Professional hockey will return to Portland

Comcast Spectacor, parent company of the NHL’s Philadelphia Flyers, announced Thursday that it had purchased an ECHL franchise in Alaska that will be relocated to Cross Insurance Arena. Comcast Spectacor also is the parent company of Spectra, the management firm contracted to run the arena, which has been without a major tenant since the Portland Pirates of the American Hockey League were sold in May 2016 and moved to Springfield, Massachusetts. A strategic development committee ultimately selected Comcast Spectacor from proposals submitted by four parties interested in bringing a pro hockey team to Portland. The ECHL, formed in 1988 as the East Coast Hockey League, is considered the third tier of pro hockey in North America, with a talent level below that of the National Hockey League and the AHL. Read the story.


MaineHealth receives $10 million grant for cancer care

A MaineHealth cancer network that connects patients with health care services – including clinical trials in Boston – received a $10 million grant from the Harold Alfond Foundation on Thursday. The five-year grant will help accelerate services provided by the MaineHealth Cancer Care Network, which was launched in 2015. The $2 million per year more than doubles the budget for the network, from $1.7 million per year to $3.7 million. The funds will be used in part to expand a partnership with Dana-Farber Cancer Institute in Boston, which gives patients in Maine access to potentially life-saving clinical trials. Read the story.


House votes to reinstate tip credit

After a lengthy debate Tuesday, lawmakers in the Maine House voted overwhelmingly to restore the tip credit to the state’s minimum wage law. The 110-37 vote essentially repealed part of a ballot question approved by voters in November that increased Maine’s minimum wage and eliminated the tip credit. The tip credit is a mechanism allowing tipped workers to be paid at a lower rate than other hourly workers. The November referendum boosted the minimum wage from $7.50 an hour to $9 an hour this year and to $12 an hour by 2020. It also removed the tip credit rule, which allowed employers to pay tipped workers only half of the minimum hourly wage. Restaurant owners and workers turned out in large numbers during public hearings to call for preserving the tip credit, saying the voter-approved minimum wage increase would drive up labor costs for restaurant owners while eroding tips for servers. Tuesday’s House vote follows approval of the repeal last week in the Senate, where the bill will go for another vote before being sent to Gov. Paul LePage, who has indicated he will sign the repeal into law. Read the story.

May unemployment rate rises to 3.2 percent

Maine’s unemployment rate in May ticked up slightly from April’s 3.0 percent in preliminary figures released Friday. The May rate of 3.2 percent is well below the same month last year, which had a 3.9 percent unemployment rate. The rate has been below 4 percent for 16 of the last 19 months, according to Maine Department of Labor. Maine’s unemployment rate achieved 3.0 percent in March, the lowest in 40 years. Read the story.


Group to address turnpike congestion, possible widening

The Maine Turnpike Authority has started a process to relieve congestion between Scarborough and Falmouth that could include widening that section of the highway to six lanes. The action follows a record year for turnpike traffic, which reached an all-time high of 83.6 million vehicles in 2016, a 10 percent increase over two years. Since 2014, traffic in the Portland area has grown 3 to 5 percent annually, increasing “to the point where safety and mobility is becoming compromised,” the authority said. In some areas, traffic congestion is already causing problems, and officials expect it will get worse in the next decade. A newly created public advisory committee charged with assisting the authority in assessing the corridor’s needs will hold its first meeting on June 28. Read the story.


Historic Kennebunkport B&B for sale

A Kennebunkport mansion built during the War of 1812 was listed for sale last week with an asking price of nearly $8 million. Bev Davis and Rick Litchfield have operated the Captain Lord Mansion on Pleasant Street as a bed and breakfast for nearly four decades, but they say they want to retire to spend more time with their two grandchildren.

The mansion, which was listed on the National Register of Historic Place in 1973, has 20 guest rooms. It was built during the War of 1812, by Captain Nathaniel Lord, a wealthy Kennebunkport merchant and shipbuilder, who commissioned workers to build a three-story federal mansion topped with a cupola. Read the story.


Technology bond appears headed for passage

With extremely low voter turnout, Tuesday’s statewide referendum to approve a $50 million bond to promote jobs and innovation passed overwhelmingly in Maine’s largest communities. A survey of city and town clerks in Maine communities with at least 10,000 residents found that the referendum passed in all of them, usually by a wide margin. However, the statewide outcome won’t be known for several more days, according to the Maine Secretary of State’s office. The bond issue calls for the Maine Technology Institute to distribute $45 million in grants for upgrades in aquaculture, marine technology, forestry and agriculture. The Small Enterprise Growth Fund would direct the remaining $5 million to qualifying small businesses in fields including marine sciences, biotechnology and manufacturing. Read the story.


Kitchen incubator merges with NYC company

Fork Food Lab, a commercial kitchen incubator in Portland, has merged with a New York City company that provides specialized services to food entrepreneurs. Foodworks operates a 10,000-square-foot kitchen in Brooklyn that hosts 110 companies. It provides administrative support, outsourced services, mentorship opportunities, educational events and workshops for startups in the food industry. Fork Food Lab opened its 6,000-square-foot incubator in West Bayside last year and is helping 34 members scale up their operations, according to a statement from Fork Food Lab. Read the story.


Bon-Ton closing at Maine Mall

The Bon-Ton department store chain plans to close its Maine Mall location in South Portland at the end of August, after less than four years of operation. The store’s parent company, Bon-Ton Stores Inc., released a statement Tuesday announcing the upcoming closure. About 55 employees work at Bon-Ton’s Maine Mall store and will be offered severance, it said. Bon-Ton moved into the mall in 2013, filling the 120,800-square-foot space that had been vacated by Filene’s in 2006. The decision to close after four years despite the company’s signing a 15-year lease for the space suggests that the store did not perform to expectations. The planned closure isn’t likely to affect the bottom line for Maine Mall owner GGP of Chicago because Bon-Ton Stores is obligated to continue making lease payments until January 2029, said Steve Jellinek, vice president of commercial mortgage-backed securities analytical services for Morningstar Credit Ratings LLC. Read the story.

 Two Portland restaurants close

Two popular Portland eateries have closed recently. Fore Street restaurant Zapoteca, owned by chef Shannon Bard and her husband, Tom, closed Wednesday. The couple said they wanted to spend more time with family as the reason for closing the 6-year-old business. Also closed is Outliers on York Street. Owner Peter Verrill Jr. has listed the building with CBRE | The Boulos Co. The restaurant opened in 2013. Read the story.