Business – Press Herald Fri, 18 Aug 2017 08:00:59 +0000 en-US hourly 1 New bookstore planned in Westbrook Fri, 18 Aug 2017 00:47:27 +0000 Westbrook will soon have an independent bookstore, a coffee shop and bar – all rolled into one.

Quill Books and Beverage has announced plans to open in downtown Westbrook. The exact location is still not public as co-owners Matthew Irving and Allison Krzanowski finalize their lease, but they will host a used book sale at Mast Landing Brewing on Sunday to help with their startup costs.

“It’s going to be a pop-up bookstore,” Krzanowski said. “So they can expect to see the types of books at the prices we plan on selling for in the bookstore. They’ll get a feel for the selection we have.”

Irving and Krzanowski have never owned a bookstore before – she does social work and owns a business selling handwoven items, and he runs a bar in Portland. The idea was born when they bought a home in Westbrook last year.

“We wanted to meet other young people and meet people in the community and have a place people could gather,” she said. “We didn’t really find that, so we decided to create it.”

They hope to open Quill in late fall. The owners want the collection to reflect a diverse range of writers and experiences.

“We really want our entire community represented,” Krzanowski said. “LGBTQ people, people of color, Muslims, immigrants. We’ve been really working to have a finely curated collection.”

The store will sell books for all ages. Most will be priced from $6 to $8, though children’s and young adult books will cost $3 to $5.

The coffee shop will also serve beer and wine, and the menu will include breakfast and lunch items and evening snacks. Quill will host community events like book talks, poetry readings and art shows.

“We’re really trying to be a community focused space,” she said.

The business will need approval from the Westbrook Planning Board before it can open. The book sale at Mast Landing Brewing at 920 Main St. will last from 12 p.m. to 5 p.m. Sunday. Updates about the store’s opening date and location will be shared on Quill’s Facebook page.

Megan Doyle can be contacted at 791-6327 or at:

Twitter: megan_e_doyle

]]> 0 Thu, 17 Aug 2017 21:33:29 +0000
Americans buying more of their food at Wal-Mart Thu, 17 Aug 2017 22:49:11 +0000 Competition is heating up among U.S. grocery chains, but Americans are increasingly buying their food at Wal-Mart.

The retailer on Thursday said food sales had grown to their highest level in five years, as Wal-Mart expands its grocery business both in stores and online by adding more organic produce. The company is also testing grocery delivery in New York, and has taken aggressive steps to compete with, which is the process of buying Whole Foods Markets for $13.7 billion, as well as European discounters like Aldi and Lidl, which are ramping up their presence in the United States.

“We’ve seen strong results from the rollout of online grocery, which is now in more than 900 U.S. locations,” Doug McMillon, president and chief executive of Wal-Mart,said in a Thursday call with analysts. “We’re expanding this service in many of our markets around the world.”

Earlier this year, Wal-Mart created its own “designer” cantaloupe that it says tastes as sweet in winter as it does in summer, and a company spokeswoman says its next goal is to develop a more flavorful tomato. The company has also expanded its line-up of exclusive snacks, including Oreo O’s cereal and Jelly Donut Oreos.

Food sales make up more half of Wal-Mart’s revenue, accounting for nearly $200 billion worth of groceries each year, said Joseph Feldman, an analyst for Telsey Advisory Group in New York. (By comparison, the country’s second-largest grocery chain, Kroger, brought in $115.3 billion last year.)

“There’s been a real effort to improve fresh foods – produce, meats – and they’ve been very aggressive in keeping prices low,” Feldman said. “Big picture, we’re feeling pretty good about Wal-Mart.”

In all, the company said e-commerce sales increased by 60 percent in the most recent quarter. is now the second-largest online retailer, behind, following its $3.3 billion acquisition of last year.

Sales at stores open at least one year rose 1.8 percent from a year ago, marking the 12th quarter in a row of gains. Second-quarter revenue rose 2 percent to $123.4 billion, up from $120.9 billion a year ago. Earnings, meanwhile, fell 20 percent to 96 cents per share, from $1.21 per share a year ago.

Wal-Mart – the country’s largest retailer and its biggest employer – has been moving quickly to build its Internet presence. So far this year the company has bought a number of e-commerce businesses, including ModCloth, ShoeBuy, MooseJaw and Bonobos. It is also beefing up its own website: now offers more than 67 million products, a 30 percent increase since the first quarter of this year, according to McMillon.

“Our strategy is to make every day easier for busy families,” he said. “To accomplish this, we continue our transformation to become more of a digital enterprise that moves with speed and agility.”

He added Wal-Mart is also testing new delivery strategies by enlisting store employees to deliver online orders on their way home from work. It is also offering discounts to customers who pick up online orders in-store, and plans to have 100 automated pick-up towers in stores around the country by year’s end.

]]> 0 from today's news that doesn't repeat the head or summary please.Thu, 17 Aug 2017 21:06:34 +0000
Tech stocks and Wal-Mart cause a big stock drop Thu, 17 Aug 2017 22:33:58 +0000 NEW YORK — U.S. stocks plunged Thursday as losses for Cisco Systems hurt technology companies while Wal-Mart declined after its latest quarterly report. Banks also dropped as bond yields and interest rates sank for a second day.

It was the second-worst day for stocks this year, which has seen few large declines. Along with technology companies and retailers, transportation companies skidded and all of the industrial, financial and basic materials companies in the S&P 500 fell. Those sectors tend to struggle when investors are concerned about economic growth, although there weren’t any specific signs of economic trouble Thursday.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index dropped 38.10 points, or 1.5 percent, to 2,430.01, its lowest close since July 11. The Dow Jones industrial average tumbled 274.14 points, or 1.2 percent, to 21,750.73. The Nasdaq composite sank 123.19 points, or 1.9 percent, to 6,221.91. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks fell 24.59 points, or 1.8 percent, to 1,358.94.

High-dividend stocks like utilities and real estate companies fared slightly better than the rest of the market, although they still finished lower. About 95 percent of the companies in the S&P 500 finished with losses.

Bill Northey, chief investment officer at U.S. Bank Wealth Management, said minutes released Wednesday from the Federal Reserve’s policy meeting last month marked “a little bit of a change in tone.”

]]> 0 Thu, 17 Aug 2017 21:10:58 +0000
EpiPen to pay government $465 million Thu, 17 Aug 2017 22:18:44 +0000 TRENTON, N.J. — EpiPen maker Mylan has finalized a $465 million government agreement settling allegations it overbilled Medicaid for its emergency allergy injectors for a decade – charges brought after rival Sanofi filed a whistleblower lawsuit and tipped off the government.

It’s the second settlement with the Department of Justice that Mylan has made since 2009 for allegedly overcharging the government for its medicines.

A prominent senator and a watchdog group both criticized the latest settlement for being far smaller than the amount Medicaid was overcharged.

Mylan NV, technically based in England but with operational headquarters near Pittsburgh, became a poster child for pharmaceutical industry greed for hiking the list price of EpiPens repeatedly. It raised the price per pair from $94 in 2007 to $608 last year, while experts estimate it costs less than $10 to produce one EpiPen.

Last September, a House panel grilled Mylan CEO Heather Bresch about the skyrocketing cost of the devices, which patients inject in the thigh to stop a runaway allergic reaction to foods such as nuts and eggs or insect bites and stings.

“DOJ is letting Mylan get off on the cheap for ripping off the government, and with no admission of wrongdoing,” Robert Weissman, president of the consumer watchdog group Public Citizen, said Thursday.

Weissman and Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Chuck Grassley, R-Iowa, both noted that the Health and Human Services Department’s Office of Inspector General’s investigated and concluded that Medicaid programs paid Mylan $1.27 billion more than they should have between 2006 and 2016.

On Thursday, the DOJ disclosed its EpiPen case began with a lawsuit against Mylan under the False Claims Act.

]]> 0 watchdog groups think the $465 million settlement with the maker of EpiPen was less than was overcharged.Thu, 17 Aug 2017 21:11:40 +0000
The American Cancer Society, other charities cancel plans for galas at Mar-a-Lago Thu, 17 Aug 2017 22:04:42 +0000 Three fundraising giants decided to pull events from President Donald Trump’s Mar-a-Lago Club in Palm Beach, Florida, on Thursday, signaling a direct blowback to his business empire from his comments on Charlottesville’s (Virginia) racial unrest.

The American Cancer Society, a high-dollar client at the club since at least 2009, cited its “values and commitment to diversity” in a statement on its decision to move an upcoming fundraising gala. Another longtime Mar-a-Lago customer, the Cleveland Clinic, abruptly changed course on its winter event only days after saying it planned to continue doing business at Mar-a-Lago, a leading venue for charitable events in the posh resort town.

The American Friends of Magen David Adom, which raises money for Israel’s equivalent of the Red Cross, also said it would not hold its 2018 gala at the club “after considerable deliberation,” though it did not give a reason. The charity had one of Mar-a-Lago’s biggest events last season, with about 600 people in attendance.

The cancellations will undoubtedly squeeze revenue for the private club Trump calls the “winter White House,” where similar-size events have often brought in fees of between $100,000 and $275,000 each.

But the Florida club may face an even deeper crisis of confidence from the local business community. The head of the Palm Beach Chamber of Commerce, of which Mar-a-Lago is a member, called the business “morally reprehensible” on Thursday and said she expected more charities to defect.

“The glitter, the shine has gone from the club,” chamber executive director Laurel Baker said, “and I can’t help but think there will be more fallout from it.”

The rapid rejections of one of the president’s signature businesses revealed a possible financial vulnerability for Trump, who has been fiercely criticized this week for equating the actions of white supremacists and neo-Nazis with protesters during a violent weekend in Charlottesville.

They also come days after Trump faced condemnations from corporate executives on two of the White House’s top business advisory groups, which disbanded in a stinging affront of Trump’s controversial message.

The White House referred questions about the charitable events to the Trump Organization, which did not respond.

At least seven other groups that frequented Mar-a-Lago – including the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, the Leukemia & Lymphoma Society in New York and the Bascom Palmer Eye Institute in Miami – have announced in recent months that they would choose other venues, citing reasons such as political differences and security hassles.

Mar-a-Lago’s upcoming winter season, the peak of Palm Beach social life, looks as though it will be the slowest period for charity events in at least a decade, according to a Washington Post analysis of upcoming events.

The Cleveland Clinic, one of the nation’s leading medical centers, abruptly canceled its event plans Thursday, and spokeswoman Eileen Sheil told The Post that “there were a variety of factors” behind the cancellation. “We’re not elaborating,” she added.

Shortly afterward, the American Cancer Society announced that it was backing out, saying in a statement: “Our values and commitment to diversity are critical as we work to address the impact of cancer in every community. It has become increasingly clear that the challenge to those values is outweighing other business considerations.”

Both health-related groups faced growing pressure to reconsider their support of the president’s business amid Trump controversies. But the cancellations don’t come without risk: The Cleveland Clinic said it had raised about $1 million a year for medical equipment over the past eight years at Mar-a-Lago.

Baker, head of the Palm Beach chamber, spoke vigorously against Mar-a-Lago on Thursday, saying that her directive to nearby charities was “If you’re looking at your mission statement, can you honestly say having an event at Mar-a-Lago, given all that has transpired, is the best stewardship of your efforts?”

The Cleveland Clinic had still intended to host its ninth gala there as recently as last week. The move followed weeks of public turmoil, including a letter signed by 1,600 health professionals and others last month that said the Mar-a-Lago booking “symbolically and financially supports a politician actively working to decrease access to healthcare.”

The clinic’s chief executive, Toby Cosgrove, was among the business leaders on the president’s Strategic and Policy Forum who agreed to disband Wednesday. Trump said on Twitter that he would end the forum and a separate American Manufacturing Council “rather than putting pressure on the businesspeople.”

Mar-a-Lago has faced growing scrutiny from supporters of Trump’s “buy American, hire American” agenda because of its recent requests for foreign workers. The club, which has sought dozens of H-2B visas for foreign employees because it argued that it can’t find Americans to do the work, was absent last week at a job fair in West Palm Beach.

The charity moves are a welcome development for other venues, such as the Eau Palm Beach Resort & Spa, where spokesman Nick Gold said calls have increased from groups looking to hold fundraising events.

“There’s a lot of concern from these charities, where their boards of directors are probably not wanting to be at Mar-a-Lago for a variety of reasons,” including reasons related to Trump, he said.

]]> 0 - This Saturday, April 15, 2017, file photo shows President Donald Trump's Mar-a-Lago estate in Palm Beach, Fla. The Trump Organization asked the federal government on July 20, 2017, to grant dozens of special visas to foreign nationals to work at two of the President Donald Trump's private clubs in Florida, including his Mar-a-Lago resort. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File)Thu, 17 Aug 2017 22:17:53 +0000
Uncle Billy’s Bar-B-Que is back Thu, 17 Aug 2017 21:51:25 +0000 Jonathan St. Laurent, once known as southern Maine’s “guru of barbecue,” is on his way back.

St. Laurent and his wife, Schyla, plan to open a new barbecue restaurant on Portland’s East End in November or December, according to a liquor license application filed with the city.

The application, which will be reviewed Monday, lists 166 Cumberland Ave. as the home of the new Uncle Billy’s Bar-B-Que. That address, at the base of Munjoy Hill, is the former home of the Bayside Variety convenience store.

St. Laurent is best known for the original Uncle Billy’s barbecue joint that opened in 1989 in South Portland, on Ocean Street next to the Griffin Club. After that restaurant closed in 1995, he opened more barbecue places in Portland and Yarmouth, but they were never as successful as the original restaurant.

In a letter accompanying the liquor license application, Schyla Laurent wrote that the new restaurant “will be a reincarnation” of the South Portland Uncle Billy’s, with a small outdoor dining area included.

A sample menu lists a variety of smoked meat sandwiches and “Squealin’ Shack Plates” made with pulled pork and chicken, tri-tip, brisket, sausage links, burgers, pork chops. Baby back pork ribs will also be served.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0 Thu, 17 Aug 2017 21:13:43 +0000
Anania Investment of Windham sells business software developer Thu, 17 Aug 2017 20:42:27 +0000 Windham-based Anania & Associates Investment Co. has sold one of its portfolio companies, Synergistic Software Solutions LLC, to a supply chain automation software and services provider based in Florida, the company said Thursday. Terms of the sale were not disclosed.

Based in Minnesota, Synergistic has 11 employees and is the producer of a software product called JobOps, a management software suite for manufacturers.

The buyer is Scanco Software LLC, which recently purchased JOScan, a scanning software product developed to work exclusively with JobOps.

The sale of Synergistic marks the second large divestiture of an Anania Investment portfolio company this summer. In June, portfolio company Grow-Tech LLC was acquired by Dümmen Orange, an international leader in the horticultural industry.

]]> 0 Thu, 17 Aug 2017 16:42:27 +0000
LePage praises vocational training, calls teachers ‘a dime a dozen’ Thu, 17 Aug 2017 18:08:06 +0000 PITTSFIELD — Gov. Paul LePage said Thursday that he values vocational training more than traditional education, and that classroom teachers are “a dime a dozen.”
The governor made the remarks at the unveiling of Cianbro’s new workforce development center, which aims to help replenish a diminishing workforce in the construction business through education and training.

Cianbro employees work Thursday at the company’s new workforce development facility in Pittsfield. Photo courtesy of Cianbro

LePage praised the new institute, which offers opportunities in vocational training that once were more widely available, such as shop class and home economics, which he said “were really good for our society back then.”

“Instead of hiding vocational education, we have to do what we used to do and bring it back to the front of the classroom,”

LePage said. He also took jabs at traditional education, saying Cianbro’s new facility places more value on mentoring, which is “more than just teaching out of a book.”
“Because teachers are a dime a dozen, mentors are what we really need in our system to prepare the next generation to take over,” LePage said. “It’s mentoring that’s more valuable. And I’m certain this institution is going to be mentoring.”

Lois Kilby-Chesley, president of the Maine Education Association, the state’s largest teachers union, said in an interview afterward she was surprised to hear about the governor’s comments because compared to other New England states, Maine is struggling to fill many teaching positions.

She said the MEA does not agree with the “dime a dozen” comment and didn’t think any superintendent in Maine would.

Kilby-Chesley also said the MEA has supported vocational education in schools, now known as career and technical education. She said it prepares students for jobs that are more hands on, but that students can’t be lumped into just one category. She said students need to make choices, whether to pursue career and technical education or a path that leads toward higher education.

“Students will make choices based on their interests,” she said. “Not every student fits the same hole. Different pegs require different holes.”

Cianbro’s new workforce development department, called the Cianbro Institute, provides in-house training in construction, electrical work and other trades for its employees.

Peter Vigue, CEO of Cianbro, said the company was already providing this training in separate locations in Pittsfield, but “we’re busting out at the seams.” In introducing LePage, Vigue said Cianbro was passionate about people and the industry, which he said were values shared by the governor.

Peter Vigue, left, chief executive officer of Cianbro, speaks Thursday with Gov. Paul LePage at the company’s new workforce development facility in Pittsfield. Staff photo by Colin Ellis

LePage recounted that when he was first elected, he sent a cartoon to all the school superintendents in the state, depicting a plumber talking to a teacher. The teacher said they made $30,000 a year while the plumber said they made $65,000.

“And the superintendents were livid. You should see some of the comments I received,” LePage said. “But I was right.”

The actual cartoon was different, featuring a student who was going to be a welder and another student going for a liberal arts degree and different salary figures for both. The cartoon, which was actually sent to high school principals across the state, also included a handwritten note, saying: “Folks. We can do better and need to do better! Let’s put our students first.”

LePage said it takes six years to get a bachelor’s degree in Maine. He gave the example of his daughter, who he said had begun school planning to become a physician, but changed her mind and just graduated from law school. He said while that was good, it has become increasingly hard to find an electrician or plumber.

“I’m telling you the trades and vocational education are critical,” he said, adding that “you still have to have a roof over your head.”

He said technical education opportunities are important because “not everyone is going to go to college.”

Aside from placing value on vocational education, LePage commended Cianbro for being a forward-thinking company that has been an innovator in workplace safety.

“They were very, very interested in keeping their workers healthy and on the job,” he said.

Vigue said the kind of training the institute provides is valuable to young people from “humble backgrounds” or who have limited economic opportunities or low self-esteem.

“We are creating and building people who have integrity, character and skill,” he said.

The institute provides mentoring to current employees. Scott Mitchell, an instructor for the institute, said Cianbro has a four-year apprenticeship program that offers at least 576 hours of learning time both in the field and in a classroom.

Cianbro, which has been nationally recognized as the Healthiest and Safest Company in America by the American College of Occupation and Environmental Medicine, was started in 1949.

While the state’s workforce challenge could be perceived as a problem, Vigue said, it also presents an opportunity to “invest in the future of the workforce.”

“Cianbro created a fabulous facility that will help us move the ball,” Whyte said.

Michael Bellaman, president and CEO of Associated Builders and Contractors, said the Cianbro facility is “awesome” and that he is continually impressed by Cianbro’s work. Companies like Cianbro, which is a member of ABC, give the organization a credible voice “as we work for legislation,” he said.

Colin Ellis — 861-9253

Twitter: @colinoellis

]]> 0 Vigue, left, chief executive officer of Cianbro, speaks Thursday with Gov. Paul LePage at the company's new workforce development facility in Pittsfield.Thu, 17 Aug 2017 23:07:52 +0000
L.L. Bean unveils new machine and a path to 1 million boots a year Thu, 17 Aug 2017 15:43:11 +0000 LEWISTON — L.L. Bean intends to make 1 million pairs of its famed hunting boots next year, and erase a production backlog that has dogged the popular footwear in recent years.

Company officials unveiled a $1 million injection molding machine during an open house at its new plant in Lewiston on Thursday morning. The investment increases the outdoor gear company’s capacity to make its trademark product by one-third.

The retailer sold 600,000 pairs of the boots last year and expects to produce 750,000 this year. It should reach the 1 million milestone in 2018.

“L.L. Bean manufacturing is both our history and our future,” Executive Chairman Shawn Gorman said while addressing a crowd of dignitaries, media and employees gathered to tour the company’s new plant on Lexington Street.

At the peak of last year’s backlog, 50,000 customers were waiting to receive their boots, which come in numerous styles and models. It took the company until July to catch up with the orders. There also were backlogs in 2015, when the company sold 500,000 pairs of the boots, and in 2014, when it sold 450,000 pairs. A decade ago, orders for the hunting boots tallied just 100,000 pairs.

The boots range in price from $99 to $199 and by a conservative estimate accounted for upwards of $60 million in sales in 2016, when L.L. Bean reported overall sales of $1.6 billion.

CEO Steve Smith said the added capacity means more than 550 people are working year-round on orders in Lewiston and at L.L. Bean’s production facility in Brunswick. Both facilities are working around the clock in three shifts during the week to stay on top of orders for the rubber-and-leather boots, as well as dog beds and tote bags. The company is looking to hire 40 full-time workers at the Lewiston location, and has another 130 manufacturing positions open. The average wage for front-line employees is $14.50 per hour.

“Hiring is what is holding us back,” said Smith, noting the goal is to have more than 700 people working in production by year’s end. Once that’s achieved, the company will be able to churn out 3,200 pairs of boots a day.


In a nod to the importance of the company’s trademark boots, the plant’s entrance is festooned with new products. A display of boot soles shows a range of colors from bright blue to pink and orange. The soles are topped with uppers in more sedate shades of brown, gray and black, but a couple of red uppers and an eye-catching plaid are standouts in the display.

They are examples of new offerings now that the company has the capacity to increase production, manufacturing manager Roland Cote said.

New boot liners in Scotch plaid and variegated shearling also are on display, as well as edgier Bean boots, such as a knee-high woman’s boot with a traditional Bean boot bottom topped with a bison leather upper.

Menswear gets jazzed-up options, too. One mannequin in the entryway has a 10-inch Bean boot in various shades of black and gray.

Cote said the company is aware that orders for its traditional hunting boots may wane, despite their popularity on college campuses and with sportsmen and outdoor enthusiasts. So L.L. Bean is stepping up ways to customize the boots for new markets. Besides adding new colors, linings and styles, the company is starting to expand marketing in Japan and Europe.

“We’re trying to offer a lot more variety for consumers,” Cote said.

Three years ago, the boots made a splash at New York Fashion Week when famed women’s footwear designer Manolo Blahnik applauded the boots’ stylishness and stability, raising their visibility to an international audience. Last year, Christina Binkley, fashion columnist for The Wall Street Journal, said the boots’ comfort and function are key to their enduring popularity.

“In fact, it’s looking like this is more long-term trend than fad,” she told the Press Herald at the time.

Smith, in his opening remarks Thursday, said that the new injection molding machine gives the company more leeway to design small batches of specialized boots and to experiment with “new inno vations and designs that our customers are craving.”


The new molding machine, which makes the rubber soles of the boots, was the final piece in the company’s fit-out of its new 106,000-square-foot facility. L.L. Bean previously operated a smaller plant on Westminster Street in Lewiston, but decided to move that operation and some of the production work previously performed in Brunswick to its new plant.

The building on Lexington Street houses all operations involved in the boots’ creation, from receiving raw materials in a warehouse section, to production, finishing, inspections and shipping, either directly to customers or to retail centers.

Cote pauses during a tour of the plant to watch Marilyn Laroche sew the triangle-shaped flaps on the bottom of a tote bag. The stitches are white, so any mistake would be obvious against the dark canvas. But Laroche, who has been with Bean for almost 24 years, expertly whips the fabric through the machine, aligning the stitches precisely before snipping the thread ends from the tote.

“It’s a real skill,” said Cote, who added that although some of the company’s production has been automated, there is still a need for highly skilled workers. L.L. Bean is the state’s fourth-largest private employer with between 5,500 and 6,000 employees, according to Maine Department of Labor data.

Surveying the company’s newest operation from the dais, Gorman, the great-grandson of company founder Leon Leonwood Bean, cited the innovation and technology that have fueled the company’s expansion. He also invoked his great-grandfather and commended the workers, many of whom wore T-shirts emblazoned with “Made in Maine” over red, white and blue Bean boots.

“I think he would be happy with the growth and the progress,” Gorman said. “And how far we’ve come.”

Carol Coultas can be contacted at 791-6460 or at:

]]> 0 Mohamed places an L.L. Bean boot bottom on a rack Thursday at the new 106,000-square-foot plant on Lexington Street in Lewiston, where the company is looking to hire 40 full-time workers.Thu, 17 Aug 2017 22:05:55 +0000
Maine company seeks to produce innovative wood-fiber insulating boards Thu, 17 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Maine’s glut of softwood fiber created by closed paper mills makes the state an ideal location for a factory that can produce insulation board from wood, a Belfast architectural and construction firm says, and it’s trying to find a European manufacturer that shares that vision.

GO Logic, which specializes in energy-efficient buildings, says it’s negotiating with undisclosed companies that make wood-based insulation board in Europe, where the product already is in commercial use. The goal is to have a plant operating here within two years.

Two of GO Logic’s executives also attended an affordable housing conference Aug. 3 and 4 in Philadelphia. One of them, GO Logic co-founder Matt O’Malia, was an invited speaker and discussed the company’s efforts. They also planned to line up commitments from a retailer in the New York City area to carry the product, as well as some contractors and a prefab builder. That’s crucial to attracting financing.

GO Logic also has been in discussions with a Maine lumber company that could be a source of sawmill waste, as well as a family-owned lumber yard with nine stores in Maine’s midcoast.

Taken together, these actions are another example of how businesses are looking at Maine’s abandoned paper mill sites and surplus capacity in wood harvesting to create new opportunities. Other efforts involve biofuels, agriculture and electricity generation.

Putting insulation inside the walls of homes is standard practice. But increasingly, contractors are adding an insulating layer to the exterior. That’s because energy-saving requirements are becoming stricter in building codes, and it’s often not possible or cost effective to meet them by putting more insulation in wall cavities.

This trend has led to more buildings being covered with sheets of rigid insulating board, mostly made from petroleum-based foam. But while foam board dominates the American market, there’s growing interest in products that are sustainable and more friendly to the environment.

That market potential has led GO Logic to form a new subsidiary – GO Lab Inc. – that’s developing its own wood-based insulation board, among other things.

“Insulation board is going to become a more-important product,” said Joshua Henry, GO Lab’s president. “We think our timing is very good, in terms of the insulation market and the wood-products industry in Maine.”

Matthew O’Malia, left, and Joshua Henry, two of the three GO Logic partners, pose for a portrait in their Belfast office building. GO Logic is a high-performance home builder working to develop a wood-based insulation board. Staff photo by Brianna Soukup

Henry, who went with O’Malia to the conference, is a chemist and materials engineer, and a former professor at Bates College and the University of Maine. Later this summer, he’ll be at a UMaine lab to test combinations of wood fibers pressed into insulation board for insulating value and strength.

The university already is a focal point for experimenting with ways to turn wood fiber into high-performance insulation. Revolution Research Inc., founded by former UMaine students and aided by government grants, has used nanotechnology to develop Arbotile, a wood-fiber, insulating ceiling tile. Henry said the process he’s working on isn’t as technically advanced as Arbotile, but is closer to commercial production because it’s similar to what’s used to make insulation board today in Germany and Switzerland.

The product is often called low density fiberboard. The German manufacturer Gutex, for example, has for decades made fiberboard insulation from spruce and fir chips and shavings from sawmills, a plentiful resource in Maine. Gutex fiberboard is used for sheathing in both walls and roofs. The material allows water vapor from inside to pass through and keep the wall cavity dry, a property builders desire.

Insulation performance is primarily ranked by R-value, a measure of how well a material slows heat transfer. The higher the R-value, the better the insulation. Gutex has an R-value of 3.7 per inch.

In the United States, it’s common to see exterior walls sheathed in the pink, extruded polystyrene foam made by Owens Corning, which is rated at R-5 per inch, or rigid foam sheets from Dow Chemical, which boast an R-value of 6.5 per inch. Both block moisture.

While the foam has higher insulating values, a sustainably made insulation board that’s cost-competitive with foam would be an attractive alternative, according to Mike Byram, who heads up outdoor products sales at Viking Lumber in Holden.

Viking, which has stores from Milbridge to Damariscotta, is interested in GO Lab’s work. Byram said it has become common for customers to ask about eco-friendly and locally made products.

“We would like to see a product like this hit the market,” he said. “I think eventually it could take the place of foam.”


That transition could take time, in the view of Steve Konstantino, owner of Performance Building Supply in Portland, because contractors can be slow to change the way they do things.

“I’ve grown weary of bringing in and trying to sell products that no one knows about,” he said.

But both Konstantino and Byram say that a flood of new building products competing for attention these day has sped up the pace of acceptance, especially around energy and indoor air quality. Paints featuring low or zero volatile emissions were novel a few years ago, Konstantino noted. Today, all major manufacturers sell them.

Konstantino said he thinks fiberboard insulation manufacturing is a great fit for Maine, but for a product to become mainstream, it has to be carried in big-box home improvement stores, such as The Home Depot and Lowe’s.

“We’re pretty far away from that,” he said.

For now, Henry and his team are focused on attracting a manufacturer and a distribution network. They also need to make a case to potential investors for why Maine is a better location than states with lower power costs and tax rates.

“Everyone we talk to in finance and venture capital asks, ‘Why Maine?’ ” he said.

One argument, according to Alden Robbins, vice president of Robbins Lumber in Searsmont, is that Maine has strong brand recognition in the Northeast. His company makes a variety of pine boards, and is building a power plant that will use waste wood to dry lumber and generate electricity for sale. But Robbins said his property also could be a site for a fiberboard insulation factory, and that he’d be interested in selling the product through a wholesale distribution arm the company operates in Maine and Nova Scotia.

“I think there’s a lot of potential for a product like this,” he said.

Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or


]]> 0 O'Malia, left, and Joshua Henry, two of the three GO Logic partners, pose for a portrait in their Belfast office building. GO Logic is a high-performance home builder working to develop a wood-based insulation board.Thu, 17 Aug 2017 06:34:06 +0000
State Theatre will see its name in lights again with restored marquee Thu, 17 Aug 2017 02:41:06 +0000 A landmark in the heart of Portland’s Arts District is going retro with the restoration of the State Theatre’s marquee getting underway this month.

Architects, using photos of the marquee from the 1930s that document its original appearance, plan to restore the light bulbs that used to adorn the marquee’s panels so that it again will be illuminated at night, as it used to be when the State Theatre opened nearly 90 years ago. The only change to the original design will be light panels on the side to announce upcoming shows.

“The heart of the Arts District will soon harken back to an exciting time in Portland’s history,” city spokeswoman Jessica Grondin said in a statement. “As it once was, the State Theatre marquee will again be a beacon at the crossroads of Congress and High streets.”

The marquee was removed Wednesday so that the work could begin.

The State Theatre sign is taken down Tuesday. Portland provided a $6,000 facade program grant for the project. Photo courtesy of city of Portland

The State Theatre is Portland’s only surviving movie palace from the early 20th century, Grondin said. It opened at 609 Congress Street as a private movie theater in 1929 and has since undergone several ownership and use changes, including a stint in the 1970s and 1980s when it showed X-rated adult films.

Another Congress Street theater, in that same block of buildings, the Fine Arts Theater – formerly known as the Capitol Theatre – closed in the 1970s and was later demolished.

The State Theatre was renovated in the early 1990s for use as a performing arts space, but a series of operators were unable to make a profitable go of the space and it closed in 2006. It reopened in 2010 with a sold-out show by My Morning Jacket after undergoing a $1.5 million renovation as a concert and music venue that included new seats, new paint, new plaster, new carpets, lights and sound equipment. It has the capacity to seat close to 1,500 people.

“The marquees of this period (1930s) were intended to telegraph the excitement and drama associated with early movie palaces. One theater historian called them ‘electric tiaras,’ ” said Deb Andrews, Portland’s historic preservation manager.

When the State Theatre opened in 1929 it featured a 42-by-60-inch seamless projection screen and a $25,000 Wurlitzer organ. The theater played some of the first talkies and silent films in Maine, Andrews said.

The State Theatre at Congress and High streets in Portland is shown in 1930, shortly after it opened in 1929. The light bulbs that adorned the marquee will be restored so that it again will be lit up at night. Photo courtesy City of Portland

Grondin said project architect, Scott Simons of Portland, worked closely with Portland’s Historic Preservation Board to ensure “a faithful reconstruction of the marquee on this designated local landmark.”

Portland provided a $6,000 facade program grant for the marquee project, which is being matched with more than $77,000, including a donation from the State Theatre owners and operators, Alex Crothers and The Bowery Presents, Grondin said.

“Theater marquees dot the landscape of nearly every main street in America,” Crothers said. “They’re a beacon that tells you this is a vibrant community that cares about arts, culture and history. When I started working on reopening the State Theatre in 2005, I knew restor ing the marquee was a critical component of that process. Now, with the help of the city, we’re able to finally embark on restoring the only remaining historic marquee in Portland.”

The city’s contribution is funded by the Community Development Block Grant that it receives from the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

“(This is) a great example of a public-private partnership,” said Nelle Hanig, who manages the city’s facade program. “The building owners, theater operators and the city were all in harmony on the importance of the State Theatre entrance reclaiming its grandeur.”

Dennis Hoey can be contacted at 791-6365 or at:

]]> 0, 17 Aug 2017 07:23:55 +0000
More than 100 people ask if Massachusetts energy policy will destroy Moosehead Lake region Wed, 16 Aug 2017 23:41:58 +0000 ROCKWOOD STRIP — More than 100 people packed the Rockwood Community Center Wednesday afternoon to help answer the question raised by a group opposed to proposed wind farms — will Massachusetts energy policy destroy the Moosehead Lake region.

The answer for many was loud and clear: “Save our mountains — No Wind Farms.”

Residents rose following a Power Point presentation by Richard McDonald, president of the anti-wind citizen group Saving Maine, and a member of the steering committee Moosehead Region Futures to voice concerns over the future of the rich aquifer that feeds Moosehead Lake and the long, deep Shirley Bog if the ridge lines are blasted away to make room for industrial wind turbines.

Residents said they feared the 500-foot tall turbines would adversely affect the aviation tradition on the lake, culminating every fall with the Greenville Fly-in.

“There’s a lot at stake,” McDonald told the group. “The view and the wilderness experience. There’s a future at stake if you want to develop tourism in the area, the turbines pose a serious threat to the region.”

Scott Hinton, who described himself as “just a schmuck from Greenville” said the fact that the pristine aquifer and the traditional Fly-In could be in jeopardy are frightening thoughts. He said the roads that will be needed to bring in the giant turbine blades — larger than the ones in place in Bingham — would ruin the region.

“How could you guarantee the aquifer would not be damaged,” he said. “Also the aviators, I can’t imagine what it would do to flying, which is one of our big deals. It’s a very big weekend.”

Clyde MacDonald said he worries about turbine fires because each unit is basically a “350-foot-high gas tank.” He called on state political leaders to “fight the uphill battle.”

A local woman, Karen Elwood, rose to ask if the Forest Society of Maine, which holds some of the easements to area land, could step in and put pressure on the Legislature to stop wind power in the Moosehead Lake region.

Chris King, also of Greenville, assured her and others that “there are things we can do to fight it” based on Maine law.

“It’s not all doom and gloom,” he said. “There is a process.”

The short term gains, as is seen in Bingham with that wind project generating annual payments to the town, is low compared to the long term loss, McDonald said. He said it would be a loss of a way of life and of the livelihoods of area residents.

Greenville and the Moosehead Lake region is a tourist destination, with lake shore businesses, lodging, restaurants, shops and all the supporting businesses that fuel the local economy, he said.

There are more than 200 new wind turbines proposed in rural Somerset County just west of Greenville, according to McDonald.

McDonald said that while permits for new wind projects have yet to be filed, the prospect of 500-foot tall turbines along ridges in the remote townships of Johnson Mountain, Chase Stream and Misery, is not welcome.

He said the Somerset Wind project has been proposed by NRG, a large renewable energy and power producer with offices in Texas and New Jersey. There also is what is being called the EverPower Project, along the Big Moose Mountain ridge line near Big Indian Pond, he said. Each would have 26 or 28 wind turbines, generating between 78 and 93 megawatts of power.

He said a company called NextEra also has proposed two or three large industrial wind projects in the Eustis area of Franklin County.

All together, wind projects could result in 204 new wind turbines generating 703 megawatts of power.

The driving force, he said earlier this week, is to win the bid for a 20-year power purchase agreement with the state of Massachusetts utilities for more than 100 wind turbines. The projects were among the 24 bids received by New England Clean Energy RFP, part of a group of agencies and electric utilities in Connecticut, Massachusetts and Rhode Island that issued a request for proposals for energy projects last November to help them meet their clean-energy goals and fight climate change.

He said if the Massachusetts project does not include Somerset County, then the next round from Connecticut would follow.

Another important part of the plan, McDonald said, would be a 145-mile transmission line by Central Maine Power Co. to get the power to Massachusetts from west of Eustis to Johnson Mountain, The Forks, West Forks — right over the Dead River — then down to Moscow, Pittsfield and finally to southern Maine. He said it would be 1,400 feet wide.

David Gaier, the NRG East Region senior director and spokesman in New Jersey, said Monday that the Somerset Wind project is still in its infancy.

“Last year NRG acquired the rights to build the Somerset Wind project, but at this point we’re only in the early project development stage,” Gaier said in an email Monday afternoon. “We’re looking forward to continuing the development process in the coming months and we’ll make more information available when appropriate.”

John Carroll, a spokesman for Central Maine Power Co., said Monday that he is familiar with the Somerset Wind project proposed by NRG. He said CMP put in bids for the “green power” corridor connection from northern Franklin County and Quebec, through Somerset County to Massachusetts.

A coalition of utilities and state agencies in southern New England failed to select any Maine-based wind or transmission projects to meet the region’s clean-energy goals last December, but projects that didn’t win already were looking ahead to a second chance, and an even bigger RFP process, the Portland Press Herald reported.

McDonald said Maine is being “set up” as be the power station for southern New England.

“Moosehead Region Futures has been doing this for two years and we’ve been very vocal about our concerns — our stand is that we want to defeat these projects,” McDonald said earlier this week. “You have to think about real estate; you got to think about the impact this could have on property values. Going to these areas such as Moosehead and seeing an industrialization on the scale that they’re talking about with these projects and the transmission corridor, I can see the Moosehead region taking a very heavy hit.”

Somerset County Administrator Dawn DiBlasi said Monday that county commissioners do not have a vote on placement of new wind farms, but can give a thumbs up or thumbs down consensus. She said McDonald and his group are opposed to the wind towers and commissioners know that.

Construction of the $420 million 62-turbine Bingham wind farm started in July 2015. The project generates about 185 megawatts of electricity, enough to power the equivalent of 60,000 homes. The turbines are spread across high ridges in Bingham, Mayfield Township and Kingsbury Plantation and 120 people worked on the project, both at the site and away from the site.

Opponents of the Bingham project have said wind farms detract from the scenery in rural Maine. DEP regulations state that scenic impact is only a consideration in evaluating a wind project if turbines fall within 8 miles of the area of concern.

Doug Harlow — 612-2367


]]> 0 turbine signs are stacked up outside Rockwood Community Center on Wednesday before Somerset County commissioners heard concerns from a group over more turbines that could come to the area.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 19:48:03 +0000
Lawsuit says Poland Spring water is mislabeled because it really isn’t spring water Wed, 16 Aug 2017 23:37:03 +0000 A Connecticut law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit against the owner of Poland Spring, claiming the company’s source for its Maine bottled water is not a spring.

The case is not a first: Nestlé Waters, which owns Poland Spring, was sued 14 years ago on similar claims and another Nestlé Water brand was sued in a similar case in Illinois in 2012.

The label says “Natural Spring Water From Maine Since 1845.”

In 2003, the company was sued, also in Connecticut, because its advertising suggested that the water in Poland Spring came from a source deep in the woods of Maine when, in fact, the principal source was located near a parking lot. That suit was settled with Nestlé Waters offering about $8 million in consumer discounts and more than $2 million in charitable donations.

Nestlé, headquartered in Stamford, Connecticut, owns a number of regional bottled water brands. The water originally came from Poland Spring, but now the company draws its water from sources throughout the state, including in Hollis and Fryeburg.

The latest suit, filed on behalf of 11 consumers, alleges that Poland Spring’s bottles are inaccurately labeled as spring water. It is seeking at least $5 million in damages.

“Breaching and exploiting is customers’ trust to reap massive undue sales and profits is (the) defendant’s entire business model,” the suit alleges.

The lawsuit claims that Poland Springs’ water comes not from a spring but instead is “ordinary groundwater” from wells.

“The claims made in the lawsuit are without merit and an obvious attempt to manipulate the legal system for personal gain,” a spokeswoman for Nestlé Waters North America said Wednesday. “Poland Spring is 100 percent spring water…. We remain highly confident in our legal position.”

The company said it meets the U.S. Food and Drug Administration regulations defining spring water, all state regulations governing spring classifications, and regulations governing spring water collection, product quality and labeling.

Edward Murphy can be contacted at 791-6465 or at:

]]> 0 Photo by Fred J. Field, Thursday, September 4, 2003: Poland Spring water.Thu, 17 Aug 2017 08:10:13 +0000
Target reports sales upturn Wed, 16 Aug 2017 23:13:06 +0000 Shoppers are heading back to Target.

In addition to large-scale investments in technology – and a 32 percent increase in online sales – the big-box retailer said it’s also seeing more customers shopping the old-fashioned way.

As a result, second-quarter sales grew 1.6 percent, marking the first increase in more than a year.

“Second-quarter traffic was much stronger than our expectations, and the strength was broad-based: across the country, across categories and across channels,” Brian Cornell, Target’s chief executive, said in a Wednesday call with analysts. “The positive response from our guests shows we’re making progress.”

Analysts attributed that growth to Target’s success with private-label brands like the children’s line Cat & Jack, which Cornell said has racked up $2 billion in sales in one year, and a partnership with Victoria Beckham. Target is taking note: The company is introducing 12 more brands in the next 18 months, and recently announced a partnership with mattress startup Casper.

“Exclusive new brands like Cat & Jack in kids clothing, Pillowfort in homewares, and Cloud Island in baby have all performed well,” Neil Saunders, managing director at GlobalData, said in a note to investors. “Not only are these brands credible and compelling, but they are also helping to differentiate Target from rivals.”

Earlier this week, the Minneapolis-based retailer announced it was buying same-day delivery company Grand Junction as part of its efforts to take on and Wal-Mart. Target is testing same-day delivery services in New York and has begun looking into curbside fulfillment options near its headquarters.

“Grand Junction’s technology and algorithms will help Target deliver to guests faster and more efficiently,” Arthur Valdez, chief supply chain and logistics officer for Target, said in a statement on Monday. “This acquisition is part of ongoing efforts to strengthen Target’s supply chain to provide greater speed, reliability and convenience for guests.”

Target is also opening 30 new small-format stores this year, with a focus on dense urban areas and locations near college campuses. In addition, the company is taking steps to fix up its lagging grocery store business and says it saw bumps in sales of alcoholic beverages and produce.

“We continue to focus on our long-term strategy,” Cornell said, adding that the company hopes to “transform every part of our business and build an even better Target that will thrive in this new era in retail.”

But while investors were pleased by Target’s improvements – shares of the company’s stock rose more than 4 percent Wednesday – analysts said they were more interested in long-term growth.

“It’s still early days,” said Charlie O’Shea, a retail analyst for Moody’s. “This transformation isn’t going to happen overnight. The online business continues to grow but it’s still very small.”

Target’s website, which has annual sales of about $2.5 million, trails much smaller retailers, including Nordstrom, Macy’s, Best Buy and Staples, in online sales. (Wal-Mart, by comparison, has annual online sales of about $13.5 billion, while Amazon has about $79.3 billion, according to market research firm eMarketer.)

During the second quarter, profit fell 1.2 percent to $672 million from $680 million a year ago. Meanwhile, sales at stores open at least a year rose 1.3 percent. Overall sales were up 1.6 percent to $16.4 million, from $16.17 million.

]]> 0 saw second-quarter sales grow 1.6 percent – the first increase in more than a year. The company credits its success with private-label brands for the comeback.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 21:41:46 +0000
UnitedHealth Group names successor to longtime CEO Hemsley Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:55:34 +0000 UnitedHealth Group has picked company President David Wichmann to replace CEO Stephen Hemsley in a long-planned transition that Wall Street greeted with polite applause.

The nation’s largest health insurer says Wichmann, 54, will take over Sept. 1, and Hemsley will become executive chairman of the company’s board. Current Chairman Richard Burke will shift to lead independent director.

Wichmann, a former partner with Arthur Andersen, joined UnitedHealth in 1998, a year after Hemsley arrived, and has worked through several key executive roles. He has overseen the company’s largest business, its health benefits segment, since 2014. Wichmann also has led mergers and acquisitions as the insurer pushed well beyond processing doctor bills and delved deeper into other elements of patient care.

The leadership transition announced Wednesday had been underway for years and dates back to Wichmann’s appointment as president in 2014, according to a company spokesman.


Hemsley said in a statement that the timing was right, “as the company is performing strongly and has a positive outlook for the forseeable future.”

UnitedHealth is coming off a second quarter in which it made $2.28 billion and raised its forecast for 2017, a year in which analysts who follow the company expect it to bring in around $200 billion in revenue.

Wednesday’s announcement generated little surprise among those analysts.

Sheryl Skolnick said in a research note that she was “very comfortable” with the change because Hemsley will still have an important role. The Mizuho Securities USA analyst also noted that Burke, one of the company’s founders, will remain involved, “so the guardians of the (UnitedHealth) galaxy are firmly in place.”

Health insurance is UnitedHealth’s main business, but the company also has been plowing more resources into its Optum business, which provides pharmacy benefits management and technology services and also operates clinics and doctor’s offices.

It acquired the pharmacy benefits manager Catamaran a few years ago in a deal valued at more than $12 billion. More recently, UnitedHealth spent about $2.3 billion to buy surgery center operator Surgical Care Affiliates.

The 65-year-old Hemsley is the second-longest serving CEO among publicly traded health insurers, trailing only Centene Corp.’s Michael Neidorff. Hemsley’s tenure began in 2006, when he took over after the previous leader, William McGuire, was forced to leave over a scandal involving the backdating of company stock options.

UnitedHealth wound up wiping out more than $1.5 billion in past profits when it acknowledged that it backdated stock options, which involves manipulating the timing of options grants so they look as though they were made on days when the stock’s value was lower.

]]> 0, 16 Aug 2017 22:06:27 +0000
Takata gets reprieve in air bag lawsuits Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:41:21 +0000 DOVER, Del. — A Delaware bankruptcy judge on Wednesday temporarily halted the prosecution of lawsuits filed by Hawaii, New Mexico and the U.S. Virgin Islands against Japanese auto-parts supplier Takata over its lethally defective air bag inflators.

Judge Brendan Shannon ordered the 90-day stay after hearing arguments last week on Takata’s request to halt hundreds of air bag-related lawsuits for six months while it works on a reorganization plan. Takata’s restructuring efforts include the planned sale of most of its assets to a Chinese-owned rival for $1.6 billion.

Shannon also granted Takata’s request to temporarily halt individual lawsuits against automobile manufacturers who installed the faulty air bags but, again, only for 90 days. He refused, however, to extend that ruling to scores of lawsuits consolidated in a federal multidistrict litigation case in Miami.

While acknowledging and expressing sympathy for the circumstances facing many claimants, including those grievously injured and survivors of those who have been killed, Shannon said Takata had met its burden of proving that a halt to litigation was warranted.

The company was forced into bankruptcy in June amid personal injury and economic loss lawsuits, multimillion-dollar fines and crushing air bag recall costs. Takata’s air bag inflators can explode with too much force, spewing shrapnel into riders. At least 16 people have died and more than 180 have been injured because of the problem. The inflators have prompted the largest automotive recall in U.S. history, with more than 45 million being called back for repairs.

“The debtors are engaged … in the largest recall in history while simultaneously trying to implement a reorganization strategy around the globe,” Shannon noted.

The judge also said that a failed reorganization could negatively affect the recall effort. Takata’s bankruptcy is unique in that the automobile manufacturers play a critical role as both its largest customers and largest creditors.

“What the debtors seek and need is a breathing spell,” Shannon said.

]]> 0 Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:07:03 +0000
Retailers’ rally sends stocks up slightly Wed, 16 Aug 2017 21:54:19 +0000 NEW YORK — U.S. stocks rose slightly Wednesday as Urban Outfitters and Target helped retailers rally. That was enough to cancel out more losses for energy companies.

Urban Outfitters and Target did better in the second quarter than analysts expected, and Target raised its forecasts for the year. That helped companies that sell clothing and other retailers. Technology companies and firms that make and sell household goods also traded higher.

A wide variety of retailers saw their shares sink the day before based on weak earnings reports. With Wal-Mart and Ross Stores in line to report their own results Thursday, investors could change their minds again.

“This sector is not for the faint of heart,” said JJ Kinahan, chief strategist for TD Ameritrade. “The market is trying to figure out who the winners and losers are going to be.”

He said turbulence for retailers will be a constant as online competition keeps growing and customers want more features like same-day delivery.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index picked up 3.50 points, or 0.1 percent, to 2,468.11. The Dow Jones industrial average added 25.88 points, or 0.1 percent, to 22,024.87. The Nasdaq composite gained 12.10 points, or 0.2 percent, to 6,345.11. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies inched up 0.30 points to 1,383.53.

Clothing and accessories retailer Urban Outfitters had a better second quarter than Wall Street expected, and analysts said there are some signs the company’s business is recovering after years of struggles. The stock rose $2.94, or 17.5 percent, to $19.76. Even with those gains, it’s down 31 percent this year and recently traded at eight-year lows, far below its price of $45 a share in early 2015.

Target gained $1.96, or 3.6 percent, to $56.31. The company raised its annual estimates after it did better than analysts expected in the second quarter.

Gap climbed 50 cents, or 2.3 percent, to $22.57. Express added 27 cents, or 4.8 percent, to $5.84. Retailers had struggled a day earlier after poor results and lower forecasts from Dick’s Sporting Goods and Advance Auto Parts. The S&P 500 index of retailers climbed 1.7 percent Wednesday after a 2.3 percent plunge the day before.

Benchmark U.S. crude lost 77 cents, or 1.6 percent, to $46.78 a barrel in New York. Brent crude, used to price international oils, dipped 53 cents, or 1 percent, to $50.27 a barrel in London. That pulled energy companies down further. EOG Resources fell $2.04, or 2.3 percent, to $84.98 and Marathon Oil fell 34 cents, or 2.9 percent, to $11.19.

Energy companies have slumped this month, but their second-quarter profits have improved dramatically compared to a year ago, when they were struggling to make money thanks to a prolonged slump in oil prices. But for more than a year, U.S. crude has mostly stayed between $40 and $55 a barrel.

Stocks made bigger gains earlier in the day, but they slipped after a group of CEOs, including the heads of 3M and Campbell Soup, said they were leaving a manufacturing jobs group over comments about made by President Trump about the racially charged violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, this past weekend.

Trump then tweeted that he is ending that council as well as a strategy and policy group. The furor could create more obstacles for Trump’s pro-business agenda of tax cuts and infrastructure spending.

The Dow rose as much as 86 points earlier on.

After an early gain, the dollar dipped to 110.16 yen from 110.58 yen. The euro rebounded to $1.1769 from $1.1734.

Bond prices turned higher. The yield on the 10-year Treasury note fell to 2.23 percent from 2.27 percent.

With bond yields falling, banks and financial companies turned lower as well. Lower bond yields mean lower interest rates on loans and fewer profits for banks.

Lincoln National fell $1.03, or 1.4 percent, to $71.14 and Bank of America gave up 28 cents, or 1.1 percent, to $24.19. Regions Financial sank 14 cents, or 1 percent, to $14.34.

The minutes from the Federal Reserve’s meeting last month did not include many details about the central bank’s plans for letting its balance sheet shrink. The notes showed a divided Fed, as some members of its policy committee think that interest rates should stay about where they are because inflation is still low. But others felt that interest rates should be raised because delays might lead to dangerously high inflation later.

Fed officials unanimously agreed to leave the interest rates unchanged.

Gold rose $3.20 to $1,282.90 an ounce. Silver climbed 23 cents, or 1.4 percent, to $16.94. Copper jumped 6 cents, or 2.4 percent, to $2.95 a pound.

In other energy trading, wholesale gasoline lost 2 cents to $1.56 a gallon. Heating oil fell 3 cents to $1.57 a gallon. Natural gas shed 5 cents to $2.89 per 1,000 cubic feet.

France’s CAC 40 rose 0.7 percent, and Germany’s DAX and the FTSE i100 in Britain rose by the same amount. Tokyo’s Nikkei 225 retreated 0.1 percent while the Hang Seng in Hong Kong rose 0.9 percent. The South Korean Kospi advanced 0.6 percent.

]]> 0 Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:07:52 +0000
Housing starts slumped in July Wed, 16 Aug 2017 21:37:50 +0000 WASHINGTON — Homebuilders pulled back sharply on construction of apartment complexes in July, causing housing starts to tumble to a three-month low.

The Commerce Department said Wednesday that housing starts fell 4.8 percent in July to a seasonally adjusted annual rate of 1.16 million. Groundbreakings for multifamily buildings such as apartments slumped 17.1 percent, while single-family house construction slipped 0.5 percent.

Home construction has increased 2.4 percent year-to-date, but the gains have done little to offset the dwindling number of homes listed for sale. The shortage of properties for sale has pushed prices up at a faster pace than income growth, making home ownership less affordable for many would-be buyers.

Housing starts dropped in the Northeast, Midwest and West but rose modestly in the South.

Building permits, an indicator of future construction, decreased 4.1 percent to 1.22 million.

While home construction has increased, it’s done little to ease the pressure from a decline in listings for existing homes – a much larger segment of the housing market.

The number of sales listings has been falling on an annual basis for the past 25 months. There were 1.96 million homes for sale in June, a 7.1 decline from a year ago, according to the National Association of Realtors.

More importantly, home construction is concentrated in certain markets, according to a new analysis by the real estate firm Trulia.

Dallas, Houston and Austin in Texas are on pace to build a combined 130,000 new homes this year. That total would be more than 10 percent of all U.S. permits and account for nearly as much as construction in the 50 other large metro areas combined.

The lack of properties on the market has helped to bolster confidence among homebuilders who see healthy demand for the homes that are available.

]]> 0 for multifamily dwellings fell 17.1 percent last month, while single-family house construction slipped 0.5 percent, the Commerce Department says.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:09:23 +0000
Eastern Maine Healthcare System gets mixed reviews from credit rating agency Wed, 16 Aug 2017 20:34:57 +0000 Two months after a bond rating service downgraded Eastern Maine Healthcare System to junk bond status, a different service said the system has adequate financial protection.

On Tuesday, Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed its BBB long-term rating for EMHS, which indicates the system can meet its financial obligations. However, S&P also adjusted its outlook from stable to negative, citing operating performances at some EMHS member hospitals, including its flagship, Eastern Maine Medical Center, according S&P’s report.

EMHS is the umbrella organization under which nine hospitals operate, including Acadia, Blue Hill Memorial, Mercy, Inland and The Aroostook Medical Center.

S&P did credit the system for positive operating and net earnings, which was attributable, in part, to increased revenue from the system’s investment portfolio and prior year settlements under MaineCare, the state’s version of Medicaid. But it warned that five of the nine hospitals are underperforming, and that an expansion of EMMC could make things worse.

“We also expect further operating and financial pressure at EMMC with the fall opening of its phase two expansion,” said the report. “We believe if EMHS cannot improve and stabilize performance and cash flow at its individual hospitals, a downgrade would be warranted.”

Mercy, which intends to consolidate its facilities at its Fore River campus, said EMHS’ bond ratings have no impact on the Portland hospital since it does not intend to go to bond markets in the near future to finance its upcoming consolidation.

“We will file a letter of intent later this year with the state, and the project team is now working on site development, soil testing, space planning, regulatory requirements and potential traffic impacts,” said spokesman Ed Gilman in a statement.

“We continue to focus on delivering high quality care to the people of Maine, while meeting or exceeding our financial targets.”

Tony Filer, EMHS senior vice president and chief financial officer, said in an EMHS release that bond markets are based on past performance and not an assessment of current or future performance.

In June, Moody’s Investor Services downgraded EMHS credit rating to Ba1, with a negative outlook, a rating below investment grades and commonly referred to as junk status.

Filer said he looks forward to demonstrating that S&P’s negative outlook is not warranted.

“While these continue to be challenging times for health care providers in Maine and throughout our nation, EMHS has a proactive five-year strategy that is both innovative and forward-thinking,” he said. “We are building an enterprise-wide electronic health records system, organizing our more than 1,000 employed providers into a single medical group, and continuing to advance our very successful population health model.”

]]> 0 Hospital in Portland, above, is a member of Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems, which experienced an operating loss of $34.3 million during its 2016 fiscal year.Thu, 17 Aug 2017 16:47:26 +0000
Largest U.S. drug benefits manager to limit opioids for first-time users Wed, 16 Aug 2017 18:53:45 +0000 ST. LOUIS – The nation’s largest pharmacy benefit manager will soon limit the number and strength of opioid drugs prescribed to first-time users as part of a wide-ranging effort to curb an epidemic affecting millions of Americans.

But the new program from Express Scripts is drawing criticism from the American Medical Association, the largest association of physicians and medical students in the U.S., which believes treatment plans should be left to doctors and their patients.

About 12.5 million Americans misused prescription opioids in 2015, according to the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services. More than 33,000 deaths that year were blamed on opioid overdoses.

Express Scripts launched a yearlong pilot program in 2016 aimed at reducing patients’ dependency on opioids and the risk of addiction, said Snezana Mahon, the Missouri-based company’s vice president of clinical product development.

Mahon said analysis of 106,000 patients in the pilot program showed a 38 percent reduction in hospitalizations and a 40 percent reduction in emergency room visits, compared to a control group. The program is scheduled to take effect nationwide on Sept. 1 for Express Scripts members whose employer or health insurer has enrolled to participate.

Under the program, new opioid users are limited to seven-day prescriptions, even if the doctor orders scripts for much longer. Mahon said the average prescription is for 22 days.

The program also requires short-acting drugs for first-time opioid prescriptions, even though many doctors prescribe long-acting opioids. Dosage is also limited, and the company will monitor and try to prevent for patterns of potential “pill shopping,” where a patient goes from doctor to doctor to collect prescriptions.

The program does not apply to patients in hospice or palliative care, or to cancer patients.

A competitor, CVS Caremark, has a similar program.

“A lot of times physicians are prescribing these drugs blindly,” Mahon said. “They don’t know that a patient may be going to see multiple prescribers.”

She said some physicians “are actually appreciative and saying, ‘Thank you, I didn’t know this was happening.”‘

But Dr. Patrice Harris, an Atlanta psychiatrist who chairs the American Medical Association’s Opioids Task Force, said doctors are already working toward addressing the opioid epidemic.

Harris said doctors have reduced such prescriptions by 17 percent over the past couple of years and are directing patients to other forms of pain management, including physical therapy and cognitive behavioral therapy.

“We want to be pro-active in making sure the alternatives are available, versus a sort of blunt, one-size-fits-all-all approach regarding the number of prescriptions,” Harris said. “The AMA’s take has always been that the decision about a specific treatment alternative is best left to the physician and their patient.”

Express Scripts said that if a doctor wants a patient to have more than a seven-day supply of medication, he or she can request it. Harris said those additional steps create an administrative burden for the doctor, “but more importantly they delay care for the patient.”

Harris said the AMA has not contacted Express Scripts to raise concerns about the program or taken any action to stop it.

The U.S. Food and Drug Administration already requires label warnings about misuse on all prescription medications, but Express Scripts will take the additional step of sending a letter to new opioid patients warning about the dangers of misuse and addiction.

CVS Caremark already has a 10-day limit on opioids and limits the dosage, the company said. Patients must start on short-acting drugs, and physicians are required to regularly assess patients using opioid prescriptions.

CVS Caremark also has a monitoring process to identify pill shopping and other forms of misuse or fraud, and works with its retail pharmacies to review “prescribing trends and irregular behavior and with physicians to ensure appropriate therapy for patients with chronic pain,” spokeswoman Christine Cramer said in an email.

Express Scripts also is providing data analytics as part of Missouri’s new prescription drug-monitoring program. Republican Gov. Eric Greitens announced details last month at the Express Scripts corporate headquarters in suburban St. Louis. Missouri was the last state without a program to track prescription drugs.

]]> 0 Scripts will soon limit the number and strength of opioid drugs such as OxyContin prescribed to first-time users.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 22:10:11 +0000
Trump disbands 2 business councils amid criticism over his Charlottesville comments Wed, 16 Aug 2017 16:54:59 +0000 WASHINGTON — Two of the White House’s top corporate advisory groups disbanded Wednesday in a direct affront to President Trump, as the fallout from his controversial statements about who was to blame for violent protests involving white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia, cascaded beyond Washington.

The exodus of business advisers comes as a stinging rebuke to the president, who had sold himself as a businessman whose dealmaking prowess would pay off for companies and workers. It also stands as a remarkable breach in relations between Trump, who is the leader of the Republican Party, and a business community that historically has had an ally in the party.

Condemnations from business leaders, representing all corners of American industry, were striking for the ways they personally critiqued Trump for failing to attempt to unify the country in the wake of the violence in Charlottesville over the weekend.

“Constructive economic and regulatory policies are not enough and will not matter if we do not address the divisions in our country,” JPMorgan Chase chief executive Jamie Dimon, a member of Trump’s Strategy & Policy Forum, wrote to his employees Wednesday after the councils were disbanded. “It is a leader’s role, in business or government, to bring people together, not tear them apart.”

“Racism and murder are unequivocally reprehensible and are not morally equivalent to anything else that happened in Charlottesville,” Campbell Soup chief executive Denise Morrison, a member of the White House’s Manufacturing Jobs Initiative, said Wednesday morning, before the announcement. “I believe the president should have been – and still needs to be – unambiguous on that point.”

Trump came to office amid high hopes that he could work closely with the business community – after his predecessor, Barack Obama, had faced criticism for pushing for overregulation. Executives largely viewed the Republicanss control of the White House and Congress as a rare opportunity to cash in on a wish list of policy goals that they felt would help their firms and the economy, such as tax cuts and regulatory rollback.

But after an initial courtship between Trump and chief executives during his first weeks in office, business leaders have grown increasingly uneasy with his erratic leadership style and divisive statements, in which Trump often uses Twitter to criticize companies and executives he earlier praised. The severing of ties Wednesday represented the culmination of a rapid decline in that relationship.

“It’s entirely stunning,” said Bill George, the former chief executive of medical devices giant Medtronic and a Harvard Business School professor. “He gave them great access. They’re on these councils, and all those industry committees are coming together. Now they’re saying, ‘I can’t tolerate this.’ ”

“This has never happened – not in my lifetime,” George said.

Although Trump said on Twitter on Wednesday afternoon he was shutting down the advisory councils – to avoid “putting pressure on the businesspeople” – momentum was already moving strongly in that direction.

After Trump made equivocal comments about who was to blame for violence at rallies held by white supremacists and neo-Nazis in Charlottesville over the weekend, Ken Frazier, the chief executive of pharmaceutical giant Merck, resigned from Trump’s manufacturing council Monday.

Trump fired back on Twitter, saying Frazier, one of the few African-American business leaders in Trump’s orbit and someone he had just recently called one of the “great, great leaders of business,” could now work to “LOWER RIPOFF DRUG PRICES.”

He added that he could easily find executives to replace those who left.

But the reality was quite the opposite, and several other executives followed Frazier’s lead.

On Tuesday, Trump made more controversial statements about Charlottesville, including one that appeared to show sympathy for some of the people who marched with neo-Nazis and white supremacists. The weekend’s protests had turned violent, and one person had been killed.

Tuesday was the turning point for many executives on Trump’s business councils, who set up conference calls with one another Wednesday morning to discuss whether and how to sever ties with the White House. “Tuesday was a point of no return,” a person on one of the conference calls said.

Many of the executives on the conference calls indicated they planned to resign from the advisory councils. Stephen Schwarzman, the founder of Blackstone who chaired one of the groups – the Strategy & Policy Forum – crafted a statement saying the group would be disbanded.

Schwarzman did not respond to requests for comment.

Jeff Immelt, a member of the manufacturing advisory group and chairman of General Electric, said he found Trump’s statements on Tuesday “deeply troubling” and had told others earlier Wednesday that he was resigning.

“The committee I joined had the intention to foster policies that promote American manufacturing and growth,” he said. “However, given the ongoing tone of the discussion, I no longer feel that this council can accomplish these goals.”

Corporate angst about Trump began immediately after he took office, with many chief executives – particularly those in Silicon Valley – repudiating his executive order that sought to block the entry of people from seven Muslim-majority countries into the United States. His views on climate change also led to some estrangements, including with Tesla founder Elon Musk, who resigned from Trump’s business councils after the president announced he would withdraw from the Paris climate agreement.

But many executives found ways to heap praise on Trump and let him take credit for retaining factories or creating new jobs, even though some of those plans were already in the works before his election.

Intel, for example, announced it would create 10,000 new jobs following Trump’s election through construction of an Arizona facility, but it had already announced plans to expand operations in Arizona back in 2011. Similarly, Trump touted a March announcement by Charter Communications to invest $25 billion in the United States, but the company’s jobs plan was in motion as early as 2015.

Other companies, however, announced fresh plans to build and hire thousands of new workers. One of these – e-commerce giant Amazon – was celebrated by Trump last year when it announced it would be hiring 100,000 workers. Then on Wednesday on Twitter, Trump excoriated the firm – which for years did not collect state sales tax, though now it does – for “doing great damage to tax paying retailers. Towns, cities and states throughout the U.S. are being hurt – many jobs being lost!”

Trump has criticized Amazon founder and chief executive Jeffrey P. Bezos for coverage by The Washington Post, which Bezos owns, suggesting he is using it to advance his financial interests. The Post’s editors and Bezos, who has met with Trump as part of a White House advisory group called the American Technology Council, have declared that he is not involved in any journalistic decisions.

Trump formed corporate advisory groups in part to show how closely he was pulling in corporate executives after they often complained about tax and regulatory policies during the Obama administration. Trump promised them the largest package of tax cuts in U.S. history and a $1 trillion infrastructure package, but those plans have not materialized, while frustration with his comments and leadership style has grown.

On Wednesday, even the Wall Street Journal’s editorial page, which often reflects the pulse of corporate leaders, said the resignations of chief executives should concern the president. “A Republican president who loses the business class has a big problem,” the editorial page declared.

Trump has long said his background in real estate and numerous business ventures gives him unrivaled expertise when it comes to rebuilding the U.S. economy, which has seen weak economic growth since the financial crisis in 2008 and 2009.

Before he became president, he railed against the state of the economy, decrying the loss of manufacturing jobs and dismissing the steadily rising stock market as a “big fat, ugly bubble.”

But on Tuesday, before his comments about the rally by white supremacists, Trump had a much different take on the economy. He said the “country is booming. The stock market is setting records. We have the highest employment numbers we’ve ever had in the history of our country. We’re doing record business.”

Trump’s eroding corporate support comes at a time when he faces numerous tests on Capitol Hill that will directly influence the economy and financial markets. The White House and Republican leaders in Congress are discussing ways to jointly push through an overhaul of the tax code in the remainder of 2017 that cuts taxes and allows corporations to bring back trillions of dollars in overseas earnings to the United States.

Congress must pass legislation to keep the government operating past Sept. 30, and Trump has signaled that he is willing to allow the government to shut down if Democrats won’t give him money to build a wall along the Mexico border.

Congress must also vote by late September to raise or suspend the debt ceiling. Failing to do so, many chief executives and economists believe, could lead to a financial crisis, recession and a spike in interest rates. The White House has given different takes on how it believes the debt ceiling should be addressed, but it recently has called on Congress to raise the debt ceiling.

]]> 0 Trump pauses as he answers questions in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York on Tuesday, when he reiterated his belief that both sides were to blame for the violence in Charlottesville, Virginia, on Saturday, when a man plowed his car into those protesting a white supremacist rally, killing a woman and injuring multiple others.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 23:18:41 +0000
Twelve Maine companies make Inc.’s 5000 list of fastest-growing private firms Wed, 16 Aug 2017 15:46:46 +0000 Twelve Maine-based companies made the annual Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private companies list.

The compilation, which recognizes companies’ growth over a three-year period, was released Wednesday by the business magazine.

Companies self-report their three-year growth rates and revenue to be considered.

In 2016, eight Maine companies made the list and nine did in 2015.

Among the Maine companies listed this year, SaviLinx in Brunswick was ranked the highest at No. 28 based on its more than 9,000 percent increase over three years. The company, founded in 2013, provides customer service and back office and technical support to commercial and government clients. It reported 2016 revenues of $11.4 million.

Also making the list were:

No. 783 – Cirrus Systems, a Saco manufacturer of lighting and LED display products; 586 percent increase; $3.8 million in revenues

No. 836 – Sound Rink, a Portland provider of music industry products for consumers; 542 percent; $5.5 million

No. 854 – Apothecary by Design, provides customized pharmaceutical services in Portland; 527 percent; $206 million

No. 868 – Coria, a Portland provider of IT services; 571 percent; $2.1 million

No. 1,112 – Vets First Choice, veterinary pharmaceutical services firm based in Portland; 378 percent; $83.3 million

No. 1,517 – Tilson Technology Management, a Portland telecommunications and technology management company; 265 percent; $36.9 million

No. 1,715 – Landry/French Construction Co., a Scarborough construction firm; 228 percent; $65.8 million

No. 1,987- Municipay, a Portland payment processor company; 90 percent; $3.4 million

No. 2,749 – Maine Coast, a York distributor of seafood, primarily lobster; 125 percent; $55.1 million

No. 3,567 – Otto, a Portland-based pizza company; 86 percent; $16.4 million

No. 4,082 – Winxnet, a Portland IT consulting and services company; 68 percent; $16.9 million in revenues.

]]> 0, 16 Aug 2017 21:37:24 +0000
Sen. Angus King warns: ‘The next Pearl Harbor will be cyber’ Wed, 16 Aug 2017 15:32:23 +0000 AUGUSTA — One of the greatest threats to the United States is a cyber attack on its financial or energy systems, Sen. Angus King told a crowd of about 140 people on Wednesday morning.

King said the country needs to create a policy of deterrence if it’s going to prevent similar cyber attacks to the one Russian hackers made on the U.S. election system last year.

“I think the next Pearl Harbor will be cyber,” King said, in response to a question about cyber threats. “The vulnerability of our grid, of our financial system, of the gas pipeline system is really, really serious, and I don’t think we’re adequately prepared, and there’s no simple answer to it.”

King, an independent and former Maine governor, made the comment during a wide-ranging set of remarks before a breakfast of the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce, in which he also talked about health care, healing the country’s partisan divides and a law that was recently passed that should clear the way for the long-awaited expansion of a veterans health care clinic in Portland.

King, who sits on the Senate’s intelligence and armed services committees, went on to suggest that the United States needs to create a policy of deterrence for cyber threats, akin to the way it has treated the threat of nuclear attacks since the 1950s.

“This is a criticism of both the Obama administration and the current administration,” said King, who caucuses with Democrats. “We don’t have a cyber policy. We don’t have a strategy. We don’t have a doctrine. Somebody who attacks us via cyber, there’s no expected response, you see what I mean? (With) nuclear weapons, we established in the early 50s, ‘You attack us, we attack you, you’re gone,’ and it’s deterrence. There’s a deterrent. That’s the best way to keep someone from hitting you is, they’re afraid of you hitting them back. … It’s one of the most serious problems we face, and we know it’s coming.”

But after the Russians attempted to influence the 2016 election, King continued, “They really haven’t suffered any consequences, so they’re going to do it again. They’re going to be back in a year and a half, three years.”

During his remarks on Wednesday, King also said that President Donald Trump recently signed a law containing numerous provisions for veterans health care, including the long-awaited authorization of a facility that will be expanded in Portland.

This story will be updated.

Charles Eichacker — 621-5642

Twitter: @ceichacker


]]> 0 Angus King, independent of Maine, speaks to the Kennebec Valley Chamber of Commerce on Wednesday at the Senator Inn and Spa in Augusta.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 11:54:22 +0000
BJ’s Wholesale fills every Maine teacher’s classroom wish list Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:42:36 +0000 A $100,000 donation by BJ’s Wholesale Club has financed every single “wish list” classroom project posted by Maine teachers on the crowd-sourcing website, the company announced Wednesday.

The donation pays for 165 classroom projects, including requests for new chapter books for first-graders at Suzanne M. Smith Elementary School in Levant, tablets for Auburn Middle School students studying digital photography, animation and 3-D sculpting and supplies for daily hygiene essentials for needy students at Hall Elementary School in Portland.

“Every teacher and student should have the resources necessary for a successful school year,” said Kirk Saville, executive director of the company’s charitable foundation. “At BJ’s, we’re committed to helping families thrive by providing essentials to students and teachers, and we’re proud to fund all projects in Maine with a $100,000 donation.”

Last year, Maine actress Anna Kendrick funded 31 classroom projects in Maine. During the 2015-16 school year, helped fund 539 projects in Maine, for a total of more than $360,000. was started in 2000 by Charles Best, a high school teacher from The Bronx, New York, to help cover classroom costs not covered by school budgets. Educators request funding for a project, which is then vetted before the information is posted on the website. Donors can search for a project and make a contribution.

]]> 0 Island School fifth-grader Logan Beaupré works on a writing project last week as his teacher Kristin Westra helps third-grader Sadie Todd. With an enrollment of 32 students, the school has scored well on state report cards. Families have moved to the island community because of the quality of its education.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 21:01:24 +0000
A new place to sample mead Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:34:13 +0000 Maine Mead Works has opened its first satellite tasting room. The new spot is located at 8 Western Ave. in Kennebunk, next door to Federal Jack’s.

The tasting room opened July 1, according to Ben Alexander, the owner of Maine Mead Works, which has a meadery and tasting room at 51 Washington Ave. in Portland.

“We’re thrilled to have another direct to consumer outlet for what we’re doing. I think that’s been a key to our success, just getting people in the door to try something different.”

Maine Mead Works was founded in 2007.

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

]]> 0, 16 Aug 2017 10:42:14 +0000
New food truck will serve Cambodian and Vietnamese street food Wed, 16 Aug 2017 14:25:54 +0000 Nom Bai, a new food truck serving Cambodian and Vietnamese street food, will launch in Portland sometime in the next three weeks.

The truck is owned by Matthew Glatz, owner of the Salt Box Café, a “tiny house food truck” that serves breakfast and brunch on the Eastern Promenade. Glatz recently built a new food truck and has hired Sovanna Neang, who is of Cambodian heritage, to run it. The menu consists of Vietnamese sandwiches, charbroiled meat skewers and handmade rolls.

Neang previously worked at Sapporo, a Japanese restaurant on Commercial Street in Portland, and will write the menu for Nom Bai herself.

“Her menu is simple Cambodian and Vietnamese street food,” Glatz said. “They’re family recipes that have been in her family.”

Glatz said the truck will debut at a local brewery as soon as he gets his license from the city, “hopefully before Labor Day.”

Meredith Goad can be contacted at 791-6332 or at:

Twitter: MeredithGoad

Correction: This story was updated at 10:47 a.m. on Aug. 17, 2017 to correct the options on the menu.

]]> 0 Thu, 17 Aug 2017 10:49:11 +0000
Mainers won’t be selling recreational pot by February deadline Wed, 16 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Maine won’t make its February deadline for beginning the sale of recreational marijuana and won’t be ready to do so until next summer, at the earliest, according to the committee tasked with implementing legalization.

A special legislative commission finished its preliminary work on how Mainers can grow, sell and buy recreational marijuana Tuesday, tackling issues ranging from licensing fees to tax rates to consumer protections. Now analysts will turn months of committee straw votes into the draft bill that will go to a public hearing next month and a full legislative vote in October.

But the agencies that will oversee the launch and daily operations of Maine’s recreational market will not have time to write departmental rules, hire new inspectors and staff, and license growers, retailers and testing labs before a legislative moratorium on adult sales ends in February, said Sen. Roger Katz of Augusta, a committee co-chairman.

“We want to get marijuana out of the black market and we want to do that as quickly as possible, but we need to do it right,” Katz said. “It is such a big subject and there was so much to consider. As it is, we’re remaining silent on some subjects, leaving others to consider them on other days, because we couldn’t possibly do it all.”

In January, the Legislature delayed implementation of all but the home grow sections of the Marijuana Legalization Act until February 2018 to give the state time to draft a regulatory framework for retail cultivation and sales that will be overseen by the Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry, and the Department of Administrative and Financial Services.

Advocates are critical of certain parts of the proposed bill, such as home grow restrictions, a requirement that most licensees have large cash deposits on hand that remain untouched, and the absence of provisions to allow for marijuana social clubs, but it is the delay in launching the recreational market that frustrates them most.

“The law as written and adopted by voters would have gotten the legal marketplace up and running as soon as possible,” said Paul McCarrier, president of Legalize Maine. “We could have a program ready to issue licenses now, but the committee thought it knew better than the voters. It has made one change after another, and each change pushes the timeline back … and keeps the black market going.”

Various strains of marijuana are displayed during the grand opening of a marijuana store in Seattle. Washington state’s first retail recreational marijuana store opened in July 2014. Associated Press/Elaine Thompson

McCarrier predicts that Maine will not issue its first adult-use licenses until summer 2018, more than a year and a half after voters approved it at referendum.

At past meetings, the marijuana committee agreed that Maine shouldn’t be the first state in the country to allow marijuana social clubs, limited the number of plants that could be grown for personal use on any one piece of property to 12 no matter how many people live there, and set the combined tax rate on recreational marijuana at 20 percent, with up to 5 percent of taxes collected to go to the host community.

In Maine, this tax scheme would drive the price of marijuana up from an average of about $200 an ounce to about $240, with a $20 excise tax levied on the cultivator, which would be built into the price, and a $20 sales tax charged to consumers at the time of sale. The host town would get $2 of that $40, with the rest going to the state.

On Tuesday, the committee tackled the last remaining topics of debate, some of which had left them divided at previous meetings, such as:

Employers can refuse to hire job applicants or fire employees who use recreational marijuana, but landlords cannot reject or evict a tenant for recreational marijuana use.

State regulatory agencies must hire law enforcement officers to enforce recreational marijuana laws, just like the state Department of Marine Resources uses patrol officers to enforce state conservation laws.

State regulatory agencies can conduct annual or random inspections of recreational marijuana license holders, but it is not required.

License holders can face revocation, suspension and fines of up to $100,000 for committing public safety violations, up to $50,000 for license violations and up to $10,000 for a license infraction, in addition to possible criminal penalties brought by law enforcement.

Someone who is caught violating the home grow rules established by the bill could face up to a $1,000 fine, in addition to criminal penalties.

But the committee left other topics alone, deciding it didn’t have the time, expertise or jurisdiction to do things like deciding how recreational marijuana use is going to impact the job fitness of someone who is currently receiving unemployment benefits, or improving the state’s medical marijuana program or considering how to bring it under the same regulatory umbrella as recreational marijuana.

Committee analysts plan to have a draft bill written by the first week of September. They will meet with the committee chairmen, Katz and Rep. Teresa Pierce of Falmouth, to reconcile their summary of the committee’s various straw polls. A cleaned-up version of the draft bill will go to a Sept. 26 public hearing. The committee will discuss public testimony over the next two days before holding a final vote.

Once the measure is vetted, Katz, a Republican, and Pierce, a Democrat, will ask the state Legislature to convene a special session in October to consider the bill. The committee will have to sell the merits of the proposal to fellow lawmakers, many of whom have been on summer break while the committee did the bulk of its work, Katz said. Many lawmakers remain opposed to legalization, even after the referendum.

“We have an education job ahead of us,” Katz said. “A lot of people are not happy the law passed. To those people, I would say there are only two groups that want to see a regulated market set up – people who like marijuana and people who don’t like marijuana. Because really, we all have an interest in making the product safe, keeping it out of the hands of children, taxing it appropriately and keeping sales out of the black market.”

If approved, the agriculture and administrative and financial services departments will hire consultants to help write the rules needed to launch and run the new tightly regulated market, and guide them through the licensing process. At this point, it is up to the state’s executive branch to move as quickly as possible to launch the market, but the committee can’t force its hand with a deadline, Katz and Pierce said.

Discussions with the administration of Gov. Paul LePage have been minimal, Katz said. LePage campaigned against legalization last fall, and has said he would like to see it repealed. Katz and Pierce would like LePage to follow in the footsteps of Colorado Gov. John Hickenlooper. He didn’t want legalization, but once voters adopted it, he worked to implement it as smoothly as possible.

They urged LePage to appoint a marijuana coordinator to his cabinet, like Hickenlooper did in Colorado, but they haven’t gotten a response to their suggestions. As lawmakers, they can’t force the regulatory agencies to begin sales until rules are in place, and there is no mechanism for speeding up the process in a responsible manner, they said.

A LePage spokesman did not respond to a request for comment Tuesday.

Penelope Overton can be contacted at 791-6463 or at:

Twitter: PLOvertonPPH

]]> 0, 16 Aug 2017 14:13:38 +0000
Chicken Caesar salad products recalled from Cumberland Farms Wed, 16 Aug 2017 01:13:42 +0000 More than 1,700 pounds of chicken Caesar salad products sold at Cumberland Farms stores in Maine and throughout New England are being recalled due to misbranding.

Missa Bay LLC, a New Jersey-based business, makes the 9.95 ounce plastic salad bowls that contain chicken Caesar salad with romaine lettuce, roasted chicken, parmesan cheese, bacon, croutons and creamy Caesar dressing.

According to the U.S. Department of Agriculture, the products are labeled gluten-free. However, the croutons are made with wheat, which means they contain gluten. The wheat was not published on the product label.

The product was shipped to Cumberland Farms stores throughout New England, as well as New York state. The USDA said the health risk is low.

The salads have a must-use date of Aug. 16.

]]> 0 Wed, 16 Aug 2017 10:05:20 +0000
South Carolina sues maker of OxyContin over opioid crisis Wed, 16 Aug 2017 00:34:50 +0000 COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina has become the latest state to accuse a drug manufacturer of exacerbating its opioid drug crisis by using deceptive marketing, with the state’s top prosecutor suing the maker of OxyContin.

Attorney General Alan Wilson on Tuesday announced the state had sued Purdue Pharma, accusing the maker of OxyContin and other opioid drugs of violating South Carolina’s Unfair Trade Practices Act.

“While we vigorously deny the allegations, we share South Carolina officials’ concerns about the opioid crisis and we are committed to working collaboratively to find solutions,” Purdue Pharma responded in a statement.

The suit, filed in Richland County, accuses Purdue of failing to comply with a 2007 agreement it signed with South Carolina and dozens of other states over allegations about its promotion of OxyContin. Purdue admitted no fault in that case, which accused the company of encouraging doctors to prescribe OxyContin for unapproved uses and failing to disclose its potential for addiction.

That consent agreement required Purdue to correct its allegedly abusive and excessive marketing practices, maintain a program to identify prescribers who overprescribe OxyContin and train sales representatives in the abuse and diversion detection program before they can promote the drug.

Since that time, Wilson said, the company has continued to mislead doctors about the risks of addiction, by saying that patients who appeared addicted actually needed more opioids, and that opioid drugs could be taken in even higher doses without disclosing the greater risks to patients.

“We do not believe that a single lawsuit against a single company will magically fix the problem,” Wilson said Tuesday. “But what I can do today as South Carolina’s chief legal officer is to bring this lawsuit against Purdue for its deceit and misrepresentation.”

Wilson said South Carolina had the ninth-highest rate of opioid prescriptions in the nation last year. Since 2011, prosecutors said, more than 3,000 South Carolinians have died from prescription opioid overdoses.

Stamford, Conn.-based Perdue calls itself “an industry leader in the development of abuse-deterrent technology, advocating for the use of prescription drug monitoring programs and supporting access to Naloxone.”

But the lawsuit accuses Purdue of falsely claiming that its newer, abuse-deterrent opioids are safer than other opioid drugs.

]]> 0, 15 Aug 2017 20:55:07 +0000
Retailers stumble, but stocks change only slightly overall Tue, 15 Aug 2017 23:31:15 +0000 NEW YORK — U.S. stock indexes finished Tuesday close to where they started as technology companies and household goods makers rose. But weak reports from sporting goods and auto parts retailers left a lot of smaller companies with steep losses.

Dick’s Sporting Goods and Advance Auto Parts both disclosed disappointing second-quarter results and cut their annual forecasts, which affected a slew of other companies. Other retailers also dropped, including Home Depot, which posted strong results. Other groups of stocks managed modest gains.

“Especially in the month of August, when not as many investors are around, you get a lot of this group trading,” said Brian Nagel, analyst who covers retailers for Oppenheimer & Co.

Nagel said struggles for Dick’s and Advance Auto Parts don’t say anything about how retailers in other industries are doing, but if investors grow pessimistic about retail, they may sell all kinds of retailers when one part of the industry struggles.

The Standard & Poor’s 500 index lost 1.23 points, or less than 0.1 percent, to 2,464.61. The Dow Jones industrial average picked up 5.28 points to 21,998.99. The Nasdaq composite fell 7.22 points, or 0.1 percent, to 6,333.01. The Russell 2000 index of smaller-company stocks shed 11.07 points, or 0.8 percent, to 1,383.24. The S&P 600, an index of small-cap stocks, plunged 1 percent.

Stocks were coming off their biggest one-day gain in more than three months as the market recovered from last week’s turmoil.

Dick’s Sporting Goods said athletic apparel sales were weak and that it plans to do more marketing and cut prices as it tries to keep its market share. Its stock plunged $8.04, or 23 percent, to $26.87.

Foot Locker fell $2.19, or 4.4 percent, to $47.13 and Hibbett Sports dropped $2.30, or 16.5 percent, to $11.65. Athletic apparel companies also lost ground. Nike shed $1.22, or 2 percent, to $58.56 and Under Armour lost 45 cents, or 2.6 percent, to $16.66.

Advance Auto Parts and its competitors are facing weakening demand because car sales are slowing down from their recent record pace.

]]> 0 Tue, 15 Aug 2017 21:46:41 +0000
Groups file brief challenging Maine’s new solar rules Tue, 15 Aug 2017 21:53:08 +0000 Groups opposed to Maine’s amended solar rules have joined in a brief challenging the authority and actions of the Public Utilities Commission.

The Conservation Law Foundation, ReVision Energy, Industrial Energy Consumer Group and Natural Resources Council of Maine, filed a brief Tuesday in the appeal at the Maine Supreme Court challenging the PUC’s amended solar rule, which phases out certain incentives for homeowners and businesses that install rooftop solar arrays. The brief was filed 12 days after the Maine Legislature failed to override a veto from Gov. Paul LePage on a bill that would have continued the incentives and direct the PUC to study the costs and benefits of solar.

“The new rule penalizes homeowners and businesses that generate solar energy, hampering our opportunities to increase energy independence, reduce electricity costs and support one of the fastest growing sectors in Maine’s economy,” said CLF Executive Vice President Sean Mahoney in a release announcing the filing. “This LePage-appointed commission wants us to believe that charging Mainers for the energy we generate in our own homes is just and fair, but we’re not falling for it. If this rule remains on the books, it will undermine state policy and threaten an industry already providing hundreds of good jobs across our state.”

The filing contends that the PUC has imposed unlawful charges on energy generated and consumed behind the meter, exceeded its statutory authority, relied on unsubstantiated claims, and failed to provide an adequate economic assessment in developing its new net-metering rule, among other things, according to the release.

A PUC spokesman has said previously the commission does not comment on pending litigation.

]]> 0 of net metering, the arrangement that credits solar panel owners for the power they produce, see it as an investment that pays off in clean, locally produced energy and jobs. Critics, including Gov. Paul LePage and CMP, say the incentive increases rates and shifts costs onto other electric customers.Tue, 15 Aug 2017 19:13:39 +0000
New operations building planned for Portland shipping terminal Tue, 15 Aug 2017 21:12:43 +0000 The Maine Port Authority is proposing to build a nearly 10,000-square-foot maintenance and operations building on Commercial Street in Portland to free up cargo space at the International Marine Terminal.

An application filed this month with the city’s planning office by the Maine Department of Transportation outlines plans to construct the two-story building and add a 20-spot parking lot at the terminal near the Casco Bay Bridge.

The proposed building would replace a similarly sized maintenance facility. There will be no change of use or expansion of operations because of the development, according to the site plan application.

The existing maintenance building is closer to the waterfront and near the terminal’s crane. The new building would be built at the northeast corner of the property, next to the small office building that is the headquarters of the Maine Port Authority.

The project is estimated to cost $3.1 million, funded with state bonds and a federal grant. Maine Port Authority Executive Director John Henshaw did not respond to an interview request on Tuesday.

Moving the building will allow the terminal to reorganize operations slightly and open valuable space to store and move cargo and increase port efficiency, according to the application.

The development is part of a $15.5 million expansion at the International Marine Terminal that will add a second mobile harbor crane and improve rail connections to the facility. Maine has invested heavily in the shipping terminal, the state’s largest, doubling the size of the facility about three years ago and attracting Eimskip, an Icelandic shipping company, to locate its U.S. headquarters in Portland. Container shipments have surged at the port, growing 1,300 percent from 2011 to 2015. State officials hope further improvements and the addition of a large cold-storage warehouse will increase container traffic through the port.

According to the application, the new building will have more office space and training areas than the current facility. It will be designed to look like the nearby office, with a free-standing canopy between the buildings to link them together visually.

The project will be reviewed by the city’s Planning and Urban Development Department.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

]]> 0, 15 Aug 2017 20:30:01 +0000
Seafood processor High Liner boots CEO after disappointing quarter, costly recall Tue, 15 Aug 2017 19:36:18 +0000 The directors of seafood processor High Liner Foods Inc. announced Monday that former chairman Henry Demone will take back his CEO role following disappointing sales and a prolonged recall of breaded food products.

Keith Decker, who was brought in as CEO in 2015, will leave the company. The change is effective immediately.

The company, based in Nova Scotia, has a large processing facility in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. High Liner Foods is one of two surviving whitefish processors on the East Coast.

In its earnings report, also released Monday, the company showed a decrease in quarterly gross profits from $46.7 million in the second quarter of 2016 to $37.8 million this year. Net income decreased by $4.5 million over the same period. The company reported gross sales of $508.1 million for the first half of 2017 compared with $515.8 million for the same period in 2016.

“The board and I are confident that the company is pursuing the right strategy to grow our business and create long-term shareholder value,” said Demone in a company statement. “As CEO, I am looking forward to working more closely with the High Liner Foods leadership team on the execution of this strategy and on pursuing our growth opportunities.”

Demone was CEO of the publicly traded company from 1992 to 2015, and led it through a series of acquisitions, including Fishery Products International in 2007, Viking Seafoods in 2010, Icelandic Groups US and Asian operations in 2011, American Pride Seafoods in 2013, Atlantic Trading Co., in 2014, and Rubicon Resources in 2017. Last year, High Liner reported sales of $956 million.

In 2016, it sold its scallop business and the New Bedford (Massachusetts) American Pride plant to Blue Harvest Fisheries.

In its second quarter report, the company highlighted a costly recall that began with an undeclared milk allergen for seafood products sold in Canada. That recall cost the company $700,000. Its ingredient supplier then told High Liner there was undeclared milk in other formulations, which led to a widespread recall of breaded products in both the U.S. and Canada. The recall resulted in estimated losses of $9.7 million for the first half of 2017.

Additionally, the sale of the New Bedford scallop business in September 2016 had the impact of lowering sales volume by 1.5 million pounds and sales by $19.8 million during the first half of 2017 compared to the same period last year.

The acquisition of Rubicon in May increased sales volume by 3.3 million pounds and sales by $17.7 million in a comparison of second-quarter earnings.

Company officials noted that the transfer of processing from its New Bedford plant to Portsmouth encountered problems just as it was gearing up for the busiest time of the year for seafood sales – Lent.

“Excluding the impact of these items and the recall, sales volume for the the first half of 2017 decreased by 3.2 million pounds, reflecting residual manufacturing challenges associated with production transferred from our previously owned New Bedford facility,” said the company’s earnings report. Those factors resulted in an inability to meet heightened demand in March related to a late Lent, and the continued impact of lower demand for traditional breaded and battered frozen seafood products. Sales were also depressed by product returns, limited product availability and customer shortages as a result of the recall, it said.

High Liner Foods officials expect the drop in sales will be temporary. Recovery from the recall and sales related to the acquisition of Rubicon are expected to strengthen finances through the end of the year.

“Having returned to year-over-year organic sales volume growth, we believe continued improvement in our manufacturing operations will return the company to year-over-year earnings growth in the third and fourth quarter of 2017,” concluded Demone in the earnings report.

]]> 0 crate is full of dab, a type of flounder. Another type of the fish, summer flounder, is popular with recreational anglers because it puts up a fight and yields considerable meat, and sport fishermen seek it in places such as Delaware Bay off New Jersey.Wed, 16 Aug 2017 09:11:53 +0000
Scientists to meet with fishers of cod, sole about future of fish Tue, 15 Aug 2017 16:29:33 +0000 PORTLAND — Fishery regulators are meeting with commercial and recreational fishermen around New England and New York to talk about upcoming assessments of key fish stocks.

The meeting in Maine will be Thursday in Portland.

The Northeast Fisheries Science Center has scheduled the “port outreach meetings” to talk about the assessments of 20 groundfish stocks. Groundfish are commercially significant fish species such as cod, haddock and sole that live near the ocean floor.

The science center says it will explain the stock assessment process and ways industry concerns can be addressed. The first of the meetings is on Tuesday at Cape Cod Commercial Fishermen’s Alliance in Chatham, Massachusetts.

Meetings will follow on Wednesday in New Bedford, Massachusetts; Friday in Gloucester, Massachusetts; Aug. 28 in Point Judith, Rhode Island; and Aug. 30 in Montauk, New York.

]]> 0 Tue, 15 Aug 2017 12:29:33 +0000
Fifth business leader quits Trump’s jobs council over Charlottesville Tue, 15 Aug 2017 12:44:09 +0000 WASHINGTON – President Trump on Tuesday ripped into business leaders who resigned from his White House jobs panel – the latest sign that corporate America’s romance with Trump is faltering – after his equivocal response to violence by white supremacists in Charlottesville, Virginia.

“They’re not taking their job seriously as it pertains to this country,” the president said at an impromptu news conference at Trump Tower in New York City.

After his remarks, a fifth member of his manufacturing panel resigned: AFL-CIO president Richard Trumka, who said in a statement, “We cannot sit on a council for a president who tolerates bigotry and domestic terrorism.”

AFL-CIO President Richard Trumka Associated Press/Andrew Harnik

The president denied that his original statement about the violence in Virginia on Saturday – saying “many” sides were to blame, rather than hate groups – was the cause of the departures.

“Some of the folks that will leave, they’re leaving out of embarrassment because they make their products outside” the United States, he said as he seemed to double down on his earlier comments.

Trump also assailed the CEOs who left on Twitter as “grandstanders” and said he had plenty of executives available to take their place. The president added that he believes economic growth in the U.S. will heal its racial divide.

But the parade of departing leaders from the informal panel seems closely linked to how the president responded to events that led to the death of a counter-protester that opposed the white supremacists.

Among those who’ve left are the chief executives for Merck, Under Armour and Intel and the president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing.

Scott Paul, president of the Alliance for American Manufacturing Alliance for American Manufacturing via Associated Press

Alliance president Scott Paul, in a tweet, said simply, “I’m resigning from the Manufacturing Jobs Initiative because it’s the right thing for me to do.” Within minutes of the tweet on Tuesday, calls to Paul’s phone were being sent to voicemail.

Wal-Mart CEO Doug McMillon joined the chorus, saying in a note Monday to employees, “(We) too felt that he missed a critical opportunity to help bring our country together by unequivocally rejecting the appalling actions of white supremacists.”

But McMillon, whose business has customers on all sides of the political spectrum, plans to stay on a separate Trump advisory panel and said that the president’s follow-up remarks on Monday that named white supremacists were a step in the right direction.

Corporate leaders have been willing to work with Trump on taxes, trade and reducing regulations, but they’ve increasingly found themselves grappling with cultural and social tensions amid his lightning rod-style of leadership. The CEOs who left the council quickly faced his wrath, while those who have stayed have said it’s important to speak with the president on economic issues.

Like several other corporate leaders, Alex Gorsky, chairman and CEO of Johnson & Johnson, said that intolerance and racism have no place in U.S. society but that he intended to stay on the manufacturing council.

“We must engage if we hope to change the world and those who lead it,” he said in a statement.

A White House official downplayed the importance of the manufacturing council and a separate policy and strategy forum featuring corporate leaders. The official, who insisted on anonymity to discuss private conversations, said the panels were informal rather than a set body of advisers. The departures, the official said, were unlikely to hurt the administration’s plans to overhaul taxes and regulations.

Many corporate leaders have faced a lose-lose scenario in which any choice involving politics can alienate customers, not to mention a U.S. president who has shown a willingness to personally negotiate government contracts.

Kenneth Frazier, chairman and CEO of Merck Associated Press/Mark Lennihan

Merck CEO Kenneth Frazier, one of only four African-Americans leading a Fortune 500 company, was the first to tender his resignation Monday.

He was assailed almost immediately by Trump on Twitter.

Then came resignations from Under Armour CEO Kevin Plank and then Intel CEO Brian Krzanich. On Under Armour’s Facebook page Tuesday, customers who supported Trump threatened to boycott the athletic clothier.

Austan Goolsbee, the former chief economist for President Obama, said the departures suggest the president’s response to the violence in Charlottesville could alienate those who work for the companies, and those who buy the products and services that they sell.

Kevin Plank, founder and CEO of Under Armour Associated Press/Richard Drew

“It’s certainly a sign that Trump’s more controversial stuff isn’t playing well with companies selling to middle America,” said Goolsbee, now a professor at the University of Chicago.

There had already been departures from two major councils created by the Trump administration that were tied to its policies.

Tesla CEO Elon Musk resigned from the manufacturing council in June, and two other advisory groups to the president, after the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate agreement. Walt Disney Co. Chairman and CEO Bob Iger resigned for the same reason from the President’s Strategic and Policy Forum.

The manufacturing jobs council had 28 members initially, but it has shrunk since it was formed earlier this year as executives retire, are replaced, or, as with Frazier, Musk, Plank, Paul and Krzanich, resign.

So far, the majority of CEOs and business leaders that are sitting on the two major, federal panels, are condemning racism, but say they want to keep their seats at the table.

Intel CEO Brian Krzanich Associated Press/Richard Drew

“Our commitment to diversity and inclusion is unwavering, and we will remain active champions for these efforts,” said a spokesman for Campbell Soup for CEO Denise Morrison. “We believe it continues to be important for Campbell to have a voice and provide input on matters that will affect our industry, our company and our employees in support of growth.”

Boeing CEO Dennis Muilenburg also will remain. So will Michael Dell, the head of his namesake computer company. Both companies contract with the government.

Lawrence Summers, once the chief economist at the World Bank and senior Treasury official, wondered when more business leaders will distance themselves from Trump.

“After this weekend, I am not sure what it would take to get these CEOs to resign,” he tweeted. “Demonizing ethnic groups? That has happened.”

]]> 0 Plank, founder and CEO of Under ArmourTue, 15 Aug 2017 18:53:23 +0000
Hedge fund that owns Sunday River, Sugarloaf under scrutiny in New Hampshire Tue, 15 Aug 2017 00:58:13 +0000 NEWBURY, N.H. — New Hampshire state officials are holding a public information session about the Mount Sunapee Resort to address questions about its new operator.

The ski area is part of Mount Sunapee State Park, but ski operations are run by private companies under a lease. That lease was sold recently to New York hedge fund Och-Ziff as part of a deal involving a number of other ski areas, including Okemo in Vermont and Sunday River and Sugarloaf in Maine.

The Concord Monitor reports that the Attorney General’s Office asked the Department of Natural and Cultural Resources to hold a public information session after getting questions about the company, which was fined $412 million last year for its alleged involvement in bribery schemes in Africa.

The meeting is Aug. 22, at the ski area’s base lodge.

]]> 0, 15 Aug 2017 06:58:39 +0000
Stocks jump as international tensions ease Tue, 15 Aug 2017 00:38:54 +0000 NEW YORK — U.S. stocks rallied Monday as technology companies and banks helped companies regain a lot of the ground they lost last week, although the calm that has defined the market this year wasn’t quite restored.

Almost 90 percent of the Standard & Poor’s 500 index finished higher. Technology stocks outpaced the rest of the market following a strong report on the state of Japan’s economy. Last week, rising tensions between the U.S. and North Korea sent stocks to some of their biggest losses in 2017. That eased Monday after officials said fighting is not imminent.

“What the market really reacted negatively to on Thursday was Trump’s somewhat incendiary comments about ‘fire and fury,”‘ said Dave Lafferty, chief market strategist of Natixis Global Asset Management. “The administration sort of walked back Trump’s comments over the weekend.”

But while stocks climbed, investors weren’t ready to loosen their grip on some traditionally safe investments. Bond prices slipped only by a small amount and gold finished a little lower, while silver prices rose.

The S&P 500 jumped 24.52 points, or 1 percent, to 2,465.84. The Dow Jones industrial average gained 135.39 points, or 0.6 percent, to 21,993.71. The Nasdaq composite added 83.68 points, or 1.3 percent, to 6,340.23. The Russell 2000 index of smaller companies climbed 20.08 points, or 1.5 percent, to 1,394.31.

]]> 0 Mon, 14 Aug 2017 20:38:54 +0000
North Dakota offers to settle with oil pipline company ETP over Indian artifacts discovery Tue, 15 Aug 2017 00:20:54 +0000 BISMARCK, N.D. — North Dakota regulators offered Monday to settle state allegations that the Texas-based developer of the Dakota Access oil pipeline improperly reported the discovery of American Indian artifacts during construction.

The state Public Service Commission last November proposed a fine of at least $15,000 against ETP, though the commission has the authority under state law to levy fines of up to $200,000.

The three-member commission unanimously agreed to offer a settlement under which ETP would make a $15,000 “contribution” to the State Historic Preservation Office or another mutually agreed-upon entity. The company would not have to admit fault, and the matter would be dismissed upon payment of the money.

ETP didn’t immediately comment on the proposal. The company has 10 days to accept the offer. If it rejects it, the PSC will move forward with the complaint. The next step would be a public hearing.

The complaint arose when the PSC was notified by a third-party inspector that pipeline crews last October had diverted construction of the pipeline around Native American artifacts. The company had obtained the approval of the State Historic Preservation Office but not of the commission, which oversees pipelines. The artifacts weren’t disturbed.

ETP has maintained it did nothing intentionally wrong and has been fighting the proposed fine, which pales in comparison to the $3.8 billion cost of the pipeline that began moving oil from North Dakota to Illinois in July.

Commissioners said they decided to make the offer to try to put an end to the dispute. The group in recent weeks has been meeting with its attorneys in meetings closed to the public, but Commissioner Julie Fedorchak said the attorneys did not indicate to regulators that the state would have a tough time proving its case.

“It wasn’t a matter of whether the case is strong or weak,” she said. “It was really an effort to recognize … we’re not interested in being tangled up in procedural delays indefinitely.”

]]> 0 Mon, 14 Aug 2017 20:20:54 +0000
Top Fed official says bond portfolio could shrink soon Mon, 14 Aug 2017 23:39:42 +0000 Associated Press

NEW YORK — A top Federal Reserve official suggested Monday that the Fed will likely announce next month that it will begin paring its bond portfolio – a step that could lead to slightly higher rates on mortgages and other loans.

In an interview with The Associated Press, William Dudley, president of the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, said he thinks the Fed has adequately prepared investors for a reduction in the portfolio, which swelled after the 2008 financial crisis as the Fed bought bonds to reduce long-term rates. With the economy now much healthier, the Fed is ready to begin trimming its bond holdings.

Dudley also said that he would favor a third increase this year in the Fed’s benchmark short-term rate if the economy remained strong. Many investors expect a modest rate hike in December, to follow the Fed’s previous increases in March and June this year.

Speaking of the Fed’s likely September announcement that it will begin shrinking its $4.5 trillion bond portfolio, Dudley expressed confidence that investors would react calmly to the prospect of modestly higher rates on some consumer and business loans.

Dudley pointed out that the Fed spelled out to investors months ago the system it plans to use to reduce the portfolio gradually.

“The plan is out there,” he said during an interview at the New York Fed. “It’s been generally well-received and fully anticipated. People expect it to take place.”

As president of the Fed’s New York regional bank, Dudley is an influential voice on interest-rate policy. He is vice chairman of the central bank’s policy panel that sets interest rates and is a longtime close ally of Fed Chair Janet Yellen.

His interview with the AP comes at a time when the Fed has essentially met one of its two mandates: To maximize employment. The unemployment rate is at a 16-year low of 4.3 percent, and job growth remains consistently solid.

Yet the Fed has so far failed to meet its second objective of keeping prices stable. Inflation has stayed chronically below the Fed’s 2 percent target rate – a problem because consumers often delay purchases when they think prices will stay the same or even decline.

In its latest reading, the Fed’s preferred inflation gauge was just 1.4 percent year over year. Dudley said Monday that he still thinks inflation will rise toward the Fed’s target level as the job market strengthens further and sluggish wage growth begins to pick up.

]]> 0 DudleyMon, 14 Aug 2017 19:39:42 +0000
ImmuCell posts lower sales, net loss in second quarter Mon, 14 Aug 2017 20:52:10 +0000 ImmuCell Corp. of Portland reported on Monday second-quarter revenue of $1.7 million, a 26 percent decrease from the second quarter of 2016.

The bovine health products maker also reported a net loss of $218,000, or 5 cents per share, compared with a loss of $9,000, or less than 1 cent per share, a year earlier.

ImmuCell attributed the relative drop in sales partly to its record sales in the first quarter of 2017, saying that some distributors may not have needed to buy additional stock for the second quarter.

It also noted that sales during the second quarter of 2016 included roughly $1.3 million in backlog orders that had been unfulfilled from earlier months. Since the third quarter of 2016, the company has had enough inventory available to prevent a backlog, it said.

The company said its revenue of $5.3 million in the first six months of the year was nearly identical to the $5.4 million in revenue it generated during the first half of 2016.

“We expect to build on the revenue generated in the first half of 2017 and report positive sales growth for the six-month and 12-month periods ending Dec. 31, 2017, in comparison to the same periods during 2016,” said ImmuCell President and CEO Michael Brigham.

ImmuCell develops all-natural products to prevent and treat diseases among dairy and beef cattle. Its flagship product, First Defense, contains antibody-rich colostrum – milk produced in late pregnancy – in capsule form. It can be fed to newborn calves to help prevent scours, which causes diarrhea and dehydration. First Defense is a natural product made from cow’s milk that is approved for organic farming.

In early 2015, ImmuCell’s sales and profits exploded after harsh environmental conditions faced by cattle ranchers in states such as California and Texas significantly increased the value of cattle.

ImmuCell also is working on a new production facility in Portland for nisin, the active ingredient in another product it has developed called Mast Out, for which it is seeking U.S. Food and Drug Administration approval. Construction on the $20 million pharmaceutical-grade facility began in fall 2016 with the help of tax increment financing from the city of Portland.

Mast Out is a natural treatment for mastitis, inflammation of breast tissue that can afflict lactating dairy cows. Existing antibiotic treatments render the milk unsalable temporarily, causing a loss of revenue to the farmers. However, with the FDA’s approval, milk from cows treated with Mast Out could be sold immediately, giving the product a competitive edge.

ImmuCell is a publicly held company that trades on the Nasdaq exchange. Prior to the earnings report, which was released after the market closed, the price of ImmuCell shares increased by 10 cents in trading Monday to end the day at $7.70 per share.

]]> 0 ImmuCell production associate fills capsules with antibodies used to reduce infections in newborn dairy cattle in this 2011 photo. Maine's smallest publicly traded firm has agreed to sell 660,000 shares to raise capital from private investors for its Portland expansion.Mon, 14 Aug 2017 17:45:08 +0000
Maine group to promote logging standards Mon, 14 Aug 2017 19:48:33 +0000 A Maine-based nonprofit has been selected to promote a professional logging program throughout the country.

The Trust to Conserve Northeast Forestlands in Augusta has been selected by the American Loggers Council to promote its Master Logger certification program to logging companies. The program certifies loggers who harvest wood using professional, safe and sustainable methods, and provides third-party auditors to make sure the standards are enforced.

The Master Logger program was developed in Maine in 2000 by the Professional Logging Contractors of Maine. Since then, it has been adopted by 18 other states, according to the American Loggers Council.

The standards are a rigorous set of environmental and social benchmarks that include water and soil quality, employee safety and business viability. In the Northeast, the Rainforest Alliance of Vermont is the third-party auditor.

“While it may be generally unknown to the public, landowners large and small are increasingly seeking Master Loggers for harvests on their property, and many end users of wood are also seeking its assurances that the wood they are buying is being harvested sustainably and responsibly,” the council said.

The trust expects to revitalize the Master Logger program by meeting with members, standardizing the branding and marketing of the program, and providing technical support and outreach to other states.

Clarification: This story was updated at 5:27 p.m. on Aug. 15, 2017 to clarify that the program certifies loggers.

]]> 0 Tue, 15 Aug 2017 17:27:41 +0000
Coastal Enterprises headquarters in Brunswick earns top sustainability certification Mon, 14 Aug 2017 16:26:32 +0000 Coastal Enterprises Inc.’s new headquarters in Brunswick has earned Leadership in Energy and Environmental Design “platinum” accreditation, the highest level awarded for commercial building energy-efficiency and sustainability.

It was only the sixth new commercial project in Maine to receive a LEED platinum designation, according to CEI.

CEI’s building received full marks for energy efficiency, thanks to its energy-efficient lighting, heating, cooling and mechanical systems, as well as insulation. A solar array of photovoltaic panels installed on the building’s roof produces more than half of the electricity used in the building, according to CEI.

Founded in 1977, CEI provides financing, consulting and policy advocacy for businesses and projects in Maine and rural regions throughout the U.S. Its focus areas include businesses that rely on natural resources, such as ocean- and land-based food systems, renewable energy and nature tourism.

J. Craig Anderson can be contacted at 791-6390 or at:

Twitter: @jcraiganderson

]]> 0 Mon, 14 Aug 2017 20:03:17 +0000
Maine aims to use $21 million VW settlement to improve air quality Mon, 14 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The state is taking public comment on its plan to spend $21 million to reduce harmful vehicle emissions as part of a federal legal settlement with Volkswagen over the company’s diesel engines that illegally produced high levels of greenhouse gases.

Maine plans to use the money to enhance the use of zero-emission vehicles and provide grant funding for vehicle replacement, engine upgrades and facility improvements to reduce nitrogen oxide, or NOx, emissions.

A draft plan is available for review and the state intends to file a final proposal by the end of the year with the trustee that pays out settlement funds.

“This is a remarkable opportunity to make up what went wrong,” said Judy Gates, director of the Maine Department of Transportation’s environmental office.

“Twenty-one million dollars is a significant amount, we are taking it very seriously that this be seen as an opportunity for people and get the word out as much as we can to take advantage of it,” she said.

Up to 40 percent of the $21 million from a settlement with Volkswagen will be dedicated to the state’s port facilities and rail yards. Staff photo by Derek Davis

Maine DOT is leading the settlement plan with the Governor’s Energy Office and Maine Department of Environmental Protection. Public comments on the plan are being accepted on the MDOT website and the agency plans to hold at least two public meetings.

Maine’s plan, modeled on New York and Connecticut proposals, would give money to public and private sources through grants. Other states have opted to use the funding to replace public fleets with low-emission vehicles or invest in other projects to curb harmful vehicle pollutants.

“We thought by doing (the grant process) we could get the greatest emissions reductions and hit the areas that were most impacted by the Volkswagen vehicles,” Gates said.

The funding is Maine’s portion of an overall $14.7 billion settlement to resolve charges that Volkswagen intentionally designed 2- and 3-liter diesel passenger car engines to cheat on emissions tests while violating emission standards during normal operation.

The overall settlement included a $2.7 billion payment to states from Volkswagen managed by an independent trustee. Money is paid out based on the number of illegal vehicles sold or leased per state. About 3,670 2-liter diesel Volkswagen cars were sold in Maine between 2008 and 2015, out of 500,000 sold in the U.S.

The settlement terms specifically restrict the types of vehicles, machinery and facilities eligible to receive funding from the trust. Passenger cars cannot get funding, but heavy trucks, passenger buses and rail locomotives may.

“There is really no subjective decision to be made about which project because it is all supposed to be based on NOx emissions,” Gates said. “It can be as simple as replacing an engine in a ferry, it can be as complicated as a fleet of buses.”

Funding applications will have to include projected NOx reductions and impact on air and community health. Project priority will be based on the emissions reduction or offset per dollar spent, as well as a number of other factors, such as health benefits and impact on wild areas like Acadia National Park.

“Whatever gives the most value of NOx reductions, you continue to give the money out going down the list until there is no money left,” Gates said.

Maine plans to spend the maximum amount it is allowed, 15 percent, or about or $3.15 million, to improve zero-emission infrastructure, such as charging stations for electric cars. Forty percent of the funding, $8.4 million, is planned for improvements to the state’s port facilities and rail yards, which “contribute disproportionately” to air pollution in Maine, according to the draft plan. That could mean replacing old cranes and tugboat and locomotive engines with cleaner models.

About $4.2 million, or 20 percent, will be added to the state’s annual funding from a federal program to reduce diesel emissions. That program has less stringent restrictions than the Volkswagen settlement, so the state can use it on commercial fishing vessels and farming, construction and lumber equipment.

The remaining $5.25 million would be directed to projects to repower engines on heavy trucks, buses, locomotives and other vehicles according to terms of the settlement.

If demand for funding in one area falls short, the state can apply to redirect money to a different program, Gates said.

Motor vehicles in Maine produced 34,429 tons of NOx in 2014, about 62 percent of the state’s entire NOx emissions. Passenger cars and trucks combined made up about 67 percent of all motor vehicle emissions, according to U.S. Environmental Protection Agency data.

A final plan would have to be approved by Gov. Paul LePage, as well as the trustee. In June, LePage vetoed a bill that would have directed the state to spend 15 percent of the settlement to expand zero-emission vehicle infrastructure, which was upheld by the Legislature. In his veto message, LePage said to force spending on a specific aspect of the plan while it was still under development was poor public policy.

Lisa Smith, the senior director of planning for the Governor’s Energy Office, said LePage has designated Maine DOT as the lead agency to complete the settlement plan, but did not say whether LePage would sign off on a final plan.

“Until it is in front of him, I can’t say absolutely,” Smith said.

Peter McGuire can be contacted at 791-6325 or at:

Twitter: PeteL_McGuire

]]> 0 Marine Terminal in Portland. Up to 40 percent of the $21 million from a settlement with Volkswagen will be dedicated to the state's port facilities and rail yards.Mon, 14 Aug 2017 07:33:52 +0000
Affordable housing in the works for East Bayside, East Deering Mon, 14 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 It’s been only two months since the Portland Housing Authority opened Bayside Anchor, its first new housing development in decades. But already, the low-income housing provider is poised to file plans for two additional projects, totaling more than 155 units of housing at a time when a dearth of affordable housing in Maine’s largest city is reaching crisis levels.

“This is the continuation of our effort to be a part of the solution to the affordable housing crisis in Portland,” said Jay Waterman, the housing authority’s development director.

The authority is looking to build a 55-unit apartment building at 58 Boyd St. in the city’s East Bayside neighborhood. The site is practically across the street from Bayside Anchor, a highly energy-efficient PHA apartment building at 81 Oxford St. with 45 units that opened in June.

A public meeting about the East Bayside proposal has been scheduled for Monday, from 6:30 p.m. to 8 p.m., at 47 Smith St.

Meanwhile, about 2 miles away, the authority plans to build 100 apartments in a two-phase project on Front Street in East Deering. That proposal has generated concern among neighbors about traffic, parking and the overall urban design of the buildings in a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes.

This rendering shows the proposed 58 Boyd St. project in Portland with an orange brick facade across from the green Bayside Anchor building, which opened in June. 58 Boyd St. would add 55 low-income apartments. Rendering courtesy CWS Architects

Both developments, which would provide a mix of low-income, affordable and market-rate housing, hinge on factors beyond the authority’s control.

In addition to needing site plan approvals, Waterman said the authority needs to secure coveted low-income housing tax credits from MaineHousing. Developers in turn sell those tax credits to investors, who can claim them annually over a 10-year period.

About 15 projects a year apply for only $3 million worth of tax credits, which is enough to fund just a handful of projects, according to MaineHousing spokeswoman Deborah Turcotte.

And the projects rely on the city enacting incentives for affordable housing developments, which are currently before the City Council.

Waterman said the $11 million proposal for 58 Boyd St. narrowly missed the cutoff for tax credits from MaineHousing last year. He said he hopes getting site plan approval before filing an application in January will push the project over the line.

Rendering shows Front Street from the perspective of looking south on West Presumpscot Street. Rendering courtesy of Utile Architecture and Planning

Waterman noted that MaineHousing didn’t award tax credits to any projects in Portland last year, which was unusual.

“With the goal of providing a lot more affordable housing in the city of Portland, given the current housing crisis, we really need to get a Portland project a win,” he said.

Avesta Housing is also seeking tax credits from MaineHousing for its plan to build 82 apartments in Parkside for mostly low-income people. That project is estimated to cost $10 million.

The Boyd Street project would include 28 apartments, including three-bedroom units, for people eligible for housing vouchers that require them to pay only 30 percent of their income. Sixteen units would be for people earning 50 to 60 percent of area median income, which varies depending on household size, while 11 units – mostly studios and single-bedroom units – would be market-rate.

Waterman estimated rents would range from $718 to $888 for a studio, $770 to $1,033 for a one bedroom, $923 to $1,292 for a two bedroom and $1,067 to $1,539 for a three bedroom.

He said the current zoning would allow for as many as 60 units. However, the project anticipates the council adopting additional zoning incentives for affordable housing that would allow the authority to build a 75-foot-tall building, as opposed to 50 feet. “We’d like our building to be more compact on a smaller footprint,” he said.

The East Bayside Neighborhood Organization could not be reached for comment.


The authority is looking to redevelop about two parcels, totaling about 4 acres, on Front Street in East Deering.

The site currently has about 50 units of dispersed townhouses. But the authority is looking to tear down those buildings so it can build 100 new units – 60 units in the first phase, estimated to cost $12 million, and 40 units in the second, which would cost $8 million.

Waterman said the residents in those units would receive relocation assistance, including moving costs, to temporary homes and would have the right of first refusal to the new units once they come on line.

“We don’t want to alarm the current residents,” he said. “Everybody will be taken care of with relocation and welcomed back to the new Front Street is the idea.”

Though many in the neighborhood acknowledge the need to upgrade the existing units on Front Street, local residents are concerned that the authority’s plans would double the number of units on the parcels, as well as add to existing traffic and parking headaches.

That increase in density would only be allowed if the City Council approves changes for planned residential use developments.

East Deering resident Cheryl Leeman said she is concerned that both the zoning amendments and the project itself are done deals, even though they have not been formally approved by the Planning Board and City Council. She said the project was first presented to the neighborhood in 2016 and it was clear the authority was planning on the city adopting affordable housing incentives.

Leeman, a former longtime councilor representing the neighborhood, pointed to the Give Neighborhoods a Voice referendum to increase neighborhood leverage over the city’s rezoning request as a reaction to the city’s current process.

“This deal was already decided behind closed doors with the Portland Housing Authority and the Planning Department and the public is being asked to respond,” she said. “All of that is why this neighborhood and other neighborhoods are upset about the city’s process.”

Leeman said the City Council will take up the changes to the land use code on Sept. 6.

Scott Dobos of Randall Street, whose residence abuts the property, said he and his neighbors are concerned about increased traffic and parking issues, as well as the urban design of the buildings, which are being proposed in a neighborhood of mostly single-family homes.

“I think new buildings would be great, but my priority is to make (sure) it is a welcoming part of the community,” Dobos said. “These are big old buildings right at the curbside, which isn’t very welcoming.”

Waterman said the authority hopes to submit site plans for the Boyd Street and Front Street projects to the city sometime in September.

Randy Billings can be contacted at 791-6346 or at:

Twitter: randybillings

]]> 0, 14 Aug 2017 13:29:15 +0000
Thomas College will use grant to fund 50 paid internships each year Mon, 14 Aug 2017 03:01:10 +0000 WATERVILLE — For college students, internships are now more critical than ever before, according to Mike Duguay, executive director of the Harold Alfond Institute for Business Innovation at Thomas College.

To ensure greater access to those opportunities, roughly 20 percent of a multimillion dollar grant the college received in May will go toward providing paid internships at small- to medium-sized businesses for students.

“We’re creating not just an internship program per se, but also a talent pipeline for the central Maine workforce,” Duguay said.

On May 10, the Harold Alfond Foundation announced a $5.3 million grant to create a business institute at Thomas College that will tackle a number of initiatives, including professional development training and a paid internship program.

The program hopes to provide 50 paid internships each year. While it’s still in its infancy, it has already helped some students and smaller organizations, such as Waterville Creates!

Since 2012, the college has nearly doubled the number of students participating in internships, both paid and unpaid, from 70 to 138, according to data from Mikaela Ziobro, director of strategic initiatives. The school hopes to get 150 students participating in internships in 2017.

Duguay said the hope is to get students involved with internships earlier in their academic careers.

Madeline St. Amour can be contacted at 861-9239 or at:

Twitter: madelinestamour

]]> 0 DuguaySun, 13 Aug 2017 23:40:59 +0000
Week in review: Health insurers to get rate hikes; developer sentenced to 4 months Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 HEALTH CARE

Affordable Health Act plans head for double-digit hikes

Maine’s top insurance regulator plans to approve double-digit rate increases for all three of the state’s providers of health insurance under the Affordable Care Act. The increases for 2018 would be approved if the rate requests were revised to amounts slightly lower than the health insurers requested, said Eric Cioppa, superintendent of the Maine Bureau of Insurance on Thursday.

Cioppa said he would approve revised increases of 27.1 percent for Harvard Pilgrim Health Care, 17.5 percent for Maine Community Health Options and 18.8 percent for Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield.

In its June filings, Harvard Pilgrim requested an initial 39.7 percent rate increase that it later lowered to 29.2 percent, Community Health requested a 19.6 percent rate increase and Anthem sought an increase of 21.2 percent.

All of the insurance providers were seeking significant rate hikes for their individual plans, in part because of the political uncertainty surrounding the ACA. Read this story.


Jay paper mill considered for further investment

The Verso paper mill in Jay could be in line for additional investment as the company considers all options for increasing value. In a conference call Wednesday to review its second-quarter performance, managers of Verso Paper said they have hired a consultant to look at each of the company’s seven mills and the company as a whole to determine how to wring the best value for shareholders.

But the managers also singled out the Androscoggin Mill in Jay as an example of how converting to a new product line and reducing excess capacity positions the company for increased revenue. Last fall, the mill’s No. 3 paper machine was idled, resulting in the layoffs of about 200 people, and its No. 5 machine was refitted to produce specialty paper – a departure from the coated paper the mill has historically produced. The No. 5 machine is now at 78 percent capacity and growing, according to the second-quarter report. Once it achieves full capacity, it could contribute $10 million in revenue.

The managers said they were considering additional investment at the Jay mill. Read this story.

Veterinary company buys two pharmaceutical firms

The parent company of Portland-based veterinary technology provider Vets First Choice has begun using the cash from a recent private equity investment to strengthen its position in the pet medications industry.

The parent company, Direct Vet Marketing, said Thursday that it has acquired two Phoenix-based pet pharmaceutical firms, Roadrunner Pharmacy and Atlas Pharmaceuticals, for an undisclosed sum.

Vets First Choice, which provides online pharmacy and other technology services to veterinary clinics, announced in July that it had received a $223 million investment to accelerate the company’s growth and hiring, launch new services and begin a global expansion effort into Europe and Asia. Read this story.


Micro-apartments in mill on drawing board in Saco

The Saco Planning Board is considering a project that calls for 22 “micro-apartments” to be built in a former mill building on Saco Island. Saco Island West LLC wants to build the 470-square-foot apartments on two floors above the popular Run of the Mill Public House and Brewery on Saco Island, which sits between downtown Saco and Biddeford.

If approved, the project would join others in both cities that offer apartments in renovated mill buildings that also house businesses. The project would also be the second in Saco to feature micro-apartments. The former Notre Dame de Lourdes church on Cutts Avenue will be turned into 80 units ranging from 600 to 800 square feet as part of a three-phase project expected to begin late this year. Read this story.

Affordable housing planned for Portland’s Parkside

Maine’s largest affordable-housing developer wants to build 82 apartments – mostly for low-income residents – in Portland’s Parkside neighborhood, adding badly needed units at below-market rates in a city where gentrification threatens to displace many low- and middle-income residents on the peninsula.

But the $10 million Deering Place development is also raising residents’ concerns about density in the already thickly populated neighborhood between Deering Oaks and Congress Street.

The proposal by Avesta Housing would include an addition to the single-story building at 510 Cumberland Ave. and two new four-story buildings: one on what’s now a parking lot at the corner of Cumberland Avenue and Mellen Street and another on a parking lot on Deering Street.

Sixty percent of the units would be reserved for people with annual incomes of $20,000 to $40,000, based on the size of the units. Read this story.


Company says Canada oil could flow to S. Portland

The Portland Pipe Line Corp. says that more than 100,000 barrels of crude oil from western Canada would be available to be shipped daily from Montreal to South Portland if the company were allowed to reverse the flow of its pipeline. It’s the first time the company has publicly disclosed how much oil might come from Canada since it filed a federal lawsuit challenging the city’s 2014 ban on loading crude into tankers on South Portland’s waterfront.

If the pipeline did transport as much as 100,000 barrels per day, or 36.5 million barrels per year, south from Montreal to South Portland, that’s less than a quarter of the 160 million barrels of foreign crude that flowed north through the pipeline in 2004.

Filed in February 2015, the company’s lawsuit challenges the so-called Clear Skies ordinance that was approved by the city council in July 2014. The ordinance prohibited the loading of crude oil into tankers on the city’s waterfront, effectively blocking the company from reversing the pipeline’s flow to bring oil from Canada to South Portland. Read this story.


Developer Liberty gets fine and four months in prison

Former local developer Michael Liberty was sentenced to four months in prison and fined $100,000 Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Portland for federal campaign finance violations.

Liberty, once one of the most prominent businessmen in Maine, pleaded guilty in November to violating campaign finance laws in 2011 by using nine family members and employees to contribute $22,500 to a presidential campaign and then reimbursing them, which allowed him to circumvent the $2,500 limit on personal donations.

The campaign has not been named, but Liberty personally donated to Republican Mitt Romney during his primary run. Calling the offense “the quintessential white-collar crime,” the judge in the case gave Liberty less than a month before starting his prison term, setting Sept. 8 as his reporting date. Read this story.

Fantasy sports operators to pay new fees to state

Maine is adopting rules about daily fantasy sports games that classify the contests as games of skill and create a tax structure for them.

The proposal passed the Maine Legislature in June and became law last week without Republican Gov. Paul LePage’s signature. It says fantasy contest operators must be authorized to do business in Maine and pay a fee of 10 percent of gross fantasy contest revenues for the preceding 12 months, up to $5,000.

Fantasy sports companies DraftKings and FanDuel say in a joint statement that the adoption of a regulatory framework is good for both players and business. Read this story.


MEMIC endows a chair in USM insurance studies

The MEMIC Group announced Tuesday it will provide $1.5 million to the University of Southern Maine and help the institution leverage an additional $1.5 million in matching gifts for an endowed chair named in honor of the insurance company’s founder.

MEMIC’s donation, which will be distributed in an annual amount of $300,000 over the next five years, will be placed in the newly established MEMIC John T. Leonard Endowed Chair in Risk Management and Insurance – only the second endowed chair since USM was founded in 1878. The endowed chair funds will double the capacity of USM’s Risk Management and Insurance program of study, which was established in 2008. Read this story.

– Staff and news service reports

]]> 0 Maine liquor commission agreed Tuesday to raise the price on 778 products sold in state-sanctioned agency liquor stores, including the small but popular "nips." The 3-2 vote means the price of most 50-milliliter nips bottles will go from 99 cents to $1.49 starting Oct. 1. The higher prices, which mainly affect the lowest priced "value brands," were needed to ensure the state's profit margins keep pace with increasing sales, according to the director of the Bureau of Alcoholic Beverages and Lottery Operations. <a href="">Read this story</a>.Fri, 11 Aug 2017 22:22:07 +0000
Making pasta’s the new focus for Roxanne Quimby Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 GOULDSBORO — About five years ago, Roxanne Quimby looked around Raven’s Nest Farm, the 25-acre place she has owned in Gouldsboro since 2002. She wanted to participate in the local food movement ramping up around Maine. She had eggs. She had kale.

These are hardly unique items on Maine farms. Quimby, however, had a few other, more ephemeral things. Thanks to having sold Burt’s Bees (estimates are at more than $300 million for the personal care products line), she had the time and money to travel to Italy to study pasta making, an excellent way to add value to farm products like eggs and kale.

Quimby also had the desire to help build the local economy in this summer place she’d come to love, a peninsula just Down East from Mount Desert Island and Acadia National Park where jobs are scarce even in the summer, and particularly in the winter when nearly everyone clears out but the lobstermen. Maybe she could add a few.

Roxanne Quimby

“That was a big part of it,” she said on a recent July afternoon in the commercial kitchen of My Pasta Art, the company she’s positioning for a growth spurt.

In the background, one of the three pasta machines (big, bigger, biggest) she imported from Italy emitted a steady whine along with squiggles of beet-colored pasta formed in a shape called campanelle.

“Isn’t that pretty?” Quimby asks, pointing out the frills on the side of the almost lilac-colored pasta as her pasta maker, Kelli Grover, caught the finished pieces on a drying tray. “To me it looks like a little Cinderella skirt.”

When she started this pasta business, it was a farm stand, farmers market kind of venture, fresh pasta only. These days she’s expanded from just “short cuts” (like tubular pastas) to “long cuts” (long skinny pastas like bucatini), and she’s selling dry as well. She’s talking about the company maintaining its local feel, but expanding into a brand that would be recognizable throughout the Northeast. “Mid-Atlantic to Maine,” she said. “That would be a nice little local market for us.”

My Pasta Art will be represented at four trade shows this year alone, and the wholesale orders that come from those trade shows make up the bulk of the company’s sales. But Quimby also sells to local restaurants and a few retail outlets, like John Edwards Market in Ellsworth and Tiller & Rye in Brewer. Even as she says “mid-Atlantic,” one gets the sense that she could easily move that line south, or west. Really, once you get to Maryland, why not push through to Virginia, or the Carolinas?

In person, Roxanne Quimby gives the impression of being both resolutely practical and, incongruously, almost dreamy. As if her gears whir as steadily as those pasta machines, turning out ideas as fast as pretty pasta.

Because the third reason for this pasta business – and the five or six other Gouldsboro-based enterprises she’s working on – is that Roxanne Quimby cannot stop making and selling things: ideas, places, pasta.

“In a lot of ways, the size of the business isn’t what she is after,” said her son Lucas St. Clair. “It is this transaction. She loves making something and having someone else like it enough to want to spend money on it, whether it is a dollar or a million dollars.”

Kelli Grover checks the cut on an Italgi pasta machine while making fresh Gigli pasta at Raven’s Nest Farm in Goulsdboro. Staff photo by Derek Davis


You’ll notice there’s no recent photo of Quimby accompanying this story. Quimby is no J.D. Salinger, hiding out in a remote New England town. But when she had St. Clair take over the role of family spokesman and advocate in the effort to turn the family’s massive land holdings in Maine’s North Woods into what is now the Katahdin Woods and Waters National Monument, she decided to stay out of the limelight – and while she was at it, the camera’s gaze, as well.

Often, this can be handy. Once she was sitting at the Bangor airport, waiting for a flight, listening to the people next to her talking about “Roxanne Quimby.” She said they were describing her alleged intentions to shut down hunting and keep all the locals out of the woods they’d always considered theirs. They clearly thought she was awful. She thought about turning to them and announcing, “Hey, I’m right here!” Instead she kept quiet in her seat. She shook her head and smiled over the memory.

Gouldsboro doesn’t offer much anonymity, given the population (1,737 in the 2010 census), but as St. Clair puts it, “if she needs her space, she can get it.”

But she likes talking to people. About a minute after she sat down to lunch at Corea Wharf Gallery & Grill, owner Joe Young strolled by with a topic he wanted to discuss. What if the Island Explorer that ferries people around Acadia, including the new campground on the Schoodic Peninsula, could make a run down to Corea? It goes as far as Prospect Harbor already, he reasoned. Would she be willing to help him lobby for that? It would help his business – which Down East magazine named the best lobster shack in Maine in 2016 – and it would also reduce the number of cars on the road, he said.

Quimby listened and nodded and seemed unfazed by being pitched an idea over lunch. Young felt comfortable pitching her; it could be good for her as well. Ultimately, when Quimby gets the campground she bought in the fall of 2016 – Ocean Woods Campground, a beloved institution that closed and that many feared would be developed for homes – up and running again, campers could hop the bus down to the wharf.

Plus, the millionaire next door is not only approachable, he trusts her opinion.

“Obviously, she knows her way around business,” Young said.

Quimby particularly likes talking to people at markets. One of the formative experiences that shaped her as a businesswoman was selling hot dogs on Revere Beach in Massachusetts when she was a child, making change for her grandmother.

“Baba was like her favorite person in the whole world,” St. Clair said. “And she learned so much about being a merchant from her. And that, in a lot of ways, set her on this course.” It’s what makes her drive down to Belfast to the Saturday market in the new United Farmers Market of Maine and sit behind a booth, hand-selling her pasta.

“That is the merchant in her,” St. Clair said. “She wants to see what people’s reaction to say, a pasta with poppy seeds in it is.” This back-and-forth with customers, and really, Quimby’s constant curiosity, is a large part of what made Burt’s Bees – now owned by The Clorox Co. – so successful.


Pasta isn’t the only thing Quimby is cooking up in Gouldsboro. She’s been quietly working at ways to bring tourists into the area, which she calls so beautiful it’s almost “outrageous.” She considers it underappreciated by the public.

“People just don’t get past Ellsworth,” she said.

There’s the campground, a 113-acre property that operated as a campground until 2009, when it went into foreclosure. It features beachfront and has many loyal fans who followed the saga of its closure, possible sale on the auction block and then rescue from development by Quimby. She paid an undisclosed amount in a bank sale, right before a scheduled auction. The campground is being restored and should be open next year.

Quimby also owns a number of homes around the Gouldsboro area that she’s restored and is renting out on Airbnb. “I think we have nine of them now,” she said. Part of the reason the Schoodic Peninsula hasn’t seen many tourists is that it lacks places for them to stay. The new 93-site campground that is part of Acadia is changing that, and so are Quimby’s “restoration projects.”

“We have 260 nights sold in July and August,” she said. “The whole town, you can see, has picked up.”

She even took part in a beautification project involving buying two properties with some serious Beans-of-Egypt-Maine style trailers on them and turning the land they were on into a meadow.

But she’s not looking to turn her summer community into the next Bar Harbor.

“I am hoping that we can have a little controlled growth,” she said. “This place is so down and out in the winter.”

Grover checks the cut of gigli pasta that has come out of an Italgi pasta machine. This batch included beet juice. Staff photo by Derek Davis


Quimby makes chocolates as well, truffles that the chef at Saltbox in Winter Harbor serves as a trio with port. (Saltbox has another Quimby connection; she persuaded chef Mike Poirier to move from a tiny location in Hancock into the former site of the restaurant St. Clair ran there in the early aughts, Mama’s Boy Bistro). Chocolate-making is tricky, though, so that’s unlikely to turn into major venture. “It is very precise work.”

Pasta, though, pasta has a simplicity she admires. When she traveled to Carasco, the town near Genoa where the company that makes her machines is based, she was surprised to learn how easy it was.

“In the first half hour of class they told us what kind of flour to use, what machine to use and what the formula was of flour to liquid,” she said, sounding slightly disappointed at the lack of a challenge. “And I realized, that is all you need to know.”

With the local food movement fomenting back home in Maine, she thought about how strange it was that Americans almost entirely eat pasta made in Italy, that travels long distances. “It just seemed like, ‘We could do that.’ ”

She found a good source of semolina flour in the Great Plains, and the rest of the ingredients she could produce in Gouldsboro. Originally, she planned to make only fresh pasta. She’d encountered enough people who had given up on making fresh pasta at home – because, well, the work, the mess, the uneven results – to believe there would be a demand for it.

The dry pasta (which for My Pasta Art is her fresh pasta carefully dried and packed to travel) seemed like a logical next move. Now she’s considering adding ravioli to the line. But the notion that it stay “local” is important to her: Maine jobs, mostly Maine ingredients and Maine-made.

Of course, the woman who made a fortune off beeswax may not have a normal sense of what a “nice little” business is. Lucas St. Clair says he has learned to not make predictions about his mother’s next move, but he suspects his mother’s pasta company will go bigger than she expects.

“Only because she is unbelievably fearless,” he said.

Case in point, the name My Pasta Art. Quimby’s pasta has a beautiful website by that name, and that’s the name on the packages, but standing at the worktable in the commercial kitchen that once was a falling-down shed, she studies the purees of vegetables and the containers of eggs, and says that this particular name might not stick, even several years in.

“It is sort of the working name right now,” she said.

Conventional wisdom would be that consistent branding is a key part of business. St. Clair said he’d be terrified to change the name of a business he was running. But not his mother. “She doesn’t think twice about it,” he said. Burt’s Bees made dog biscuits and fruitcakes and sold seeds at various points, he said; his mother was experimenting.

Musing about the name, Quimby sounds almost like someone debating what color couch to buy for her living room, She’s no dilettante, though. For her, the bottom line remains essential in her new venture even if some might argue that for one of the most successful business people in Maine’s history, it doesn’t have to be. When St. Clair was running Mama’s Boy Bistro she was unimpressed with how little money he was making. “She would say, ‘Your profit margins are terrible,’ ” he remembered, laughing. “And I would say, ‘I am actually doing pretty good for a restaurant.’ ”

“It took me awhile to figure out what Burt’s Bees’ name was going to be,” Quimby said. “It took awhile to evolve into a storyline that differentiated the product from everything else out there.”

This story then, the story of the Maine-made pasta, is still being written.

Mary Pols can be contacted at 791-6456 or at:

Twitter: MaryPols

]]> 0 Grover, above, works as a pasta maker for Roxanne Quimby, left, wrapping bucatini pasta into nests as it comes out of an Itagli pasta machine at Raven's Nest Farm in Goulsdboro. After selling Burt's Bees, Quimby studied the art of pasta making in Italy.Sat, 12 Aug 2017 22:07:16 +0000
In Legislature, solar bill met a more powerful foe: Doubt Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 Solar advocates spent months promoting the benefits of rooftop installations, developing details on topics ranging from job growth to lower electric rates. They thought they had the votes on Aug. 2 to override a veto by Gov. Paul LePage of a crucial solar energy bill.

Then Rep. Richard Malaby, a Republican from Hancock with no interest in energy policy, rose on the floor of the House of Representatives. Malaby launched into a speech that had nothing to do with solar power. Instead, he made a passionate case that it was improper for the House to take up the bill because it was unconstitutional, citing a landmark U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the Affordable Care Act.

The solar lobby never saw that one coming. Neither did House Speaker Sara Gideon, a Democrat. She was forced to put the House into recess for 18 minutes while she consulted Mason’s Manual of Legislative Procedure, the official parliamentary guidebook.

Rep. Richard Malaby, R-Hancock

No one knew that the seed for Malaby’s diatribe was planted months ago, by a LePage energy adviser with a long history of undermining solar.

When the vote finally came, solar supporters failed by three votes to get the two-thirds majority needed to override the governor’s veto.

Malaby’s speech is being cited as an example of how tactics, including his out-of-the-blue comments, an alleged misinformation campaign by Central Maine Power and a strategic legislative blunder, combined to create confusion and defeat the solar lobby for a second year in a row. In the aftermath, some solar advocates say facts fell victim to politics.

“Facts do matter and they will eventually prevail,” said James Cote, a lobbyist who represents an alliance of solar installers. “But we’re in a pretty toxic environment with solar policy and anything with the word ‘solar’ in it.”

The vote has created more uncertainty in Maine’s solar industry, which employs about 500 people, and keeps Maine in the back of the pack of states developing solar power as a means of energy independence. Solar advocates have also filed a lawsuit, challenging the state’s authority to phase out existing solar incentives.

Solar power generation has been growing nationally by double digits, driven in part by renewable energy mandates in states such as California and Massachusetts. But growth has been stunted in Maine, which lacks state incentives and has a governor who is hostile to an energy source he sees as shifting costs onto other electric customers.

Last year, a bill was introduced that aimed to update net metering, a 1990s rule that gives panel owners a 100 percent credit for the retail value of excess power they feed back into the electric grid. It passed, but lawmakers failed to override LePage’s veto by two votes.

This year, after another expansive solar bill ran into opposition, supporters tried a scaled-back approach. L.D. 1504 sought to keep current net metering laws in place while the Public Utilities Commission – which had enacted its own rule to gradually phase out net metering – did a cost-benefit study.

But solar supporters never got buy-in from CMP. To the contrary, Maine’s largest utility doubled down.

On July 18, Sara Burns, CMP’s president and chief executive, wrote a column published in the Portland Press Herald that asserted incentives for rooftop solar owners could add $150 million to customer bills through 2035. That and other factors led lawmakers to put off a planned vote on the veto override, when they first convened to consider outstanding bills on July 20.

Solar supporters accused Burns of scare tactics, and she later acknowledged that her $150 million figure reflected a worst-case scenario. It contradicted estimates from the Maine Office of the Public Advocate that the bill would actually provide customers with a modest savings. But the column had its desired effect: It made some lawmakers who had supported the solar bill think twice.


The blur of competing facts formed a backdrop on Aug. 2, when lawmakers returned to finally end the longest legislative session in state history. Facing decisions on major public issues such as cellphone use while driving and the legal age for buying cigarettes, the House was asked to consider a new solar bill few members had heard of.

L.D. 1373 had been introduced earlier this year by Rep. Seth Berry, D-Bowdoinham. It began life as an environmental activist wish list of incentives and rebates, but could never win enough support to move ahead.

On Aug. 2, the bill was reborn as a vehicle to fix a perceived problem. Emera Maine, which serves electric customers in northern and eastern Maine, had raised concerns about legal language in the solar bill. Berry and other Democrats thought they could clarify the language, by using L.D. 1373 as a template for a new amendment.

This turned out to be a mistake. LePage’s Republican allies skillfully used the amendment bill to sow doubt about solar.

House Republican Leader Ken Fredette rose and said he was confused. The solar bill had been vetoed by the governor, he pointed out. But now comes an amendment, which has been turned into a new bill, on the last day of the session, which hasn’t gone through the committee process and which he hadn’t seen until five minutes ago.

“A bill that amends a bill that the chief executive has vetoed,” Fredette said, sounding exasperated.

Minutes later, Rep. Beth O’Connor, R-Berwick, took the floor. A member of the committee that handles energy issues and a critic of renewable energy subsidies, she said she couldn’t possibly understand the amendment bill in five minutes. Her voice rising in anger, O’Connor called the bill a desperate attempt to just pass something.

Berry then rose to apologize for any confusion. The amendment, he said, was just two sentences. It didn’t change any current practices, just clarified how rooftop solar owners are compensated.

But when a vote was called at the urging of Republicans, the House voted 73-64 to indefinitely postpone the amendment.

Cote, the solar lobbyist, said his side didn’t have time to explain the measure to lawmakers.

“We thought it made sense,” he said. “It was meant to be an olive branch. But it was easy at that point for opponents to take it and just confuse the issue even further.”


Confusion intensified later that afternoon, when the solar bill came up.

Gideon was caught off guard by Rep. Malaby’s contention that the House had no standing to consider the bill. In his view, the bill redistributed funds, which amounted to a tax on non-solar users. He thought that was unconstitutional, based on wording in Maine law and a U.S. Supreme Court ruling on the individual mandate for health insurance, which he read aloud.

Masking her displeasure, Gideon replied that Malaby had presented a well thought-out argument “that took some time for someone to put together.” After reviewing the parliamentary rules, though, she determined the House could proceed.

But this unexpected debate over whether the solar bill was a tax gave Republicans new ammunition. Fredette rose to say that the tax question, combined with the failure of L.D. 1373, exposed the “gaping hole” in L.D. 1504.

Rep. Heather Sirocki, R-Scarborough, agreed, saying she found Malaby’s argument “compelling.” Then she said she would “share a few words from Sara Burns,” and began reading passages from the CMP chief’s July 18 newspaper column, repeating the disputed projection of a $150 million hit to ratepayers.

Democrats tried to quell the growing rebellion. A member of the energy committee, Rep. Heather Sanborn, D-Portland, calmly listed the limited steps that would be taken under the bill. Rep. Janice Cooper, D-Yarmouth, urged members not to be sidetracked by a false argument, and emphasized that the bill contained no taxes.

But the tide had already turned. While the veto override easily passed in the Senate, 28-6, it failed in the House, 88-48, three votes short of the two-thirds majority needed. Fourteen House members were absent from the vote, and seven Republicans who initially supported the measure changed their positions.

In an interview last week, Malaby said he got the idea for his speech months ago from one of LePage’s energy advisers, Jim LaBrecque, a vocal opponent of solar energy. Malaby said he first thought the analogy between provisions of the solar bill and the Affordable Care Act was “crazy.” But LaBrecque persisted, providing him with appeals court rulings meant to back the claim.

Then, while watching a Red Sox game in mid-July, Malaby said something jogged his memory and led him to get on the internet and do his own research. What he learned formed the basis of his speech to the House, he said.

“I think I swayed a few Republicans who voted against the bill, because they are more constitutionally oriented,” Malaby said. “I think it made a difference.”

After the vote, solar supporters were left trying to sort out what happened.

“What’s so frustrating is, it’s not about policy,” said Chris Rauscher, public policy director for Sunrun Inc., a top national rooftop installer that lobbied for the Maine bill. “This is complicated stuff. So it’s disingenuous to inject (misinformation) into the debate. The best way to kill a bill like this is to inject more doubt.”

Tux Turkel can be contacted at 791-6462 or at:

Twitter: TuxTurkel

]]> 0 Doherty, photovoltaic project manager for ReVision Energy, carries a solar panel to the roof ridge of a home at OceanView at Falmouth. Though there's frustration, "facts do matter and they will eventually prevail," said James Cote, a lobbyist who represents an alliance of solar installers.Sat, 12 Aug 2017 21:43:31 +0000
Michelle Singletary: Recession taught us that debt can be dangerous Sun, 13 Aug 2017 08:00:00 +0000 The Dow industrial average hit 22,000 in August, ushering in yet another noteworthy high. But Americans also reached the big time with a different financial milestone this year – and not in a good way.

Outstanding consumer revolving debt – mostly credit card debt – hit an all-time peak of $1.021 trillion in June, according to the Federal Reserve. This should be a scary statistic. The last time the debt level was nearly this high was in 2008, when the U.S. economy was mired in a recession.

“We simply can’t keep taking on credit card debt forever without it causing major problems,” said Matt Schulz, senior industry analyst for “This record probably won’t be a major tipping point, but it likely isn’t too far off.”

Schulz says this milestone should be a wake-up call about the level of credit card debt Americans are accumulating. It’s a reminder to remember the past.

Here’s what we learned during the Great Recession: People had what they thought was a reasonable amount of obligations. They were making their auto and mortgage payments. They used credit to buy stuff to fill up those homes, eat out more or take vacations.

It all seemed manageable – until life happened: The housing market imploded and unemployment spiked. The illusion that people could get whatever they wanted – on credit – was shattered.

The truth was that the debt wasn’t as manageable as people thought, because they didn’t have an adequate cash cushion to help them through a disruption in their income.

As the amount of revolving credit is now soaring to new heights, it takes me back in time. (By the way, defaults are rising, too.) I fear that as the economy has improved, our memory of bad times has faded.

“America’s credit card balances have never been higher, but there’s no reason to think they won’t just keep climbing,” Schulz said. “Combine that with steadily rising interest rates and you have a potentially volatile mix.”

There’s so much we can glean from our failures.

“One fact we observe is that both the Great Recession and Great Depression were preceded by a large run-up in household debt,” wrote economists Atif Mian and Amir Sufi in “House of Debt: How They (and You) Caused the Great Recession, and How We Can Prevent It from Happening Again.”

The researchers argued that consumer spending dropped because people were so heavily burdened by housing debt. “As it turns out, we think debt is dangerous. If this is correct, and large increases in household debt really do generate severe recessions, we must fundamentally rethink the financial system.”

People are going to borrow. Despite my hatred of debt, I understand the role it plays in our economy. It drives auto sales, and so many people rely on their vehicles to get to work. Without mortgages, most Americans, including myself, would not be able to purchase a home. Debt also allows people to get a college degree.

But an excessive reliance on debt is bad for both the economy and households.

So how do you know if you’re taking on too much credit card debt? Follow this rule and you’ll stay within a reasonable amount: Don’t charge anything you can’t pay off by the next due date. If you can’t pay off the balance, you can’t afford whatever product or service you’re paying for with that card.

Michelle Singletary can be contacted at:

Twitter: SingletaryM

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Harriet Beecher Stowe’s childhood home relocates – to eBay Sat, 12 Aug 2017 02:30:01 +0000 HARTFORD, Conn. — The birthplace of abolitionist writer Harriet Beecher Stowe, which was disassembled and stored in trailers 20 years ago, has been put up for sale on eBay.

The move is the latest in the unusual history of preacher Lyman Beecher’s Litchfield house, which was built in 1811, served as the childhood home for his 11 children and was later a sanitarium and then a dormitory for a private school.

It was sold by the Forman School for $1 and deconstructed in 1997 by a buyer who planned to move it and turn it into a museum about the early life of the “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” author. But those plans never came to fruition.

The remains of the house, which have been stored in four storage trailers in Massachusetts and Connecticut, were acquired two years ago by a Woodbury antiques dealer, Art Pappas, who is looking for someone willing to purchase and restore the building.

Pappas said he has advertised the house with organizations that specialize in the sale of historic homes and offered it to the Smithsonian and other museums, but with no luck.

“A lot of them just don’t show any interest whatsoever, which blows my mind,” he said. “It’s the birthplace of Harriet Beecher.”

The famed writer penned a portion of “Uncle Tom’s Cabin” while living in a rented house on Federal Street in Brunswick, Maine. That home, bought by nearby Bowdoin College in 2001, now houses Bowdoin College faculty offices and “Harriet’s Writing Room,” a public space dedicated to commemorating Stowe’s contributions to American literature and history.

Pappas said he’s now turned to more mainstream internet marketplaces to list the Connecticut home, including Craigslist and eBay, where a $400,000 listing expires on Aug. 14. There were no bids for the property as of Friday. Pappas says the price is negotiable.

Folk singer Pete Seeger also lived in the building when it was a dormitory during the 1920s.

“The thing about eBay is it doesn’t really cost anything for the advertising at this point. We’ve spent a lot on advertising, but we’ve gotten more of a response from eBay and Craigslist,” Pappas said.

The antiques dealer says he has the original plans for the home and can put any buyer in touch with experts who can help put the “thousands of pieces” back together.

The home is listed on the state’s Register of Historic Places. But Rob Michalik, a spokesman for Connecticut’s Historic Preservation Office, said they have no plans to acquire the house.

“Our interest is in preserving the historic fabric of structures and given that this has been in storage for 20 years, we don’t know how much of that historic fabric remains,” he said.

The Harriet Beecher Stowe Center in Hartford also has no plans to bid on the property. Executive Director Katherine Kane said that organization’s focus remains the upkeep of the museum and Hartford house where Stowe lived as an adult on a property adjacent to Mark Twain.

“When (the birthplace) was available 20 years ago both the Stowe Center and the Litchfield Historical Society evaluated the building and determined there was not much left of it from the Beecher era,” she said. “I wouldn’t say that it wasn’t worth preserving. But it’s not on the site where it was built or in the community where it was built. So it’s lost some of its context already and then being deconstructed makes it even more difficult. It’s very sad.”

Pappas said he likely will put up another 30-day listing on eBay if he gets no offers before Monday, but eventually must decide whether it might be better to sell off pieces of the home as antiques and the rest as building material.

“It can’t stay in storage forever, it will just rot at some point,” he said.

This story and a photo caption were corrected at 9 a.m. on Saturday, August 12 to remove a misleading and irrelevant reference to an “ownership dispute” related to Bowdoin College’s April purchase of another property, 28 College Street in Brunswick. Historians have significant doubts about that property’s connection to Stowe, and the dispute between the college and the property’s former owner was related to a purchase option, not ownership.

]]> 0 attic of the home of the late Lyman Beecher is lifted off its Colonial post-and-beam structure in Litchfield, Conn., in 1998. Stored in pieces, the house where Harriet Beecher Stowe grew up is for sale on eBay.Sat, 12 Aug 2017 12:38:01 +0000