Brewers win OK to sell snacks

Portland officials on Thursday reversed a previous determination that breweries located in industrial zones could not sell prepackaged snacks in their tasting rooms. The move will allow Allagash Brewing Co. to begin selling snacks as soon as this week. The request to sell snacks to beer tourists was made so the brewery can help temper the effects of alcohol on customers who might spend an afternoon visiting the half-dozen breweries on Industrial Way. Allagash was in the process of appealing the Nov. 3 zoning determination when city officials recommended tabling action by the Zoning Board of Appeals last month so it could re-evaluate what should be considered ancillary or accessory uses to breweries located in an industrial zone. The city is now developing a new list of ancillary and accessory uses for breweries, which would permit the sale of snacks and other items. Read the story.

MaineToday Media sells printing plant, leases it back

J.B. Brown & Co. has purchased MaineToday Media’s printing plant in South Portland and will lease the building back to the company, which publishes the Portland Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram. The deal was announced Tuesday by CBRE | The Boulos Co., which handled the transaction. The lease-back of the building at 295 Gannett Drive runs for an initial term of 10 years, renewable for up to 40 years. A party to the transaction said the price of the building and the 21 acres surrounding it was $4.9 million. MaineToday Media will use the sale proceeds to buy a printing press for the facility that will be less expensive to operate than its current machinery. Eventually the plant will house all the MaineToday Media employees who are working out of offices at One City Center. Read the story.

Congress Square project draws international interest

The city of Portland announced Thursday that its open call for qualifications to improve Congress Square Park and the surrounding square generated interest from an international audience. The public art component drew the most attention, with 97 artists from the United States, United Kingdom and Canada vying for the contract. And 12 people and firms expressed interest in redesigning the square. Officials believe it is the strongest expression of interest in any city request for qualifications to date. The city will appoint two committees, consisting of city staff and community members, to select a group of finalists to interview before selecting a particular firm or individual to create a design. A public meeting will likely be scheduled for May, the city said. Read the story.

City kicks off planning for Maine State Pier

Portland City Council is kicking off a community conversation about the future of the Maine State Pier and the terminal building, trying to generate revenue from an asset that has failed to move forward. The city’s Economic Development Committee has set a Feb. 11 date to get the process underway. The terminal building was supposed to be a new home for Shuck’s lobster processing facility and an incubation center for marine-related research and industry, but both of those projects have been stymied. In 2008, the pier was at the center of a bitter battle for competing mix-ed use development, but neither $90 million project came to fruition. City officials want to adopt a common vision for the facility to it can be proactive, rather than reactive, toward future proposals. Read the story.


King, Pingree lend hand to ferry operator

The new operator of a ferry service between Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, and Portland has yet to procure a ferry, prompting calls for help to Maine’s congressional delegation. Bay Ferries Limited, the Canadian company that won the contract to provide daily ferry service between the two ports, issued a news release Thursday morning saying it was doing all it could to find a vessel to continue the service. Among its considerations is a former private ferry acquired and then mothballed by the U.S. Navy. Maine Sen. Angus King and Rep. Chellie Pingree have tried facilitate conversations between Bay Ferries and the Navy. The delay in acquiring a vessel to replace the Nova Star service last year is causing some tour operators to cancel reservations in Yarmouth. Read the story.


State seeks proposals for habitat, industry studies of lobster

The Department of Marine Resources has put out a call for proposals to gauge the impact of warming Gulf of Maine waters on lobster biology, populations and susceptibility to disease. A separate study will attempt to measure the economic impact of Maine’s most valuable fishery beyond what lobstermen are paid for their catch. The department has earmarked up to $700,000 to pay for the studies, with the money coming out of the Lobster Research, Education and Development Fund. Proposals were due Thursday. The department’s request for proposals suggests the contracts will be awarded by early March, but department spokesman Jeff Nichols said the timing depends on how many proposals are received and how quickly a panel is formed to review them. Read the story.


Animal health products maker raises $5 million

ImmuCell Corp. has raised the money it needs to build a pharmaceutical-grade production facility for the key ingredient in its next major product. The Portland-based animal health products maker said it completed a previously announced $5.9 million public offering Wednesday. It offered for sale 1.1 million shares of stock to fund a production facility for a new product it is developing, a novel treatment for mastitis in dairy cows. The shares were priced at $5.25 each. The offering diluted the value of ImmuCell’s existing pool of 3.1 million outstanding shares by roughly one-third. ImmuCell President and CEO Michael Brigham said the offering, underwritten by Minneapolis-based Craig-Hallum Capital Group LLC, attracted large institutional investors, something ImmuCell previously lacked. ImmuCell will net about $5.3 million after paying fees associated with the offering. It will use the proceeds, along with a $4.3 million loan from TD Bank, $6.5 million in cash reserves and investments, and current and future operating capital, to build and equip a facility that will produce nisin, the active ingredient in the company’s mastitis treatment, called Mast Out. The preliminary cost estimate for the production facility is $17.5 million. Read the story.


Scale of clean energy proposal alarms activists

Citizen groups that oppose large-scale wind power development in Maine reacted strongly Tuesday to news that developers were proposing numerous wind farms in the state that would supply clean energy to southern New England. The groups have been fighting several of the projects individually, but were alarmed at the overall scale of the combined proposals. Maine figured prominently in a multibillion-dollar competition to provide power to Connecticut, Rhode Island and Massachusetts, with companies submitting bids to build giant wind farms in Aroostook County and the western mountains. Together the projects would more than triple the state’s turbine capacity, but the power would not be sold in Maine. Opponents said southern New England states were shuttering nuclear, oil and coal plants in their quest for cleaner power, but not taking responsibility for replacing the lost generation. But energy officials and industry representatives in Maine were tamping down impressions that all or even most of these projects would be built. Read the story.


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