Draftsmen union prepare to strike at BIW

The union that represents 760 workers at Bath Iron Works is accelerating preparations for a strike this week, even as a federal mediator was called in to resolve its contract dispute with the company. The ramp-up includes getting support from other unions in the state Thursday. Last Sunday, an overwhelming majority of the Bath Marine Draftsmen’s Association voted down a proposed contract from BIW and authorized a strike. The members, mainly mechanical designers and technicians, are working on an extended contract until Sept. 24 while trying to negotiate an agreement. The proposed 4½-year contract would have given workers two pay increases totaling 5.6 percent, lump-sum payments worth $6,000 and more retirement benefits and paid time off. The union wage scale is $18.05 to $34.96 per hour. A major sticking point in negotiations is BIW’s proposal to cut flex time benefits that allow employees to vary when they come to and leave work during a 40-hour week. Negotiations were expected to continue through the weekend. Read the story.


Sale of Jay mill under consideration

Days after stakeholders said they would consider selling the Verso paper mill in Jay, Verso announced it will establish a committee to explore what it calls transaction alternatives, including the potential sale of some mills. Verso’s announcement, which came in a U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission filing, said the company has formed a Strategic Alternatives Committee, which will continue “efforts to identify and evaluate a range of potential strategic transaction alternatives, including the possible sale of some Verso mills,” including the Androscoggin mill and Stevens Point mill in Wisconsin. The move was sparked by a shareholder who said he was frustrated by inaction around the company’s “rapidly deterioriating financial position,” and the need for a strategy that returns value to shareholders. Read the story.


Director of Port Authority resigns

The man who oversaw more than $45 million in upgrades to the port of Portland and helped transform it into a modern shipping terminal has resigned. John Henshaw, executive director of the Maine Port Authority, stepped down Wednesday after a decade of leading the state agency. During his tenure, Henshaw oversaw the expansion of the International Marine Terminal in Portland and is credited with helping convince Eimskip, an Icelandic shipping company, to locate its North American headquarters in Maine. Recently, Henshaw pushed for a waterfront zoning change to allow a cold-storage warehouse near the container terminal. Henshaw submitted his resignation Sept. 7. Wednesday was his last day in the office. Read the story.


Home sales see Augusta spike

Maine’s housing economy got a late-summer boost in August, with year-over-year increases in both home sales volume and median sale price. Sales of existing single-family homes in Maine increased by 6.4 percent in August compared with a year earlier, according to a report issued Wednesday by Maine Listings. The median sale price of homes increased by 4.6 percent from a year earlier to $206,000, it said. Statewide home sales were relatively flat for the three-month period ending Aug. 31, increasing by 0.65 percent from 5,510 sales in August 2016 to 5,546 sales a year later, according to Maine Listings. The median sale price for the three-month period increased by 3.8 percent from $197,500 in 2016 to $205,000 a year later. Read the story.

 Cianbro lands $17 million defense contract

Pittsfield construction company Cianbro Corp. has received a $17 million contract from the federal government for work in Kittery at the Portsmouth Naval Shipyard.

The award came from U.S. Naval Facilities Engineering Command to repair or modernize wharf structures to restore their load-carrying capacity of the crane rail system along the waterfront. The contract also calls for providing corrosion protection of the wharf to allow for its optimal use. Last November the company received a $28 million contract to perform similar work. Read the story.


Drive-thrus, home delivery on tap for recreational marijuana

Maine may make purchasing an ounce of marijuana almost as easy as buying a six-pack of beer. Proposed adult-use cannabis regulations from the Legislature’s marijuana committee would allow licensed retail stores to sell pot from drive-up windows and over the internet. Like any other recreational marijuana consumer, drive-up and online customers would have to show identification to the window or delivery employee to prove they are at least 21 years old. Supporters say such retail conveniences are already available to the state’s alcohol industry and will help Maine’s new legal marijuana market compete with a thriving illegal market. But opponents, including a leader of the marijuana committee, warn against making it too easy to buy a drug that is still illegal under federal law, and too hard for new state regulators to track sales. Read the story.


Recall recovers 98 percent of potentially tainted mussels

Thousands of pounds of Maine mussels recalled because of concern about potential contamination from a marine biotoxin were distributed as far away as Georgia and Missouri before being recovered and destroyed. Almost 58,500 pounds of mussels harvested near Mount Desert Island were subject to the recall, initiated Sept.14, of which 38 pounds sold to retail establishments remain unaccounted for in Maine. Five Maine seafood dealers affected by the recall were able to recover 98 percent of the suspect mussels within three days, according to the Maine Department of Marine Resources. The department called for a recall after testing found elevated levels of the neurotoxin domoic acid in mussels. On Wednesday, the DMR reopened some Down East waters to shellfish harvesting after tests showed no risk from the biotoxin. Other areas remain closed while testing continues. Read the story.


Rehab facility on the boards in Sanford

Southern Maine Health Care announced on Thursday plans to build a 90-bed, $21 million rehabilitation and skilled nursing care center in Sanford. The facility, with a planned opening in the summer of 2019, would be a skilled nursing center featuring private rooms, according to Southern Maine Health Care officials. The plans are pending state and local approval. The center would be next to Southern Maine Health Care’s primary care and specialty physicians, emergency department, day surgery and diagnostic and therapy services. It would be built by Sandy River Co. and operated by Genesis HealthCare. Read the story.


Maine group joins Arctic Economic Council

The Maine North Atlantic Development Office has joined the Arctic Economic Council, an independent agency aimed at business-to-business activities. The development office was formed in 2013 under the auspices of the Maine International Trade Center to increase trade and investment between Maine and the North Atlantic region. It is the first organization in the Lower 48 states to join the Arctic Economic Council, according to a news release from the trade center. The Maine group joined the organization as a nonvoting member. The Arctic Economic Council, based in Tromso, Norway, supports business development by sharing best practices, technological solutions and standards. Read the story.

Trade center gets money to help small businesses

A $195,000 federal grant has been awarded to the Maine International Trade Center to support small business exports. Funding through the State Trade Expansion Program, known as STEP, will be provided to eligible Maine businesses can apply for up to $10,500 to help pay for export-expansion costs. A $145,000 STEP grant supported 39 company projects in overseas markets resulted in $22 million in new exports, a 150-to-1 return on investment, according to MITC. Read the story.


Tourism office looking for survey respondents

The Maine Office of Tourism is asking for more input from Mainers to evaluate the state’s tourism marketing campaigns. The state regularly collects and analyzes data on visitors to the state, but this is the first time it is asking for local opinions through a survey it has distributed to Maine’s eight regional tourism groups. Input from local businesses, governments, nonprofits, tourism entrepreneurs and residents will give the state, and local tourism marketers, a better idea of the strengths and weaknesses of each region. The survey is aimed people who are involved with the tourism economy, but anyone can fill it out online. Read the story.