FINANCE: MEMIC to pays out $18 million in dividends

For the second year in a row, Portland-based insurer The MEMIC Group will issue an annual dividend of $18 million in November to employers who buy workers’ compensation insurance from the company.

The dividend announced Thursday matches MEMIC’s previous high in 2014 and represents more than 14 percent of the premiums paid by policyholders in 2012, the year upon which the dividend is based. The payments, which range up to $200,000, will be issued to more than 17,000 policy-holding companies in Maine. Read the story

Angel financing group ranks third in New England

The Maine Angels is one of the most active angel investment groups in the country, according to a recent national report on angel investment activity. The group, a collection of affluent individuals who pool their resources to invest in and mentor early-stage companies, was the third most active angel investment group in New England, ranked by cumulative deals closed between 2010 and the second quarter of 2015, according to the Halo Report. During that five-and-a-half year period, Maine Angels invested a total of $9.9 million in 47 companies, nearly half of which are in Maine, through the closure of 89 deals, according to the group’s data. Read the story.

No significant gains in personal income

Mainers’ personal income rose 0.9 percent in the second quarter of this year, matching the national average increase. The gain offset a 0.9 percent decline in the first three months of the year, according to a report by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis released Wednesday. Personal income includes net income; dividends, interest and rent; and transfer receipts, which covers payments such as Social Security, veterans benefits, aid to needy families, food stamps and other programs. Dividends, interest and rent rose sharply in Maine and nationally. In the state, the category saw a 1.5 percent increase from the first quarter, and nationally the increase was 1.8 percent. Read the story.

TOURISM: Nova Star numbers continue to slip

Nova Star Cruises reported lower passenger numbers for September than the same month last year, continuing a disappointing season. The operator of the Yarmouth, Nova Scotia-to-Portland route said it ferried 10,212 passengers during the month, down from the 11,135 passengers it ferried last year. U.S.-only passengers were up just over 7 percent for the year, but they weren’t enough to offset the drop in Canadian business. Overall, the service’s 48,012 passengers in 2015 reflect a 6.7 percent decline over last year. Nova Star officials had hoped to surpass 80,000 passengers in 2015. Contributing to the decline is a 40 percent drop in the number of Canadians using the service, attributable to the poor exchange rate, according to the company. Read the story

DEVELOPMENT: Distillery, ice rink plan Thompson Point operations

Stroudwater Spirits plans to open on Thompson’s Point next year, with a production facility, tasting room and space for private events. The distillery will lease a 5,000-square-foot space in the “Brick North” building of the development area, a former rail yard along the Fore River. Cellardoor Winery announced its plan in January to open a similarly sized tasting room at Thompson’s Point. Stroudwater Spirits plans to make small-batch bourbon, whiskey, vodka and gin on-site, and will be a newcomer in a growing field of craft distilleries in Maine. The site is also expected to be home to a public ice rink, opening around Thanksgiving. Plans call for a warming hut and bar. Read the story. Read the story.

RETAIL: Payment machines transitioning to chip-embedded cards

Thursday was the deadline for retailers who accept MasterCard and Visa to start using payment card readers that scan embedded microchips to avoid liability for fraudulent purchases. But businesses in Maine are in various stages of installing the new readers at checkout counters, and many consumers have yet to be issued the chip-embedded cards. The transition from using existing magnetic-strip readers that require consumers to swipe their card, to chip readers that require “dipping” the card into a slot, is taking time and money, said banking and retail representatives. Several large retailers such as Best Buy already have completed their Maine rollout of the chip readers, while others are modifying software before introducing them. Read the story

AGRICULTURE: Robust apple harvest expected through fall

Experts and apple orchard owners say a combination of factors are calling this a bumper year for apples. Apple trees tend to be cyclical, so this year’s higher yield follows a lighter harvest last year. Good spring and summer weather also played a role, although the warm late-summer conditions have pushed back the ripening for some popular varieties by a week or two. The value of Maine’s apple crop – worth roughly $13 million in 2013, the most recent figure available – is far below that of blueberries and potatoes, and pales in comparison to such apple-growing powerhouses as Washington and New York. But apples remain an important commodity, both for farmers and consumers, said Walter Whitcomb, commissioner of the Maine Department of Agriculture, Conservation and Forestry. Maine’s apple harvest reached a high of 47 million pounds in 2004. Read the story

MARKETING: Portland Downtown District changes name, logo

Portland Downtown District, which promotes the city’s downtown and Old Port areas, has adopted a new name and look. The organization will now be called Portland Downtown, executive director Casey Gilbert announced at a Thursday afternoon news conference at Post Office Park. As part of the rebranding, the organization’s website, portlandmaine.com, also got a redesign with new content and added features. Read the story

EDUCATION: Science center opens in SMCC

Southern Maine Community College dedicated the newest addition to its midcoast campus Thursday, a $4.5 million academic building partly paid for with donations from L.L. Bean. The L.L. Bean Learning Commons and Health Science Center in Brunswick has modern classrooms and labs, including high-tech mannequins used to simulate medical problems. The dedication coincided with an announcement by L.L. Bean board Chairman Shawn Gorman that the company will donate another $250,000 to be split between Preble Street and the Foundation for Maine’s Community Colleges in memory of Leon Gorman, former president and chairman, who died last month. The new building is intended to be the hub of the campus, which opened in 2011 on the grounds of the former Brunswick Naval Air Station. It has state-of-the-art classrooms and laboratories, large common areas, a cafe, advising offices, a library and study rooms, and is intended to serve the 600 students now enrolled at the campus. Read the story