LABOR

BIW workers rally to protest proposed changes

Several hundred disgruntled Bath Iron Works employees marched outside the Bath shipyard Thursday to protest cost-cutting measures the company wants to implement. The union members were protesting the company’s proposal to reduce costs by outsourcing the manufacturing of some items and asking workers to be more flexible about doing tasks not currently assigned to their trade. The company, which is owned by General Dynamics, says these changes are necessary to allow it to compete for future work, including a $10 billion Coast Guard contract that will go out to bid next year. The dispute has landed in court and before an arbitrator, where decisions are expected in the next several weeks. BIW management has maintained that if the shipyard doesn’t get the Coast Guard contract in 2016, it would have to cut at least 1,000 jobs in the coming years. Read the story.

Survey: Ready workforce most compelling asset for job creators

The presence of a healthy labor market made up of skilled and educated workers was the most important consideration of 21 employers who created jobs in Maine during the past year, according to companies that participated in a Portland Press Herald job-creation survey. Next to finding the right workers, access to high-speed Internet service and being close to customers were tied for second in a ranking of concerns and values for these job creators. The survey respondents created 344 jobs over the past year. None of the survey respondents identified energy costs as their top concern in deciding whether to hire new workers or locate in Maine and only one flagged taxes as the most important factor. Taken together, the survey findings run counter to the economic development priorities of Gov. Paul LePage, who has made tax relief and lower energy costs the cornerstones of his efforts to lure “job creators” to Maine. Read the story.

Women rise to fore in family-owned businesses

Nationally, the share of family-owned businesses headed by women has increased sixfold since 1997 when only 5 percent of such businesses had a woman in the top executive role. By 2014, that share had increased to 30 percent, according to the Family Firm Institute, a Boston-based trade association for family-owned businesses. Over the next 20 years, daughters are expected to eclipse sons as the go-to offspring for taking over the family business, it said. Maine’s family-owned business community is dominated by companies with male top executives, but more women have been rising through the ranks, said Catherine Wygant Fossett, executive director of the Portland-based Institute for Family-Owned Business, which hosted its 2015 Maine Family Business Awards ceremony Monday night. Of the institute’s more than 65 member businesses, eight are led by women – about 12 percent. Even so, Wygant Fossett said 40 to 50 women regularly participate in the institute’s training and leadership-development programs. Read the story.

TECHNOLOGY

New uses envisioned for Maine’s forests

Maine’s trees can be used to make much more than paper, a fact that offers a potentially bright future for Maine’s forest products industry if the right pieces fall into place. That was the message Tuesday morning at an event in Portland hosted by E2Tech, an organization that supports Maine’s environmental, energy and clean technology sectors. The event also served as an introduction to Biobased Maine, a re-imagined organization supporting efforts to encourage research and development in new technologies that enable manufacturers to turn Maine’s most abundant natural resource – trees – into biobased fuels, chemicals and advanced materials. Developing technologies can extract high-value biobased chemicals, fuels and materials from wood pulp, which can then be used in clothing, coatings, adhesives, industrial chemicals and structural components. The organization says global demand for biofuels is projected to increase from $82.7 billion in 2011 to $185.3 billion by 2021. Read the story.

ECONOMY

Perception and reality confound economic forecast

The unemployment rate is falling, stock prices are soaring and energy is as cheap as it has been in years, so why does the U.S. economy still feel like it’s on life support? Kenneth Entenmann, senior vice president and chief investment officer at Norwich, New York-based NBT Bank, offered several reasons for the seeming paradox at a meeting of area business professionals in Portland Tuesday. It’s not really a paradox when you dig a bit under the surface, he said. Among the factors: unemployment is low, but so is wage growth; large corporations are hoarding cash; there is a shortage of liquidity in the bond market; and U.S. stocks in general appear to be overvalued, which could lead to a painful market adjustment. Read the story.

TRANSPORTATION

Uber expands service area in Maine

Mobile app-based car service Uber is expanding up and down the coast of Maine to Bar Harbor, Ogunquit, Old Orchard Beach and Kennebunk, the company said Thursday. The service begins operating in those communities at 5 p.m. Friday, the company said. The expansion includes more than 15 other beach communities along the East Coast, the San Francisco-based company said. Read the story.

Maine motorists slow to respond to recall

Despite issuing the largest auto recall in history, makers of Takata Corp. airbags are seeing a subdued response from Maine motorists. Complicating the recall of 34 million airbags is an incomplete list of the makes and models affected, and a paucity of replacement parts. Federal safety officials have asked people to go online and enter their Vehicle Identification Number into a database to find out if their car is affected. However, that website temporarily went dark this week when it was apparently flooded with traffic. Local dealerships say Mainers so far are only trickling into car dealerships to have the units fixed. Read the story.

TRADE

China dominates annual trade conference

Members of some of China’s largest banks and one of the country’s top diplomats took center stage Thursday at the annual Maine International Trade Center conference, touting China as an increasingly important trade partner and Maine as a strong candidate for Chinese investment. Zhang Qiyue, the Chinese Consul General in New York, reassured representatives from Maine’s export community that the middle class in China continues to expand and offer new markets for Maine-sourced products, particularly lobster. Lobster sales to China jumped from zero in 2007 to $21.4 million in 2014, making China the top destination for Maine lobster outside North America. While China’s pace of growth has been slowing, Zhang said, its GDP is nevertheless expanding by about 7 percent this year. Zhang told the gathering of 350 people at the Samoset Resort that China will add 600 million middle-class people over the next 30 years. Representatives from five Chinese banks said they were looking for investment opportunities in the state, particularly in food production and transportation infrastructure. Read the story.


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