MANUFACTURING

A worker glues the L.L. Bean label on a boot at the the company’s production plant in Lewiston on Thursday. Staff photo/Shawn Patrick Ouellette

L.L. Bean fires up new machine on way to 1 million pairs of boots

L.L. Bean intends to make 1 million pairs of its famed hunting boots next year, and erase a production backlog that has dogged the popular footwear in recent years. Company officials unveiled a $1 million injection molding machine during an open house at its new plant in Lewiston on Thursday morning. The investment increases the outdoor gear company’s capacity to make its trademark product by one-third. The retailer sold 600,000 pairs of the boots last year and expects to produce 750,000 this year. It should reach the 1 million milestone in 2018. CEO Steve Smith said the added capacity means more than 550 people are working year-round on orders in Lewiston and at L.L. Bean’s production facility in Brunswick. Both facilities are working around the clock in three shifts during the week to stay on top of orders for the rubber-and-leather boots, as well as dog beds and tote bags. The company is looking to hire 40 full-time workers at the Lewiston location, and has another 130 manufacturing positions open. Read the story.

Cianbro opens workforce development center

Pittsfield constuction company Cianbro unveiled a new workforce development center, which aims to help replenish a diminishing workforce in the construction business through education and training. Cianbro’s new workforce development department, called the Cianbro Institute, provides in-house training in construction, electrical work and other trades for its employees. Peter Vigue, CEO of Cianbro, said the company was already providing this training in separate locations in Pittsfield, but “we’re busting out at the seams.” Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Unemployment rate remains under 4 percent

Maine’s July unemployment rate continues an extensive period of low jobless claims. July’s preliminary rate of 3.7 percent extends to 22 consecutive months where the jobless rate has been below 4 percent. It’s the second-longest stretch in 40 years, according to a release from the Maine Department of Labor. The July rate is a slight increase over June’s 3.5 percent unemployment rate. Maine’s metro communities also fared well, with averages in the Portland-South Portland of 2.8 percent, Lewiston-Auburn of 3.4 percent and Bangor with 3.7 percent. Read the story.

Anania Investment of Windham sells software firm

Windham-based Anania & Associates Investment Co. has sold one of its portfolio companies, Synergistic Software Solutions LLC, to a supply chain automation software and services provider based in Florida, the company said Thursday. Terms of the sale were not disclosed. Based in Minnesota, Synergistic has 11 employees and is the producer of a software product called JobOps, a management software suite for manufacturers. The buyer is Scanco Software LLC, which recently purchased JOScan, a scanning software product developed to work exclusively with JobOps. Read the story.

Twelve Maine companies make Inc.’s 5000 list

Twelve Maine-based companies made the annual Inc. 5000 fastest-growing private companies list. The compilation, which recognizes companies’ growth over a three-year period, was released Wednesday. Among the Maine companies listed this year, SaviLinx in Brunswick was ranked the highest at No. 28 based on its more than 9,000 percent increase over three years. It reported 2016 revenues of $11.4 million. Also making the list were: No. 783 – Cirrus Systems, 586 percent increase, $3.8 million; No. 836 – Sound Rink, 542 percent, $5.5 million; No. 854 – Apothecary by Design, 527 percent, $206 million; No. 868 – Coria, 571 percent, $2.1 million: No. 1,112 – Vets First Choice, 378 percent, $83.3 million; No. 1,517 – Tilson Technology Management, 265 percent, $36.9 million; No. 1,715 – Landry/French Construction Co., 228 percent, $65.8 million; No. 1,987- Municipay, 90 percent, $3.4 million; No. 2,749 – Maine Coast, 25 percent, $55.1 million; No. 3,567 – Otto, 86 percent, $16.4 million; and No. 4,082 – Winxnet, 68 percent, $16.9 million in revenues. Read the story.

LEGAL

New suit challenges Poland Spring water source

A Connecticut law firm has filed a class-action lawsuit against the owner of Poland Spring, claiming the company’s source for its Maine bottled water is not a spring. The case is not a first: Nestlé Waters, which owns Poland Spring, was sued 14 years ago on similar claims and another Nestlé Water brand was sued in a similar case in Illinois in 2012. The latest suit, filed on behalf of 11 consumers, alleges that Poland Spring’s bottles are inaccurately labeled as spring water. It is seeking at least $5 million in damages. Read the story.

Brief filed challenging PUC solar rule

Groups opposed to Maine’s amended solar rules have joined in a brief challenging the authority and actions of the Public Utilities Commission. The Conservation Law Foundation, ReVision Energy, Industrial Energy Consumer Group and Natural Resources Council of Maine, filed a brief Tuesday in the appeal at the Maine Supreme Court challenging the PUC’s amended solar rule, which phases out certain incentives for homeowners and businesses that install rooftop solar arrays. The brief was filed 12 days after the Maine Legislature failed to override a veto from Gov. Paul LePage on a bill that would have continued the incentives and direct the PUC to study the costs and benefits of solar. Read the story.

HEALTH CARE

EMHS gets mixed reviews from S&P

Two months after a bond rating service downgraded Eastern Maine Healthcare System to junk bond status, a different service said the system has adequate financial protection. On Tuesday, Standard & Poor’s reaffirmed its BBB long-term rating for EMHS, which indicates the system can meet its financial obligations. However, S&P also adjusted its outlook from stable to negative, citing operating performances at some EMHS member hospitals, including its flagship, Eastern Maine Medical Center, according S&P’s report. S&P did credit the system for positive operating and net earnings, which was attributable, in part, to increased revenue from the system’s investment portfolio and prior year settlements under MaineCare. But it warned that five of the nine hospitals are underperforming, and that an expansion of EMMC could make things worse. Read the story.

MARIJUANA

Maine won’t make February deadline to sell legal pot

Maine won’t make its February deadline for beginning the sale of recreational marijuana and won’t be ready to do so until next summer, at the earliest, according to the committee tasked with implementing legalization. A special legislative commission finished its preliminary work on how Mainers can grow, sell and buy recreational marijuana Tuesday, tackling issues ranging from licensing fees to tax rates to consumer protections. Now analysts will turn months of committee straw votes into the draft bill that will go to a public hearing next month and a full legislative vote in October. But the agencies that will oversee the launch and daily operations of Maine’s recreational market will not have time to write departmental rules, hire new inspectors and staff, and license growers, retailers and testing labs before a legislative moratorium on adult sales ends in February. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE & DEVELOPMENT

New maintenance building planned for IMT

The Maine Port Authority is proposing to build a nearly 10,000-square-foot maintenance and operations building on Commercial Street in Portland to free up cargo space at the International Marine Terminal. An application filed this month with the city’s planning office by the Maine Department of Transportation outlines plans to construct the $3.1 million, two-story building and add a 20-spot parking lot at the terminal near the Casco Bay Bridge. The proposed building would replace a similarly sized maintenance facility. There will be no change of use or expansion of operations because of the development, according to the site plan application. Read the story.