TRADE

Maine brewers launch effort to open European markets

Beer drinkers in Iceland will get a taste from across the Atlantic this summer when the “Maine Beer Box” comes to Reykjavik. The Maine Beer Box, a branded shipping container with more than 50 taps built into its side, is the centerpiece of a multi-year effort between the Maine Brewers’ Guild and Eimskip, the Icelandic shipping company, to expose Maine beer to new markets and bring beers from Iceland and beyond back to the state. The state’s growing craft brewing industry wants to get a head start on a future market with millions of thirsty Europeans by creating an international brand for Maine beer. This June, the Beer Box will be filled with kegs from breweries across the state and shipped to Iceland for a major beer festival. The same container will return to Maine filled with beer from Iceland’s craft breweries in time for a Portland beer festival in July. Read the story.

LABOR

Private-sector jobs breaks record

The number of private sector jobs in Maine hit a new high in 2016, eclipsing pre-recession levels and growing at a sustained rate that flummoxed a state economist. Glenn Mills, chief economist at the Maine Department of Labor’s Center for Workforce Research, told members of the state’s Consensus Economic Forecasting Commission on Wednesday, that he and his staff are still trying to understand the forces behind the surge and how sustainable it is. Much of the economic news presented by Mills and others Wednesday was positive. Maine’s 3.2 percent unemployment figure in February is tied for the lowest on record and contributed to the third-longest stretch of unemployment below 4 percent in four decades. There were, on average, 517,300 private-sector jobs in Maine in 2016, up from 511,000 in 2015 and 489,000 in 2010. The Maine Department of Labor said the largest gains in 2016 were in the health care, hospitality and construction sectors. And despite the loss of additional paper mill jobs, total employment in the manufacturing sector remained steady in 2016. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

L.L. Bean signs VIA for campaign

Maine’s best-known retailer, L.L. Bean, has signed a contract with The VIA Agency, to handle its promotions and advertising campaign. VIA, itself a Maine-based company with a national profile, is now L.L. Bean’s agency of record. The announcement was made Wednesday by L.L. Bean, which said it conducted a national search for a company to handle its advertising and marketing functions as it positions itself for growth. VIA had been working with L.L. Bean on a branding campaign for the past year. It was through that effort that “the brands realized a synergy and aligned on a common strategic vision,” the release said. The first VIA advertising campaign for Bean is expected to roll out this summer. Read the story.

 SBA recognizes outstanding executives

Leigh Kellis, founder of The Holy Donut in Portland, has been selected as the U.S. Small Business Administration’s Maine Small Business Person of the Year. The SBA announced its 2017 Maine Small Business Award winners Tuesday. The awards recognize outstanding small business owners throughout the state. The Holy Donut, with two locations in Portland and one in Scarborough, specializes in potato-based doughnuts. Kellis was chosen for the award based on the continued growth of her business and the contributions she has made to the local community, the SBA said. The SBA announced a total of 10 award winners in Maine, in categories including veteran-owned: Joshua Broder of Tilson Technology Management LLC of Portland; family-owned: Alison and Scott Snell of Wilson’s on Moosehead Lake of Big Moose Township; woman-owned: Pamela Laskey of Maine Foodie Tours of Portland; and minority-owned: Naima Abdirhmon of ARWO Learning Center LLC of Portland. The organization is also recognizing Small Business Exporter of the Year, James Banfield of Terra Speakers of Brunswick; Young Entrepreneurs of the Year, Devin McNeill and Charles Friedman of Flowfold of Scarborough; Home Based Business of the Year, Justin and Alisa Carney of Afterlife Affections LLC of Washburn; and Micro-Enterprise of the Year, Kate Beever of Maine Music & Health LLC of Saco. Ann Marie Swenson of People’s United Bank was named the Maine financial services champion of the year. Read the story.

Shareholders OK FairPoint merger

Shareholders of telecommunications companies Consolidated Communications and FairPoint Communications voted Tuesday to approve a proposed merger. Consolidated announced in December that it was buying FairPoint for $1.5 billion, assuming its debt and offering dividends to stockholders. Shareholder voting took place Tuesday at Consolidated in Illinois and at FairPoint in North Carolina. FairPoint, based in Charlotte, is a telephone and internet provider that serves homes, businesses and public institutions. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION

Airbnb host will have to register with city of Portland

Beginning Jan. 1, people using websites like Airbnb to earn extra money by renting rooms and apartments on a short-term basis will be subject to new rules in Maine’s largest city.

The Portland City Council voted 8-1 Monday night to set limits on the number of short-term rental units for non-owner-occupied buildings and to require all hosts to pay fees to register those units with the city’s Housing Safety Office. The rules are intended to protect Portland’s limited housing stock from being converted into short-term rentals, while allowing residents to take advantage of a burgeoning and profitable enterprise becoming more popular in many tourist communities nationwide, including Maine. Read the story.

Budget OK’d for struggling industrial park

Members of the Kennebec Regional Development Authority approved their annual budget Thursday night, which occurred on the eve of Executive Director Brad Jackson’s final day with the organization. Jackson’s resignation from the authority –A;s which manages retail space at FirstPark, a business park in Oakland near Interstate 95 – comes at a time of transition for the business park. There have been concerns about the 285-acre park’s ability to attract jobs. While the organization did bring a T-Mobile calling center in 2006 that employs 600 people and invested $17 million to build its FirstPark facility, many of the 25 lots remain unoccupied. After the meeting, which lasted just over an hour and during which directors approved a budget just under $1 million, Jackson said he was leaving his position after four years for an opportunity in the private sector. Read the story.

COMMERCIAL FISHERIES

Regulators consider ways to restore shrimp fishery

Interstate fishing regulators are sending a plan to try to fix New England’s shuttered shrimp fishery to the public for a series of June hearings. The northern shrimp fishery has been shut down for more than three years because of a collapse in population. The regulatory Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission has been considering new ways to save the fishery for the shrimp, which were a popular winter seafood item in New England. The commission’s working on a plan that includes options such as changing the way the quota system is managed. Fishermen formerly harvested them off Maine, New Hampshire and Massachusetts. Read the story.

MANUFACTURING

Composites pioneer Kenway sold

Kenway Corp., an advanced manufacturing company that makes products for a wide range of industries from composite materials, has been acquired by a Pennsylvania company that plans to keep the Augusta business’ employees there. In a deal announced Monday, the company and its 70 employees are expected to remain in Augusta as a division of Creative Pultrusions Inc., which itself is a subsidiary of the United Kingdom-based Hill & Smith Holdings PLC. Ian Kopp, president, said CPI signed a lease to remain in Augusta, and that all employees were being retained. The company’s majority owners, Kenneth Priest and Michael Priest, retired. Originally a boat builder, the company was an early adopter of composites and has designed and delivered many innovative products for defense and industrial uses. The purchase price was not disclosed. Read the story.

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