Nova Scotia officials look for answers in Maine

A delegation from Nova Scotia will travel to Maine this week to find out the state’s interest in supporting the Nova Star ferry operation, and to ask why Maine never came through on an anticipated $5 million loan for the service. Nova Scotia Transportation Minister Geoff MacLellan said he wants to meet “face-to-face” with Gov. Paul LePage on Thursday to hear his account of what happened with the loan, which has become a contentious political issue in Nova Scotia. Many of the province’s residents are upset that Nova Scotia is subsidizing the ferry service without any help from Maine, and accuse LePage of failing to make good on his 2013 offer to help the ferry operator obtain a $5 million line of credit from a Maine bank, according numerous letters to editors, comments on social media and calls to radio talk shows. The state has pursued financing options for Nova Star, but has not found a willing bank to finance the deal. Read the story.

VC deals signal robust investment quarter

Six companies in Maine received venture capital funding during the first quarter of 2015, representing the most VC deals closed in Maine in any single quarter since 1998, according to a national report. The six deals poured nearly $17.8 million into Maine companies in the software, information technology and telecommunications industries, according to the MoneyTree Report from PricewaterhouseCoopers and the National Venture Capital Association. The report is prepared using self-reported data collected by Thomson Reuters. That many deals in a single quarter hasn’t happened since the fourth quarter of 1998, when seven deals closed, but for a total of $7 million. Read the story.

Tax credit funds replenished for CEI

CEI Capital Management, the for-profit arm of economic development group Coastal Enterprise Inc., has been allocated $55 million in federal New Markets tax credits. The U.S. Treasury announced the allocation Monday in a news release. Portland-based CEI Capital Management is one of dozens of intermediary agencies that administer the tax credit program for the federal government. The firm is expected to use the money for economic development projects that create opportunity in rural, low-income communities across the nation. Since 2004, CEI Capital Management has placed nearly $900 million in federal tax credits to 88 projects across the country. Read the story.

New trust company eyed for Portland

Androscoggin Bank has applied for regulatory approval to spin off its trust department into a separate entity called Portland Trust Co., which would have offices in Portland and Lewiston. The bank is in the process of notifying clients that it hopes to shift their business to the new company, which would have the same staff along with two additional wealth-management professionals Androscoggin has hired. Androscoggin created its existing trust department in 1993. A trust company helps its clients manage their wealth, such as by setting up and administering trusts. Clients are often those with a high net worth. Although the bank is based in Lewiston, it chose the name Portland Trust to distinguish it as a separate brand. Read the story.

Student loan agency merges into FAME

A state agency that provides private student loan financing will merge with the agency that oversees most other forms of college financial aid. Gov. Paul LePage said Tuesday that he has signed the law to merge the Maine Educational Loan Authority and the Finance Authority of Maine. The merger will take effect 90 days after the Legislature adjourns. LePage said the merger will give Maine students and families “one-stop shopping” for college financing. MELA offers private student loan financing and FAME, a semi-independent state agency, oversees higher education loans, loan repayments, grants and college savings programs in the state. The boards of the two agencies supported the merger. Read the story.


Maple production strong despite frigid winter

Colder-than-normal temperatures shortened the Northeast’s maple sugaring season this year, but overall syrup production in the U.S. managed to stay strong, according to the United States Department of Agriculture. Maple syrup production was up 6.3 percent this season from a year ago, the agency said in a report released last week, and an increase in the number of taps collecting sap from the trees likely contributed to the boost. The number of taps was up 4 percent, while yields per tap rose 2 percent nationally. The country produced 3.4 million gallons of maple syrup in 2015, with Vermont – the country’s largest maple producer – yielding about 40 percent of the total, or 1.3 million gallons. New York produced 601,000 gallons, followed by Maine at 553,000 gallons. Read the story.


Parkview to reorganize, merge with Mid Coast

After a prolonged battle for patients in the midcoast area, Parkview Adventist Medical Center has filed for bankruptcy and intends to merge with its former rival, Mid Coast Health Services of Brunswick. Parkview said Tuesday that its Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, which allows it to reorganize under court protection from creditors, includes a plan to merge with Mid Coast. The two hospitals for years have vied for leadership in the Brunswick, Bath and Topsham region, and in its filing, Parkview suggested that Mid Coast has been winning more patients. Under the proposal, inpatient and emergency services will be consolidated at the Mid Coast campus at Cook’s Corner. The Parkview campus will be the base for the combined operations’ doctors’ practices; walk-in clinic; radiology, laboratory, ambulatory testing and surgery units; oncology, hematology and infusion services; and physical, occupational and speech therapy services. Parkview closed its emergency department and acute inpatient care on Thursday and transferred those services to Mid Coast. Read the story.

Health care facilities connect to high-speed network

More than 100 of Maine’s hospitals and health care facilities are now connected by a new private telecommunications network that will allow physicians at the most rural facilities to provide a higher level of patient care. The New England Telehealth Consortium, based in Bangor, recently reached a milestone when it connected its 300th facility, Sebasticook Family Doctors in Newport, to the network. That means that the physicians at Sebasticook Family Doctors now have a more reliable and secure data network to access specialists at hospitals from Portland to Los Angeles, or share high-resolution MRI scans with experts as far away as Australia. The consortium has 85 health care systems that operate 325 facilities throughout Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont. It has 108 sites in Maine. Read the story.


Downeaster wins final permit for layover yard

State regulators have awarded the last remaining permit needed for construction to start on a $12.7 million layover facility for Amtrak trains in Brunswick. The Maine Department of Environmental Protection on Tuesday approved the stormwater management plan submitted by the Northern New England Passenger Rail Authority. The stormwater plan had received preliminary approval about two weeks ago. Regulators concluded that existing berms, ditches and adjacent railroad tracks would prevent significant amounts of stormwater runoff from flowing toward abutters, and that the groundwater at the site generally flows toward a nearby stream and not to an adjacent neighborhood. However, the group that represents the neighborhood said Tuesday it plans to appeal the decision. Read the story.