Sappi pledges $165 million investment in Skowhegan mill

Owners of Sappi paper mill in Skowhegan announced Wednesday that it will invest $165 million to upgrade a paper machine, ensuring the future of the mill where about 750 people work. The upgrade is intended to expand the capacity of the mill’s production of graphic paper, and position it to capture more of the paper-based packaging market.

In a news release, Sappi Limited said the mill’s production capacity will be expanded to a 180,000 metric tons and that the project should be finished in early 2018. The announcement was hailed by state and federal officials who have seen Maine’s paper industry clobbered over the past few years as five mills closed and more than 2,300 lost their jobs. Read the story.


L.L. Bean offers buyouts to trim workforce by 10 percent

L.L. Bean is offering voluntary early retirement bonuses to about 900 employees with the goal of shedding 10 percent of its U.S. workforce in order to free up cash to invest in expansion and automation. The Freeport-based retailer and Maine’s fourth-largest private employer said it is also freezing its pension plan, enhancing its 401(k) retirement plan and adding other employee benefits such as parental leave. The changes are designed to end the company’s recent period of stagnation, L.L. Bean President and CEO Stephen Smith said. The company reported sales of $1.6 billion last year, buoyed by the record sale of 600,000 pairs of its iconic Bean Hunting Boot. But that overall performance was nearly flat compared with 2015’s, when sales were compromised by a frigid spring and balmy winter. Read the story.


Delivery charges on electric bills soar for biggest users

Some of southern and central Maine’s largest employers have seen the price they pay for electric service jump by an average of 19 percent since last summer. The hike in the delivery charges on their Central Maine Power Co. bills is being driven by factors that include the conclusion of refunds for transmission line investments, added money for the Efficiency Maine Trust and a pause in federal damage awards of lawsuits over defunct nuclear plants such as Maine Yankee in Wiscasset. The increased charges apparently have led two companies to call the office of Gov. Paul LePage and, according to the governor, threaten to leave the state and take a total of 400 jobs with them. LePage has declined to identify the companies or provide specifics. But the complex problem that has saddled Maine’s biggest energy users with a $35.2 million increase in their electric bills since July. Read the story.


Report highlights economic contribution of Maine nonprofits

Nonprofit organizations contribute about $11 billion annually to the Maine economy and employ more than 95,000 state residents, according to a report issued Tuesday by the Maine Association of Nonprofits. The sector contributes about 20 percent of the state’s total GDP, which in 2016 was $57.6 billion, the report says. “Adding Up Impact: Maine Nonprofits at Work” is a biennial report outlining the contributions of Maine nonprofit groups to the state’s economy and quality of life. The report focuses on registered 501(c)3 nonprofits in Maine, which generally raise or generate through investments at least $5,000 a year. About 6,000 are public charities, while another 475 are private foundations. According to the report, Maine’s nonprofit sector paid over $4.3 billion in wages in 2015, or 17.5 percent of the state’s total payroll. Those wages translated to an estimated $264 million of personal income-tax revenue for state and local governments and over $679 million in federal tax revenue. Read the story.

Group forms to challenge tax surcharge

More than 50 business owners and representatives gathered Thursday in Portland to launch a new lobbying group, Keep Maine Competitive to repeal a recently enacted tax surcharge on high-income households. The group’s sole objective is to repeal, through the state budget process, a 3 percent tax surcharge on annual household income over $200,000 passed in a citizen referendum last November. Revenue from the tax will go directly to fund K-12 education. The group says the tax could cripple Maine’s ability to attract companies and professionals and drive some businesses out. Opponents say the surcharge is a mandate from voters and should be upheld. Read the story.


UNE receives solid grades from two credit-rating firms

The University of New England said it has received solid grades from two of the leading credit-rating firms, Moody’s Investors Service and Fitch Ratings. Officials at the Maine-based private university said it is the first time UNE has received credit ratings from the two firms, and that the ratings will help ensure a stable financial future for the institution. Higher credit ratings enhance an organization’s ability to borrow money at lower interest rates. UNE, which has about 8,725 students enrolled at its Biddeford and Portland campuses, has received a financial rating of A3 by Moody’s, the school said in a news release. An A3 rating is considered “upper-medium grade,” and is two levels below prime grade. Fitch assigned UNE an A- rating, which is also considered upper-medium grade. Read the story.


Pennsylvania investor to acquire Portland financial services firm

Lovell Minnick Partners LLC, a private-equity firm based in Pennsylvania, has agreed to purchase a majority stake in Portland-based financial services firm Foreside Financial Group LLC. Foreside, which has about 140 employees, provides a variety of regulatory compliance and distribution services to clients in the investment management industry. Terms of the private acquisition deal were not disclosed. Established in 2005, Foreside is led by CEO Richard Berthy and President Dave Whitaker, who will remain shareholders and continue in their current management roles, the company said in a news release. Read the story.

Boston firm acquires Manchester marketing group

A Massachusetts marketing firm has acquired Premier Marketing Group of Manchester. Grossman Marketing Group, a 107-year-old print and promotional products company in Somerville, Massachusetts, announced it acquired the Maine company Tuesday. The purchase price was not disclosed. Ben Grossman, co-president of Grossman, said in a release that Premier Marketing Group will become a division of Grossman Marketing Group but remain at its present location. He noted that Premier has a great reputation in the health care industry for providing services for clients such as Susan G. Komen for the Cure, Community Health Centers and USDA health and nutrition programs throughout the U.S. Read the story.

Personnel changes expected to help ORPC grow

Ocean Renewable Power Co., a Portland company that develops hydrokinetic power systems, has reorganized to allow company founder Chris Sauer to focus on financing and forming strategic partnerships for the 13-year-old company. On Tuesday, Sauer transitioned from president and CEO to co-founder and CEO, while John Ferland was promoted to president and chief operational officer. Currently ORPC has ongoing, funded projects totaling $16 million, but is also looking for new opportunities in high-cost power markets, notably in Québec, where forming essential partnerships is the key to success, said Sauer. To help the company pursue that growth, other personnel changes were announced. Nate Hayes and Matt Wilson were hired to ORPC’s engineering team. In the ORPC Ireland office, James Donegan was promoted to lead electrical engineer and director of European operations. Read the story.