TRADE: Officials spar over mill subsidy

Members of Maine’s congressional delegation are pressing Canadian officials over what they see as unfair subsidies awarded to a Nova Scotia paper mill that allows it to undercut its Madison, Maine, competitor. In a Jan. 13 letter to members of Maine’s congressional delegation, Madison Paper President Russ Drechsel cited high energy costs and unfair government subsidies provided to Port Hawkesbury Paper in Nova Scotia as reasons for the temporary shutdown of his mill. In response, Maine’s congressional delegation has been working with U.S. officials – including sending a plea to the secretary of commerce – to stop what they have deemed unfair trade practices in Canada. Industry analysts say the real culprit is declining demand for the glossy paper made at both mills, but if the $125 million the Port Hawkesbury mill received from its government is deemed a subsidy, the U.S. could charge higher duties on the Port Hawkesbury paper coming into the state. Read the story here

Icelandic shipping company increases service

Icelandic shipping line Eimskip is increasing its frequency of calls to Portland from once every two weeks to once every 12 days. Company officials say the line is on track to reach a goal of weekly service by 2020, a benchmark that would better serve manufacturers. Eimskip also is adding two new stops on its route between Iceland and Portland – one in Emmingham, England, and Rotterdam, The Netherlands. The company moved its headquarters from Norfolk, Virginia, to Portland in 2013. Portland is now the company’s only port of call in the United States. Eimskip vessels that call on Portland also call on Halifax, Nova Scotia, and Argentia, Newfoundland. Read the story here

FINANCING: LePage tax plan delivers relief to many

A Maine Sunday Telegram analysis of Gov. Paul LePage’s tax plan, which would reduce state income tax and increase sales and use taxes, shows most Mainers would see a reduction in their annual tax burden. The outlier in the analysis is what happens to property taxes, which are set by municipalities. Anticipating less state revenue, many towns would have to increase property taxes to maintain services. LePage’s plan allows for the taxing of some nonprofits as a means to recover some of the anticipated loss in municipal revenue. Lawmakers will begin negotiating provisions of the governor’s budget soon. Read the story here.

GENERAL BUSINESS: Weathervane closes three Maine restaurants

Citing a poor regional economy, family members who operate the Weathervane Restaurant chain decided to close three locations in Maine and one in New Hampshire. The chains’ flagship restaurant in Kittery will remain open. Five other locations in New Hampshire will also remain open. The business, established in 1969, specializes in seafood. Read the story here

Lewiston high-tech manufacturer gets new owner

Anania & Associates Investment Co. in Portland acquired Elmet Technologies, one of Lewiston’s largest private employers. The company’s 200-person workforce in Lewiston manufactures components made from molybdenum and tungsten that have applications in numerous products, including semiconductors, LED lights, medical imaging devices, military munitions and aerospace components. The investment firm, which has other high-tech manufacturers in its portfolio, said it sees growth potential for Elmet because of the company’s expertise. The deal between Anania & Associates and New Hampshire-based Liberty Lane Partners closed Jan. 23. Terms were not disclosed. Read the story here

Snow adds another layer to business as usual

A blizzard that dumped more than 2 feet of snow throughout the region Tuesday also lifted many businesses dependent on the flaky stuff for survival. Ski resort operators were delighted, but their peers in the cross country ski and snowmobiling industries were more so, since they’d been enduring a mediocre season to date. Grocers, too, reported a mad dash of shoppers stocking up on storm-survival supplies. A paucity of power outages meant many businesses continued normal operations, albeit many with their employees working remotely from home. Another storm Friday continued to make normal business operations challenging. Read the story here

Cross Insurance brands Gillette Stadium

Bangor-based Cross Insurance is deepening its ties with the New England Patriots with a new pavilion to be opened this summer at the NFL team’s home in Foxborough, Massachusetts. Officials at Gillette Stadium, the home of the Patriots, said Wednesday that the Cross Insurance Pavilion and Business Center will be built inside the Bank of America entrance on the west side of the stadium. The 20,000-square-foot facility can be rented year-round and includes an outdoor terrace and connection to the stadium’s lower-level seating area, along with a meeting space inside the building. Cross Insurance is the official insurance broker of the Patriots. Read the story here

Co-location space in central Maine explored

The founder of co-location work spaces in Portland and Yarmouth met with a group of Chamber executives Monday in Waterville to explore the possibility of creating co-location work space in that city. Patrick Roche, who helped develop Think Tank in Portland, said he was interested in bringing the shared workspace concept to the Waterville area. The office space arrangement is often favored by startup entrepreneurs because they can share costs of rent, Internet access, administrative support and other services while benefiting from the energy of a collaborative workplace. A bill to provide up to $25,000 in grant money to set up co-location work space has been submitted to the Legislature. Read the story here 

VC community mourns loss of Moore

Charles “Kip” Moore, described as “the dean of venture capital in Maine,” died of cancer Monday. A Scarborough resident, Moore, 71, was one of the first angel investors in Maine Angels, which provides early stage financing to startups. Moore was an investor in several Maine-based companies, including Tilson Technology, The VIA Group and Harbor Technologies. He was an early supporter of Liquid Wireless, a Portland-based mobile marketing company that was purchased by Publisher’s Clearing House in 2012. Tim Agnew, a former chief officer at the Finance Authority of Maine and principal at Masthead Venture Partners, praised Moore for his commitment to Maine’s entrepreneurial community, and conferred on him the title of dean. Read the story here

ENERGY: UMF trustees endorse wood-fired power plant

Tired of waiting for construction of a natural gas pipeline to the Farmington campus, trustees of the University of Maine approved an $11 million project to build a wood chip-fueled power plant on the campus. The project is expected to reduce the campus’ dependence on oil, resulting in a 95 percent reduction of its fossil fuel consumption. Construction costs of the new power plant are expected to be recouped through energy savings within 10 years. School officials expected a contract with Summit Natural Gas for a pipeline that would supply a natural gas power plant, but construction delays scuttled the deal. Read the story here

LEGAL: Supermarket action had greater impact on older workers

The Maine Human Rights Commission agreed on Monday with three women who claimed they were discriminated against because of their age when Shaw’s laid off hundreds of full-time workers in New England three years ago. The commission ruled that the chain’s actions in 2012 had a disparate impact on older workers, who made up the bulk of the full-time employees. The commission voted unanimously that the company discriminated against the three workers who filed claims because the policy decision to lay off only full-time workers primarily affected older employees. In a separate unanimous vote, the commission rejected a claim that the company engaged in age discrimination in its treatment of the three. Under Maine law, the commission can differentiate between treating someone in a discriminatory way and enacting policies that result in discrimination. A lawyer representing the women said he will try to negotiate a settlement with Shaw’s. Read the story here