MANUFACTURING

Mill owner seeks $56 million expansion

Three years after a controversial tax break program failed to prevent a paper mill in Northern Maine from closing, another paper company is using the program to lure investment for mill improvements projected to create and sustain jobs in Oxford County. Catalyst Paper has lined up $12.7 million in state tax credits to leverage a $31 million investment to add a new tissue paper machine at its Rumford mill through a subsidiary called Pacific Falcon Corp. Catalyst also is seeking a $25 million loan that would bring the total investment in the mill to at least $56 million. The Finance Authority of Maine approved the tax credits last week through the Maine New Markets Capital Investment program. The company plans an upgrade of the entire mill by substituting high-value tissue production for low-value pulp production, and wants to start production in 2020. Catalyst expects tissue production will support 62 jobs at the mill, bringing the total workforce to 658 with a $79 million payroll. Read the story.

ImmuCell closes on $1 million equity funding

ImmuCell, a Portland manufacturer of animal health products, has closed on a $1 million equity investment. On Thursday, the company issued 200,000 common shares at $5.25 per share to investors Sandra and Brian Pessin, according to a news release from ImmuCell. The infusion of capital means the company can proceed with plans to increase its sales force and prepare for the launch of expanded products that protect dairy and beef livestock, including its flagship product, First Defense, which protects newborn calves from a condition called scours. The company is building a $20 million production facility in Portland for nisin, the active ingredient in a product it has developed called Mast Out. Mast Out is a natural treatment for mastitis, inflammation of breast tissue that can afflict lactating dairy cows. Read the story.

ENERGY

CMP submits bid for new high-voltage transmission line

Central Maine Power Co. submitted a plan Thursday to build a high-voltage transmission line through western Maine to bring large amounts of hydroelectricity from Quebec to Massachusetts, joining a multibillion-dollar regional competition to develop the next phase of clean-energy projects in New England and eastern Canada. The 145-mile line would follow a corridor owned by CMP from Beattie Township, on the Canadian border north of Route 27 and Coburn Gore, through Farmington and Jay to Lewiston, where it would connect to the regional electric grid. The project cost is confidential, but CMP has confirmed that it’s in the $1 billion range. The total cost would be paid by Massachusetts electric customers. Maine would benefit from construction jobs, added tax revenue and anticipated savings on wholesale energy costs over the 20-year life of the power contract. It’s also possible that a similar line being proposed by CMP and a partner could carry power from new solar and energy-storage projects in western Maine, as well as wind turbines on both sides of the border. Read the story.

Cianbro building Maine’s largest solar farm

A 41,000-panel solar array has gotten the green light to go forward and become at least partially operational by the end of the calendar year. Peter Vigue, CEO of Cianbro, said site development for what will be the largest solar array in the state is mostly complete. He said foundation work for racking will begin in the near future, and panels will arrive and be installed after that. Part of the project will go online by late 2017, and Vigue said more panels will be installed over the spring. Environmental regulators approved the $24.2 million project in June, and this week the Maine Public Utilities Commission allowed Cianbro to enter into a long-term partnership with Central Maine Power Co. Read the story.

HEALTH CARE

Regulator denies co-op’s request to adjust policy offering

State Superintendent of Insurance Eric Cioppa has denied Maine Community Health Options’ 11th-hour request to adjust its Affordable Care Act health insurance offerings for 2018. In a hearing Monday at the state Bureau of Insurance office in Gardiner, Community Health said a series of new, lower-cost ACA insurance “silver” plans proposed by competitor Anthem Blue Cross and Blue Shield threatens to lure away its members unless the nonprofit co-op is allowed to offer a comparable product line. State Superintendent of Insurance Eric Cioppa says CHO missed a July 14 deadline to adjust its 2018 rate request. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION

City committee endorses Wex’s plan for new HQ

A Portland City Council committee has endorsed South Portland-based Wex Inc.’s plan to build a new global headquarters on city-owned land near Portland’s eastern waterfront. A developer working with Wex has been competing for the right to buy a roughly 48,000-square-foot lot along Thames Street across from the Ocean Gateway building. The developer, Jonathan Cohen of 0 Hancock Street LLC, said he plans to work with Wex to construct a new headquarters building that would house at least 450 employees initially, with 200 more joining over time as the company grows. City council’s Economic Development Committee announced it has chosen Cohen’s plan over a competing bid by a developer who wants to build two mixed-use buildings on the lot. Read the story.

Rockefeller estate for sale

The Seal Harbor home of David and Peggy Rockefeller is on the market for $19 million, and all proceeds from the sale of the 14.5-acre estate and the personal items inside will go to charities, the listing agency says. David Rockefeller died in March of congestive heart failure at the age of 101. The son of financier John D. Rockefeller Jr., David Rockefeller was the former head of Chase Manhattan Corp. and a longtime benefactor of the Mount Desert Island community. In his will, he left $5 million to the Maine Coast Heritage Trust and $20 million to the Mount Desert Land and Garden Preserve in Seal Harbor. The will gave his children first claim to the Seal Harbor home, which is called Ringing Point and was valued at $9 million in the will, but several of them already own homes in Seal Harbor. All proceeds from the sale of Ringing Point and the artwork and items inside – some of which will be sold by Christie’s auction house in New York – will go toward the bequests made in David Rockefeller’s will. Read the story.

Maine home prices continue to rise

Maine housing prices continued to make modest gains this year, hitting a median of $205,000 in June. That price reflects a 3.54 percent increase over the same month a year ago, and an increase of 2.5 percent from the $200,000 median sales price in May, according to information released Tuesday by the Maine Association of Realtors. The median price in April was $185,000, a slight decrease from the $191,000 reported in March, although March’s price reflected a 9.5 percent increase from a year ago. The volume of sales, however, declined 3.62 percent in June compared with a year ago, reflecting scant inventory and a tight housing market. Read the story.

MARIJUANA

Lawmakers settle on tax for recreational pot

Recreational marijuana would be taxed at 20 percent, with 5 percent of that paid to communities that host growing or retail facilities, under a plan proposed Tuesday by a committee drawing up regulations for the new industry. Lawmakers proposed a 10 percent wholesale tax, or excise tax, and a 10 percent sales tax on recreational marijuana – the same overall tax rate as Massachusetts – during an 8-hour session Tuesday. The marijuana legalization committee proposed having the state distribute 5 percent of all state taxes collected from cultivation or retail operations to host communities. In Maine, this tax scheme would drive the price of marijuana up from an average of about $200 an ounce to about $240, with a $20 excise tax levied on the cultivator, which would be built into the price, and a $20 sales tax charged to consumers at the time of purchase. Host communities would get $2 of that $40, with the rest going to the state. Read the story.