REAL ESTATE & DEVELOPMENT: Midtown project revived following negotiations

The city of Portland and the Florida developer of the “midtown” project have negotiated an agreement that will allow the 440-unit residential and commercial development in the Bayside neighborhood to move forward.

The announcement comes more than three months after the nearly $100 million development deal appeared ready to implode when the developer suggested it could build hotels on a portion of the property instead of housing.

The city responded by announcing that the developer’s agreement had expired, citing a provision in the contract that gave the city the option to cancel the deal if Federated Cos. did not take possession of the property within a specific time frame.

After weeks of intense discussions, Federated has agreed to back away from any hotel proposal in favor of constructing the mixture of apartments and commercial retail space approved by city planners in April. Read the story.

Land trust finds way to buy Augusta acreage

The Kennebec Land Trust purchased 164 wooded acres behind the State House in Augusta.

Land trust officials closed on the property, known as Howard Hill, last week and plan to eventually give it to the city to be preserved.

The transaction occurred without $337,500 in voter-approved bonds, which has been held up by Gov. Paul LePage, who has refused to release Land for Maine’s Future bond money until the Legislature approves a plan to increase harvesting on public lands.

To make up the shortfall, the land trust took out a loan from Kennebec Savings Bank. Read the story.

TRADE: Tariffs on imported paper seen as double-edged sword

The U.S. Department of Commerce is slapping a stiff duty on Canadian imports of glossy paper, providing some breathing room for Maine’s struggling paper mills.

The move could come with a cost, however, because two of the four Canadian companies targeted by the tariff have operations in Maine. Gov. Paul LePage has said the government’s action could threaten 1,200 jobs in the state.

The International Trade Commission, which is part of the Commerce Department, said Wednesday that Canadian mills that produce supercalendered paper are receiving unfair subsidies, and that buyers will now have to pay a duty of between 17.87 percent and 20.18 percent for paper imported from mills in Canada.

Two of the affected companies – Irving and Catalyst – employ more than 1,000 people in Maine and have not received subsidies similar to what other Canadian papermakers received. Maine’s senators and governor pushed for the trade commission to investigate Catalyst and Irving separately, but the agency declined and imposed the tariffs across the board. Read the story.

Port management group recruits veterans, merchant mariners

A Portland-based trade group representing port and terminal executives hopes to help remedy a worker shortage by recruiting and cross-training professionals with related skills such as those developed while working on merchant ships or in the military.

Leaders of the International Association of Maritime and Port Executives say their industry is actively seeking armed forces veterans and merchant mariners skilled in logistics – the process of planning, implementing and controlling procedures for the efficient and effective transportation and storage of goods.

The association has scheduled a free seminar Oct. 27 in Portland for veterans and mariners. The goal is to attract workers who have recently transitioned out of the military or are interested in switching from a career on ships to one based on land. Read the story.

BANKING: Merger creates state’s largest community bank

The merger of The Bank of Maine into Camden National Bank was completed Friday, creating Maine’s largest community bank, with 64 branches, $3.6 billion in assets and about 700 employees.

Customers will begin to see the transitioning of Bank of Maine’s 24 branches to the new Camden National brand starting Monday.

As a result of the acquisition, Camden National is laying off 35 employees, about 5 percent of its combined workforce, said CEO Greg Dufour. It is also closing four Camden National branches – one in Gardiner, two in Augusta and one in Kennebunk – that are redundant under the merger.

No retail branch employees will lose their jobs, Dufour said. Read the story.

ENERGY: Opponents line up for proposed gas terminal

Residents urged city councilors Wednesday night to fight a proposed liquefied propane depot at Rigby Yard in South Portland and force NGL Supply Terminal Co. to look for another site.

While city officials promised to shepherd the NGL proposal through a rigorous review in the coming weeks, councilors considered enacting a six-month moratorium to allow thorough study of the depot’s potential public safety, economic, environmental and legal impacts.

NGL wants to build a propane depot at Rigby Yard to replace its existing terminal on Commercial Street in Portland, where the state is expanding the International Marine Terminal. The proposal is on track for a Planning Board hearing in December at the earliest and NGL needs to leave the Portland site before spring. Read the story.

Portland power company opens Quebec subsidiary

Ocean Renewable Power Co. in Portland, which develops and installs hydrokinetic energy systems, has opened a subsidiary in Montreal.

Énergies Marines Renouvelables Québécoises Inc., or EMARQ, will operate as a wholly-owned subsidiary of ORPC and work collaboratively with Quebec officials and organizations to install power generation systems in river and tidal environments.

The first planned project is in Quebec’s Plan Nord, region, according to a release from the company. Read the story.

Natural gas pipeline inspections ordered by PUC

Summit Natural Gas of Maine has been ordered by state regulators to check hundreds of pipeline fittings that may have been installed improperly by three of its subcontractors that worked on the company’s pipeline network in central Maine.

The company has agreed to finish the inspections of its pipeline system by Dec. 31, according to a mitigation plan filed with the Maine Public Utilities Commission.

Kurt Adams, president and CEO of Colorado-based Summit Utilities, said inspection work would conclude a problematic chapter of Summit’s 2013 and 2014 building seasons. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS: WEX acquires Nebraska health care tech company

WEX Inc., the South Portland-based payment technology company, on Thursday said it will acquire a health care billing software company in Nebraska for $80 million.

The acquisition marks another milestone in the company’s evolution from a provider of payment services for businesses with vehicle fleets to a larger player in the broader payment technology space, especially in the travel industry and billion-dollar health care space.

WEX expects its acquisition of Omaha-based Benaissance, which has been approved by both companies’ boards but still subject to certain regulatory approvals, to close in the fourth quarter of 2015. Read the story.

UMaine’s Dagher recognized by White House

The White House recognized a University of Maine director for his innovation in the world of composites.

Habib Dagher, founding director of the University of Maine’s Advanced Structures and Composites Center, was recognized Tuesday as a 2015 White House Transportation Champion of Change, according to a news release from the university.

Dagher is the primary inventor of the award-winning composite arch bridge system known as the “Bridge-in-a-Backpack” and the architect of the university’s off-shore wind project, VolturnUS.

At the event, Secretary of Transportation Anthony Foxx recognized 11 of the nation’s top transportation innovators for their exemplary leadership in advancing transportation and leading change that benefits the nation’s transportation system. Read the story.

Midcoast retailers eyed for plastic bag ban

A group of Brunswick and Topsham residents launched a campaign Tuesday to have businesses begin charging shoppers a nickel for every disposable bag, mounting the latest push in Maine to use fees to encourage more shoppers to switch to reusable bags.

Members of the group Bring Your Own Bag – MidCoast announced their proposal six months after Portland became the first community in Maine to require retailers to collect a 5-cent fee for single-use plastic and paper bags. The group has enlisted at least two Brunswick Town Council members to sponsor a similar proposal as well as a proposed ban on polystyrene foam food and beverage containers.

Topsham residents involved in the organization, meanwhile, hope to present an identical proposal at next spring’s Topsham town meeting.

The group said they modeled their proposal after the bag fee and the polystyrene ban that took effect in Portland on April 15, but with one key difference. Portland’s ordinance applies largely to grocery and convenience stores, but the Brunswick and Topsham bag fee proposals would capture all businesses except dry cleaners, restaurants and businesses that reuse disposable plastic bags. Read the story.