Reform of tax credit bill dies in Legislature

A bill that could close a loophole in a state tax credit program that will send millions of Maine taxpayer dollars to out-of-state investors has fallen victim to political wrangling at the State House. The Republican-controlled Senate voted Tuesday morning to send the proposal to the Taxation Committee for further review. The move is at odds with the Democrat-controlled House, which on Monday advanced an amendment designed to prevent so-called “sham transactions” by halting the Maine New Markets Capital Investment program until it is vetted by the Legislature’s Government Oversight Committee. The disagreement between the Senate and House means that bill is dead and the loophole, the use of one-day loans within a program that offers tax credits to investors in businesses in low-income communities, will remain. A Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram investigation revealed that, in several instances, one-day loans were used to inflate the overall value of a deal in order to trigger more tax credits for the investors. The financing device was used in the 2012 deal designed to revitalize the Great Northern Paper mill in East Millinocket. That project, touted as a $40 million investment through the tax credit program, failed, resulting in the mill’s closure, the loss of more than 200 jobs and the bankruptcy of Great Northern Paper. Read the story.

Maine personal income bolstered by non-wage income

Maine’s average personal income growth outpaced that of the nation in the first quarter, led by a spike in income unrelated to wages, such as Social Security and Medicaid. Personal income in Maine was up 1.1 percent in the first quarter compared with the fourth quarter of 2014, according to estimates released Monday by the U.S. Bureau of Economic Analysis. Maine’s personal income growth was slightly higher than that of the nation, which had an overall increase of 0.9 percent in the first quarter. In Maine, personal income growth was led by a 2.2 percent increase in current transfer receipts, which represent money paid to individuals for Social Security, Medicare and Medicaid, public assistance, insurance benefits and other reasons not related to work. By comparison, workplace earnings increased just 0.9 percent in Maine. Nationally, current transfer receipts increased 2.1 percent in the first quarter, the largest increase in five years, according to the bureau. Transfer receipts reflected Social Security benefits, which increased 2.1 percent, that were boosted by a 1.7 percent cost-of-living adjustment. Read the story.

Paige elected chair of bankers group

Bradford Paige, president and CEO of Kennebunk Savings Bank, has been elected Maine Bankers Association’s chairman for the upcoming year, the association said Wednesday. Members of the bankers association voted for Paige at its annual meeting last week. Paige became president and CEO of Kennebunk Savings in 2009 after joining the bank in 1998 as a commercial loan officer and advancing to several other positions including chief financial officer. Read the story.


Hannaford parent company to merge with bigger European firm

A Dutch supermarket giant plans to buy the Belgian-based parent company of Hannaford Supermarkets. Royal Ahold intends to buy DelHaize Group for $29 billion by the middle of next year if regulators approve. Combined, the company would control about 5 percent of the U.S. grocery market. Officials at the Hannaford headquarters in Scarborough said they don’t expect shoppers will see any immediate changes as management intends to keep its subsidiaries operating under their own banners. Ahold operates the Stop & Shop franchise throughout New England. Hannaford is Maine’s biggest private employer with more than 7,500 employees. Read the story.

Some bottled water brands recalled

Some house brands of bottled water at Shaw’s and Hannaford stores are being recalled after E. coli bacteria was found in some of the bottler’s water supply. Shaw’s brand of bottled water and Hannaford’s Nature’s Place water are both bottled by Niagara Bottling Co. in Pennsylvania. E. coli bacteria was detected at one of the springs from which the company obtains water, although the company has said that no E. coli was detected in either the spring water delivered to its plants or in finished products. For information on how to read the product code to determine where and when it was bottled go to the Official Public Notice which can be seen in the consumer notice section of the website or call 888-943-4894. Read the story.


Growth of construction-related jobs lags

Maine is falling behind the rest of the nation in construction jobs, according to an industry trade group. Recent employment statistics from AGC America ranked Maine 48th in the country for construction job growth in May, the result of 700 fewer construction workers being employed at Maine companies compared to a year earlier. During the same time period, other New England states added jobs, AGC said, including 1,300 in New Hampshire, 4,700 in Massachusetts and 500 in Vermont. The downward trend continues a two-month slide, with Maine joining only 10 other states that experienced construction job losses, it said. Read the story.

Portland’s rents draw national attention

Portland had the second-biggest rise in rents among the country’s 100 biggest metropolitan areas, according to the latest data from Zillow, an online national real estate firm. The company released data Tuesday showing the year-over-year percentage increases in median rents for 862 metro areas in May. While rents rose 4.3 percent nationally, the median rent for the Portland area rose 17.4 percent, to $1,582 – $8 more than in Philadelphia and $38 less than in Chicago, according to Zillow’s data. The increase from last year in Portland was second among all metro areas, behind only Jackson, Mississippi, where rents went up 22.7 percent in a year. Read the story.


Butter maker receives $1 million award

A jury awarded Kate’s Homemade Butter owners Dan and Karen Patry more than $1 million in damages Tuesday in their lawsuit against Branch River Plastics, which they had accused of installing faulty roof panels on the new Kate’s facility in Arundel, according to a news release from the Patrys’ attorney. The award covers replacement costs incurred by the Patrys following the purchase and installation of roof panels on the new factory in Arundel, the release said. Before the construction was completed, the Patrys said they discovered the panels that were installed on the roof were not what they had been promised and were defective. The business, which produces more than 1 million pounds of butter a year, had to move out of its home-based location in an Old Orchard Beach neighborhood where it had operated since 1981. Because of the public pressure to move their business quickly, the Patrys decided to remove and replace the roof panel system in order to ensure the long-term operation and overall safety of their new facility in Arundel, according to the release. Read the story.


Cell company gets financing to extend coverage in Down East

A Portland telecommunications company won approval for a $3.4 million loan to extend enhanced cellphone coverage in Down East Maine. The loan was acquired through Mechanics Savings Bank and insured by the Finance Authority of Maine, according to a news release from FAME. The company, which designs, builds, owns and operates enhanced 4G LTE cellular networks, is veteran-owned and qualified for Pinetree Development Zone certification. It has already invested $1 million in Washington County and eastern Hancock County as a partner with Verizon Wireless. Read the story.


Maine officials to go to Nova Scotia for ferry talks

Officials from Nova Scotia said Thursday that they are pleased with the amount of cooperation they have received from Gov. Paul LePage’s administration following a meeting to discuss the ferry service between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, with the governor and several of his Cabinet members. They all agreed Maine will send a delegation to Nova Scotia as quickly as possible to discuss in more detail how the province and state can support the Nova Star ferry, said Geoff MacLellan, the Nova Scotia minister of transportation. MacLellan said Maine and Nova Scotia can both do more to develop marketing efforts that promote the ferry and its ports of call on each end of the route. The delegation also said they are dropping any interest in making Bar Harbor the destination for the ferry, rather than Portland. Read the story.