Verso to lay off 190 as it shuts down one paper machine

Tennessee-based Verso Paper Corp., which just emerged from bankruptcy three months ago and has about 560 employees in Jay, said in a news release Tuesday morning that the Androscoggin Mill will idle the No. 3 paper machine temporarily and lay off 190 workers. That reduction is scheduled for early next year, the company said. Verso said it will “continue to evaluate market conditions to determine if and when the No. 3 paper machine” at the Jay mill should be restarted. The layoffs add to a string of setbacks for Maine’s paper industry. Five mills have closed in the past two years – including the Madison Paper mill this spring, putting more than 200 people out of work – and more than 2,300 workers have lost their jobs since 2011 as the industry reels from declining global demand for paper. In 2014, Verso closed its Bucksport mill, eliminating 500 jobs. Read the story.

Vassalboro window maker acquired by Pella

Pella Corp., a national manufacturer of windows, has purchased a nearly 50-year-old company in Vassalboro. The Iowa-based company announced Wednesday that it has acquired Duratherm Windows Corp., which has made custom hardwood windows, stairways and doors since 1967. Terms of the deal were not disclosed. Duratherm’s CEO and 70 employees will maintain the upscale Duratherm brand until it is integrated into the Pella Crafted Luxury collection, according to a release from Pella. The acquisition expands Pella’s footprint on the East Coast. Read the story.


Sugarloaf, Sunday River to be sold in $700 million deal

A New York hedge fund is buying Maine’s premier ski resorts – Sunday River and Sugarloaf – as part of a $700 million real estate deal that involves 12 other ski areas and additional properties across the country. Day-to-day operations at the two Maine mountains are not expected to be affected. The deal would transfer a package of properties held by CNL Lifestyle Properties, a real estate investment trust, to Och-Ziff Real Estate, an affiliate of a New York capital management group. Within that package are 14 CNL ski areas valued at $374 million, including the two Maine resorts. If the deal closes, it would be the largest ski resort transaction in the industry’s history, the Associated Press reported. Read the story.

Group hoping to buy Saddleback seeks investments

Organizers of a newly formed partnership of nonprofits encouraged those attending a public meeting in Rangeley Wednesday “to take a leap of faith” by helping the group raise $4 million toward the purchase of Saddleback Mountain, the first step in the group’s vision to make the ski area community-owned. The Saddleback Mountain Foundation announced last week that it had reached an agreement with Saddleback’s owners, Bill and Irene Berry, to purchase the mountain’s 723-acre core ski area for $6 million. The foundation was formed by Rangeley businesses and season-pass holders after Saddleback, Maine’s third-largest ski area, sat idle last winter. About 100 people turned out to an informational meeting held by the foundation to learn more about the group’s plan to acquire Saddleback and make it viable. Read the story.


Norway spruce deemed OK for construction

Members of Maine’s forest products economy are hailing the certification of Norway spruce as construction lumber – the first new species to be added to the list of approved lumber in about 80 years. The species was named to the list after five months of testing at the University of Maine where researchers tested more than 1,300 pieces of lumber milled from Norway spruce grown in Maine, Vermont, New York and Wisconsin. On Oct. 20, the American Lumber Standards Committee approved the inclusion of Norway spruce for home construction and industrial applications. Building tradesmen, sawmill operators and loggers said the approval will benefit the state’s forest products industry. Read the story.

Portland complex eyed for student housing

Students at the University of Southern Maine will likely have a new off-campus housing option next fall in Bayside Village apartments in Portland. On Wednesday, the University of Maine System trustees’ finance committee approved a $9.5 million, five-year plan to let USM lease two floors of the building, exclusively for undergraduate and graduate housing, to address a housing shortage. Four students would live in each four-bedroom apartment, equipped with a full kitchen, for about $750 a month, which is roughly the same as the current housing rate at the USM dorms on the Gorham campus and about 30 percent lower than the market rate for the units. Tenants on the USM floors will have special 24-hour USM security and residential assistants living there, just like an on-campus dorm. The lease agreement is for two years, with the option of three one-year extensions. The arrangement must still get trustee approval. Read the story.


Group renews protest of off-shore wind turbines

A small group of Monhegan residents and their supporters have organized a bid to block plans to test two full-scale floating wind turbines 2½ miles off the island. Its formation may signal a new split among those who value the island primarily for its remote sensibilities and artistic inspiration, and those who also see room for energy research and economic benefits. The group, called Protect Monhegan, said in a news release Tuesday that the project would do “irreparable harm” to their community, which is 10 miles off the Maine coast. It’s asking the University of Maine-led consortium that’s developing the project to move the site farther away. Protect Monhegan hired a veteran Portland public affairs consultant, Ted O’Meara, and Jon Doyle, a former assistant attorney general, with a goal of amending legislation that helped create the test site. Read the story.


Idexx posts strong earnings

Idexx Laboratories reported strong third quarter earnings Tuesday, with revenue up 10 percent and net income up 29 percent from the same period a year earlier. The Westbrook-based maker of veterinary diagnostic tests reported revenue of $448.3 million for the quarter, a 10.3 percent increase over the third quarter of 2015. Its net income of $56.5 million, or 62 cents per share, was up 29 percent. The company’s net income for the quarter beat analyst expectations by 2 cents per share, while revenue fell short by $350,000, according to online investor service Seeking Alpha. Idexx Chairman and CEO Jonathan Ayers attributed the company’s results to strong growth in pet health care, including the increasing use of diagnostics, which he said is supported by a “deeply-rooted, global trend of the strengthening bond between humans and their pets.” Read the story.


Vandalism threatens lobster zone closing

More than $350,000 worth of lobster gear has been damaged and lost since early summer in a bitter Down East trap war that’s being fought in the waters between Deer Isle and Mount Desert Island, prompting state marine patrol officials to offer a $15,000 reward for information that will help in their investigation. The vandalism began in early summer off Newbury Neck in Surry and has escalated in recent weeks, according to the agency’s commissioner, Patrick Keliher. As many as 15 lobstermen who haul traps along the line between two of the state’s lobster management zones are believed to be involved in the conflict, in which lobstermen cut the surface buoys marking a competitor’s traps. Keliher said he has approved overtime and additional vessels to work on the investigation. Closing a lobster fishing zone because of a turf war would be unprecedented, but Keliher said he was prepared to take that step if necessary. Read the story.