MANUFACTURING: BIW prepares for contract vote

The largest union at Bath Iron Works will vote this weekend on a proposed four-year contract that compromises on two of the most divisive issues — altering work rules so shipbuilders can perform additional tasks outside their specialties and outsourcing some components to subcontractors to save money, officials said Wednesday.

Under the tentative agreement, workers would give up pay raises but receive $2,500 annual bonuses; there also would be modest increases in pension contributions but higher health care deductibles and co-pays for workers.

Parts of the contract, which covers about 3,500 employees, would go into effect immediately and others would be phased in if members approve the contract during Sunday’s vote at the Augusta Civic Center. If the proposal is voted down, the contract that expires on May 22 will remain in effect, and negotiations will resume. Read the story.

Boston group buys Lincoln tissue mill

A Boston-based investment firm has completed its purchase of the Lincoln Paper and Tissue mill and said it’s open to selling the facility to a company that will restart the plant.

Gordon Brothers Group said it completed the purchase Wednesday and will keep the mill in a “warm idle” in the hope that an operator will purchase the facility.

The mill was auctioned off as part of the bankruptcy of Lincoln Paper and Tissue in September. No operator stepped forward to buy the mill during the bankruptcy process, which Gordon Brothers said was caused by the loss of a major customer following a boiler explosion in 2013 and competition from foreign manufacturers. Read the story.

ENERGY: South Portland council rejects moratorium for now

After hours of testimony and deliberation, the South Portland City Council on Wednesday night killed a proposal for a controversial six-month moratorium on the development of propane storage and distribution facilities.

The council considered the moratorium amid mounting controversy over a proposal by NGL Terminal Supply Co. to build a liquefied petroleum gas depot at Rigby Yard. The company must leave its depot on Commercial Street on Portland’s waterfront by next spring, when the state plans to start expanding the International Marine Terminal.

The council’s vote means it can’t take up the same moratorium proposal for the rest of the council year, which runs through November 2016. Read the story.

HEALTH CARE: Health insurer stops new enrollments

The state’s largest provider of subsidized health insurance is freezing enrollment because its claims this year were costlier than expected, largely because of price spikes in specialty drugs, according to its chief executive officer.

Lewiston-based Community Health Options announced Wednesday that it will stop accepting new members for individual coverage after Dec. 26 – more than a month before open enrollment ends for the Affordable Care Act’s health insurance marketplace. Group enrollment will not be affected.

The co-op’s CEO said its reserves can cover all current and new members but it had to respond to the higher-than-anticipated claims and its rapid growth. The co-op lost $17 million in the first three quarters of the year, according to the Associated Press. Read the story.

Captive insurer closing its doors

An experiment to help small Maine companies pool their resources to better control health insurance costs is ending at the end of this year.

MaineSense, an employer-owned health insurance nonprofit, is winding down and will close on Dec. 31, according to Joe Edwards, president of the Maine Wellness Association, which created the program. He said MaineSense was plagued by a high claim frequency that wasn’t sustainable.

The Maine superintendent of insurance said MaineSense notified his agency within the last few months that it would be closing down, and that the nonprofit has been very transparent throughout the process. He said the member companies would have had time to investigate other health insurance options for their employees. Read the story.

Anthem phasing out ‘grandfathered’ individual plans

Anthem Blue Cross Blue Shield aims to phase out its “grandfathered” individual insurance plans that are not compliant with Affordable Care Act standards, company officials said Monday. The move is expected to ultimately save consumers money as they transition to more affordable plans, while at the same time allowing Anthem to discontinue a coverage option that has become increasingly expensive and subject to steep premium increases. People with grandfathered individual plans will be automatically switched to a similar one by Jan. 1, 2017, if they don’t purchase another plan. Read the story.

TECHNOLOGY: Tech firm picks Waterville for new center

A technology company from Burlington, Massachusetts, intends to open a center in Waterville, eventually employing up to 200 people in high-skill, high-pay jobs.

The arrival of Collaborative Consulting was hailed in a news conference that drew 300 people from the state’s business, education and government sectors, reflecting the collaboration that took two years to bring the company to Waterville.

Collaborative Waterville will initially locate in the Hathaway Creative Center on Water Street and is scheduled to open in January with 20 employees. It aims to have 50 employees in another year and up to 200 over the next three to four years.

The company offers digital and data services to a wide array of clientele, including life science industries, financial companies, government, health and educational institutions. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE: Apartment complexes sells for $50 million

Three apartment complexes in Portland and Scarborough were sold Dec. 2 to a Massachusetts real estate company.

The 309-unit deal sold at $50.25 million, resulting in an average of $162,600 per unit. The three properties are Tamarlane Apartments, 115 units in the Back Cove neighborhood of Portland; Foxcroft Apartments, 104 townhouses located off Route 1 in Scarborough; and Coach Lantern Apartments, 90 townhouses off Winnocks Neck Road in Scarborough.

Philadelphia-based Resource Real Estate sold the properties to Chestnut Realty Management, based in Springfield, Massachusetts, according to a news release from CBRE | The Boulos Co. and CBRE | New England, which brokered the deal. Read the story.

RETAIL: Gap closing store at Maine Mall

The Gap store at the Maine Mall is closing next month, one of the 175 stores the company said this summer it would close.

The Gap, which is the parent company of Banana Republic and Old Navy, will close its South Portland store on Jan. 26. The retailer is running sales now through its closure to move inventory.

Gap factory and outlet stores are not among those pegged for closure. Read the story.

Gun sales spike in wake of shootings

A national surge in gun sales that is also reflected in Maine is apparently being driven by fear – of violence and the possibility of increased gun control.

In Maine, the number of background checks in November was up 26.5 percent over the same period a year ago. For the entire year through Nov. 30, the number was up 8.9 percent from the same period in 2014.

Nationally, November 2015 saw a 24.3 percent increase in background checks for firearms purchases. Through Nov. 30, the number was up 6.3 percent.

Those numbers don’t represent all gun sales, because private sales and many sales conducted at gun shows do not require background checks.

The jump in gun purchases comes on the heels of a series of mass shootings worldwide. The increased sales have led to a surge in profits for gun manufacturers. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS: Finance, real estate drive GDP increase

Maine’s gross domestic product grew a solid 4.2 percent during the second quarter, a reversal of the steep decline during the first three months of the year.

Figures released Thursday morning by the federal Bureau of Economic Analysis indicate the growth in Maine’s GDP – the output of goods and services in the state – was slightly ahead of the national average of 3.8 percent for the April-June period and in line with the New England average.

The report indicated that real estate, rentals and leasing performed particularly well during the second quarter in Maine, contributing 0.91 percentage points of the overall increase of 4.2 percent. Finance and insurance returns were also strong, making up 0.82 percentage points of the increase. Read the story.