AOL founder looking to invest in Portland startup

Steve Case, the well-known investor and co-founder of America Online, will be traveling to Portland this fall to highlight – and potentially invest in – the area’s entrepreneurs. Case is scheduled to arrive in Portland on Oct. 2 as part of his national Rise of the Rest bus tour, designed to highlight startups and entrepreneurs in a diverse array of “rising” startup cities. During his daylong visit, Case will meet with local entrepreneurs, businesses, public officials and other stakeholders in Portland’s entrepreneurial community to discuss the opportunities and challenges of fostering startup growth. He’ll also host a pitch competition open to the public in which a local startup will receive a $100,000 investment.

SBA awards $150,000 to help Maine startups start up, run

The U.S. Small Business Administration on Tuesday announced it would provide $150,000 in grants to help support entrepreneurship in Maine. The Maine Center for Entrepreneurial Development and the Environmental & Energy Technology Council of Maine, known as E2Tech, will each receive $50,000 to help support their efforts, while the SBA will also provide $50,000 to the city of Rockland to help it develop online tools to streamline the permitting process for entrepreneurs starting businesses. MCED and E2Tech are among 80 organizations nationwide, out of a field of 400 applicants, to win grants through the 2015 SBA Growth Accelerator Fund competition, which funds operating budgets for startups in parts of the country where there is less access to conventional sources of capital. The SBA selected Rockland to receive one of only 25 grants as part of its Startup in a Day initiative to encourage municipalities to make it easier for entrepreneurs to navigate the permitting and business-licensing process for new small businesses. It is the only municipality in Maine to receive the award.


Residency program to lure foreign investors considered

The LePage administration is considering establishing a state-run program that would help Maine businesses lure foreign investors by giving those investors permanent U.S. residency. Maine would be the third state, after Vermont and Michigan, to create such a program, which allows foreign nationals to obtain a green card if they invest in projects that create jobs. The investment program, called EB-5, was authorized by Congress in 1990 but never successfully implemented in Maine. It gives visas to individuals who invest $1 million, or $500,000 for investments in rural regions or those with high unemployment. The administration’s interest in the program emerged after a group of Chinese investors announced plans to convert a dilapidated shoe factory in Auburn into a health and wellness hotel aligned with Central Maine Medical Center in Lewiston.

Portland entrepreneur launches investment book

Bobby Monks Jr., a longtime Portland investor, developer and serial entrepreneur, was in New York City last week stumping for a book he’s written that criticizes the Wall Street investment community and offers an alternative called collective investment partnerships. “Uninvested: How Wall Street Hijacks Your Money and How to Fight Back” was released Tuesday by publisher Portfolio/Penguin. In it, Monks criticizes brokers, investment firms, big banks and others who have unnecessarily complicated investments as a means to collect excessive fees.

Digital gift card company CashStar raises $15 million

CashStar, the Portland-based pioneer in the digital gift card industry, has raised $15 million that will allow it to hire more people and continue to grow its business. The company, which moved into new offices on Pearl Street last year, provides digital gift cards and incentive programs to a wide array of high-profile national retail businesses, including Starbucks, Banana Republic and Williams-Sonoma. It currently employs roughly 125 people, the vast majority of whom are located in the company’s Portland headquarters, according to Ben Kaplan, CashStar’s CEO. The fresh infusion of $15 million, which brings to $50 million the total venture capital the company has raised since its 2007 launch, will allow the company to invest in product development and client services, Kaplan said.


Brunswick hospital pledges no service cuts despite loss

Parkview Adventist Medical Center, the Brunswick hospital that filed for bankruptcy protection in June, will not close or cut off services despite the unexpected loss of its federal Medicare reimbursements about six weeks ago, according to the hospital’s president. The federal Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services, which administers the federal health care subsidy programs, has refused to provide Medicare reimbursements to Parkview since mid-June, when the hospital closed its emergency department as part of a proposed bankruptcy sale to former rival Mid Coast Health Services. In July, the loss of Medicare reimbursements cost Parkview $300,000, according to hospital President Randee Reynolds. The impact won’t be on the availability of health care services at the facility, but will affect how much money will be available to Parkview’s unsecured creditors once the bankruptcy sale is complete, said Reynolds. The hospital’s top 20 unsecured creditors are owed more than $1 million, and the hospital listed total liabilities in its bankruptcy filing at between $10 million and $50 million.


Analysts surprised, unions skeptical at FairPoint profit

Maine’s largest telephone company says cost-cutting measures in a new labor agreement that slashed employee benefits after a four-month strike helped it achieve its most profitable quarter since it emerged from bankruptcy in 2011. FairPoint Communications Inc. surprised industry analysts Wednesday by reporting a $40.3 million profit for the second quarter of this year. Excluding the first quarter of 2011, when FairPoint wrote off more than $1 billion in debt after emerging from bankruptcy, it was just the second profitable quarter in five years. The Charlotte, North Carolina-based telecommunications company reported net income of $1.49 per share for the second quarter. The consensus among analysts had been that the company would report a $1.20 per share loss, according to A representative for the labor union that initiated the four-month strike which ended in February said he looks “skeptically” at the profit figure, which the company said was driven by a 34 percent reduction in operating expenses.