run "like a business," but now that the Cumberland County Civic Center's board of trustees is managing the arena in the best financial interests of its taxpayers and driving a hard bargain with the Portland Pirates hockey team, the Portland Community Chamber is calling for a coup d'état, as detailed by Bill Nemitz in his column today.
The reason the Pirates left, you may recall, is because the Civic Center turned down a weak lease agreement with the hockey team in favor of hosting other, more lucrative events.
It was a perfectly capitalist decision, made in pursuit of maximum profits. Nemitz points out that Neal Pratt, the Civic Center's hard-nosed negotiator, actually won a prestigious award from the Chamber of Commerce earlier this year for his work as the Civic Center's board chair.