CEI’s founder and CEO plans to resign next year

Ronald Phillips will resign next year from his role as president and CEO of Coastal Enterprises Inc., the nonprofit community development corporation he founded in midcoast Maine in 1977. CEI, as it’s commonly known, invests in and financially supports businesses and residents in low-income communities. Phillips will step down in July 2016 to spend more time with family and pursue other interests. Betsy Biemann, vice chair of CEI’s board and a former president of the Maine Technology Institute, will lead the committee searching for Phillip’s replacement. Read the story.


Anthem’s new benefit: free degrees for workers

Anthem Inc. announced Tuesday that it will make an associate or bachelor’s degree available to employees at no cost through a partnership with College for America, an online program offered by Southern New Hampshire University. The new benefit, a supplement to Anthem’s current college reimbursement program, is available to any full-time or part-time Anthem employee who works 20 or more hours per week and has been employed at least six months, according to a release from Anthem. The reimbursement plan allows those employees to get up to $5,000 tuition reimbursement a year attending any college. The health insurance company employs more than 800 people in Maine. Read the story.

Bath Iron Works, union hold arbitration hearing

Bath Iron Works and its largest union met in their first arbitration hearing May 29, trying to settle a dispute over cost-cutting measures the shipbuilder wants to implement to become more competitive. The conflict between the parties arose late last year when the company floated a plan to reduce costs by outsourcing the manufacturing of some items, followed by a proposal to ask unionized workers to be more flexible about doing tasks not currently assigned to their trade. The company, which is owned by defense giant General Dynamics, says these changes are necessary to allow it to compete for future work, including a major Coast Guard contract that will go out to bid next year. The largest union at the Bath shipyard, Local S6 of the Industrial Union of Marine and Shipbuilding Workers of America, opposes both proposals. On April 2, the company informed the union that it planned to go ahead with its changes over the union’s opposition, and demanded arbitration. The arbitration hearing was conducted behind closed doors and both parties have agreed to a “media blackout” until the process is complete. Read the story.


Group pushes to expand passenger rail service

Citing an opportunity to spur economic development, a coalition that includes rail advocates, municipal officials and the Sierra Club pushed for expanded passenger rail service in Maine on Tuesday, arguing before lawmakers the economic and environmental benefits of public transit. The group is rallying around three bills: a $25 million bond to upgrade rail infrastructure; a bill that allocates $500,000 to study extending passenger service to Auburn and Lewiston; and a bill that allows communities to work together to borrow or raise money for transportation projects. No one spoke against the measures in public hearings Tuesday. Read the story.

Maine airports receive $2 million in FAA grants

Seven Maine airports were awarded federal grants totaling more than $2 million from the Federal Aviation Administration to be used for general improvements and safety enhancements. Bangor International Airport will receive $1.2 million to fund the replacement of a portion of the floors, ceiling, electrical and heating/ventilation systems in the terminal; Brunswick Executive Airport will receive $150,000 to improve the runway; Northern Maine Regional Airport in Presque Isle will receive $250,000 to improve the runway; Belfast Municipal Airport will receive $176,850 to fund an environmental assessment related to future runway construction; Wiscasset Airport will receive $100,000 to acquire snow removal equipment; Biddeford Municipal Airport will receive $191,212 to fund an environmental assessment related to removing runway obstructions; and Houlton International Airport will receive $121,500 fund an update to the airport master plan. Read the story.

Downeaster expects drop in revenue, riders

The Downeaster is expected to carry 57,000 fewer riders and take in $1 million less in revenue this fiscal year than in the prior 12 months because of bad winter weather and problems with an ongoing track rehabilitation project that is forcing the cancellation of hundreds of runs, according to the agency that runs the passenger service. Amtrak normally offers five northbound and five southbound passenger trips daily between Portland and Boston, but has canceled three in each direction every weekday from last Friday through June 19. The authority also has canceled the same number of trains for the next two weekends. The trains that do run are expected to be delayed by an hour, according to the Downeaster website. “This is not the way anyone wanted the project to go,” said Patricia Quinn, executive director of the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority, which oversees the Downeaster. “It has been devastating.” Read the story.


MaineToday Media under new ownership

Maine’s largest media company changed hands Monday when a company led by Reade Brower of Camden, a media executive and entrepreneur, bought the assets of MaineToday Media from Donald Sussman, the Maine financier and philanthropist who rescued the company from insolvency in 2012. The sale, for an undisclosed sum, marks the fourth ownership change in 17 years. Brower said his focus now is to build on the foundation established by Sussman and position the company for long-term sustainability. The properties include three daily newspapers – the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, the Morning Sentinel in Waterville and the Kennebec Journal in Augusta – the weekly Coastal Journal in Bath, the papers’ various websites and mainetoday.com, the arts and entertainment website. Read the story.


Shaw’s plans to close Biddeford store in July

Shaw’s plans to close its supermarket in Biddeford by early next month. The store, which employs 90 people, informed employees of the closing Tuesday. The Biddeford store is the only one being closed in Maine, and the chain said it would try to offer jobs at other Shaw’s supermarkets to laid-off employees. Nearby communities with stores include Sanford, Saco, Scarborough, South Portland, Portland and Falmouth. Shaw’s operates 21 stores in Maine and employs 2,000 to 2,500 people, making it the state’s 11th-largest private employer. It is one of the oldest continuously operating supermarket chains in the country, dating to 1860, when George C. Shaw opened his first store in Portland. Read the story.


Wireless broadband service launches in Maine

A telecom startup unveiled on Wednesday a plan to use wireless technology to provide speedy broadband Internet service to 90 percent of Mainers by 2017. Redzone Wireless, a Camden-based Internet service provider, already has begun offering wireless residential and commercial broadband service in its first three coverage areas: Portland, Waterville and Great Diamond Island. It is doing so using 4G LTE technology, which to date has been used primarily for cellphones. While hundreds of cellphones and other mobile devices use 4G LTE technology through the cellular networks, Redzone is the first company in the country to use 4G LTE to offer broadband Internet service to homes and businesses. Read the story.


Condo conversion planned for four Old Port buildings

A local businessman wants to rehabilitate the upper floors of four buildings at 10 Exchange St. in the Old Port and convert them into new residences. Materials submitted to the city’s Historic Preservation Board indicate the third and fourth floors will be converted into condominiums. As recently as 2009, the upper portion of 10 Exchange, also known as 7 Fox Court, housed 24 apartments. However, the city prohibited occupancy six years ago because the fire alarms and sprinkler systems were not working. While the first floor businesses were allowed to reopen after a short time, the upper floors have been vacant ever since. Read the story.