Poland Springs pursues expansion

Poland Spring is seeking a new site in western Maine for a $50 million water bottling plant and access to at least two additional springs that would boost the company’s production capacity by nearly 45 percent. Poland Spring, part of Swiss conglomerate Nestle S.A., already operates three Maine bottling plants, in Poland, Kingfield and Hollis. The planned new water sources and bottling operation would increase the company’s production capacity from roughly 900 million gallons a year to 1.3 billion gallons. They also would create up to 80 new jobs in rural Maine. The bottling plant site would need to meet certain criteria such as relatively close access to a nearby primary spring and more distant feeder springs from which 400 million gallons of fresh water could be extracted each year. The plant site would need to be relatively large – 60 to 120 acres – and have access to major transportation routes. The process to identify and obtain legal rights to springs that meet the company’s intense year-round needs can take years, said a company representative, who estimated the plant would open sometime between 2020 and 2022. Read the story.

ImmuCell’s sales drop 7 percent in 2016

Portland-based ImmuCell Corp.’s sales declined in 2016 from the previous year, according to preliminary financial results released by the company. ImmuCell said the re-emergence of a competitor’s previously shelved product was partly to blame. ImmuCell develops all-natural products to prevent and treat diseases among dairy and beef cattle. Sales for the year totaled $9.5 million, compared with $10.2 million during the previous year, a 7 percent decline, the company said. Sales for the fourth quarter of 2016 totaled $2.2 million, compared with $2.7 million during the fourth quarter of 2015, an 18 percent decline. Despite lower 2016 sales, revenue since 2012 has grown at a 15.4 percent compounded annual rate, said the company. Read the story.


Alabama company buying shuttered biomass plant

A shuttered, 24-megawatt power plant fueled by wood chips in Penobscot County is expected to come back on line by the end of June, bringing an estimated 300 jobs to the area. An Alabama-based company called 42 Railroad Ave LLC has signed a deal to purchase the biomass power plant in Stacyville, formerly operated by Sherman Development, for an unspecified amount from Niagara Worldwide LLC after four years of negotiations. The deal makes 42 Railroad Ave the owner of one of the largest privately owned power stations in the United States. Company CEO Steven Johnson said in a news release he plans to rebuild the turbine, activate new transmission lines and build a rotary kiln to produce more than 100 tons per day of activated carbon, which has applications including water and air purification, oil spill cleanup, medical treatments and trapping mercury emissions from coal-fired power stations and natural gas wellheads. Read the story.


Developer eyes Fisherman’s Wharf site for hotel

A local developer wants to build the first hotel on Portland’s central waterfront, a cluster of piers historically occupied by fishing and marine businesses. The project also includes a parking garage and would be located on the harbor side of Commercial Street, in front of a controversial Old Port condominium development that decades ago sparked a citywide referendum to prevent development from pushing out commercial fishing and other waterfront-dependent uses. While rules have changed since then to allow developments such as restaurants and offices on the nearly mile-long stretch, past efforts to build a waterfront hotel have never succeeded. Now David Bateman, of Bateman Partners, is looking to build a four-story hotel with 96 rooms, restaurants, a four-story office building and parking garage at Fisherman’s Wharf on land now mostly used as parking lots. The Portland Lobster Co. would be torn down to make way for a public plaza, said architect David Lloyd. He said no plans have been filed with the city, but they are being floated with community groups, such as the Waterfront Alliance, which saw the plan Tuesday night. For the project to move forward, the developers will have to receive a conditional rezoning from the city. Read the story.


Oldest Maine TV station to be sold

Maine’s first television station, started by a former governor, is expected to be sold to media giant Gray Television Inc. for $85 million. Portland-based Diversified Communications said in a release Thursday that it intends to divest itself of WABI in Bangor, and a second television station it owns in Gainesville, Florida, WCJB. Both transactions to Gray Television must be approved by the Federal Communications Commission. WABI carries CBS and The CW programming. It began broadcasting in 1953 and was owned by former Gov. Horace Hildreth, a Republican who served from 1945-1949. Based in Atlanta, Gray owns and/or operates 100 television stations across 54 markets. It said in a company release that the transaction would reunite WABI with another Gray-owned station in Presque Isle, WAGM, “thereby facilitating further news and resource sharing between these stations.” Read the story.

Wex tops $1 billion revenue mark

Fast-growing Wex Inc. in South Portland has become the third member of Maine’s exclusive billion-dollar club. In 2016, the company’s annual revenue exceeded $1 billion for the first time in its history, according to a fourth-quarter earnings statement filed Monday with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. Only two other Maine-based companies, animal testing products maker Idexx Laboratories Inc. in Westbrook and outdoor retailer L.L. Bean Inc. in Freeport, have reported annual revenue of at least $1 billion. Wex, a provider of corporate payment services, has grown significantly in recent years by acquiring competitors, signing new contracts and expanding its business into new areas. Read the story.


Waste management company applies for FAME bond

A company working to build a first-of-its-kind waste management plant in Hampden has applied for a $45 million bond from the Finance Authority of Maine, a key step in the facility being built to serve the waste removal needs of many central Maine communities. Maryland-based Fiberight would use the authority’s conduit bond as a “pass-through” to receive credit from investors while avoiding federal income taxes, said Christopher Roney, general counsel for the authority. Investors would give money to the authority, which would pass it to Fiberight, but Fiberight would pay the investor back directly, so the bond would not affect the state’s credit. The Finance Authority of Maine is a quasi-independent state agency that provides financing and education to local businesses. Fiberight is planning to have the $69 million solid waste facility ready by 2018, when a contract ends between the Municipal Review Committee, which currently represents 187 communities’ trash interests, and an Orrington-based plant. Read the story.


Restaurant association names chef of the year

Josh Berry, executive chef of Union Restaurant at the Press Hotel in Portland, has been named 2017 Chef of the Year by the Maine Restaurant Association. Berry will be feted at the group’s annual banquet on March 28 at the Holiday Inn By the Bay in Portland’ along with the association’s other honorees. Jonathan West of Jonathan’s Restaurant in Ogunquit will be Restaurateur of the Year. Read the story.