Westbrook plaza lands Market Basket as anchor

Market basket, a low-priced grocer based in Massachusetts, will be the anchor tenant of a yet-to-be-built retail plaza at the former Pike Industries quarry on Main Street in Westbrook, the developer confirmed Thursday. A Wal-Mart store initially planned for the anchor spot is no longer part of the project. The grocery chain operates 79 stores across New England, but only one of them is in Maine. It opened in Biddeford in 2013 and has been a hit among shoppers there. That strong customer response prompted Market Basket to consider building more stores in Maine. But a feud among Market Basket’s owners in 2014 possibly delayed those plans. Construction on traffic improvements near the site has already begun. The developer could not confirm any other tenants at this time, but said Market Basket and other businesses could open as soon as fall 2018 or spring 2019.. Read the story.


Sara Burns stepping down from CMP after long tenure

After nearly 20 years at the helm of Central Maine Power Co., Sara Burns announced Thursday that she plans to retire at the end of the year. Burns has been with the energy company for 30 years, starting in 1987 as manager of risk management. She was promoted to president in 1998 and was named CEO in 2005. Business leaders in Maine described Burns as an effective leader who has improved the lives of Mainers and helped boost the state’s economy. Burns also will step down from her oversight role for asset management and planning, business development and regulatory strategy at Avangrid Networks, according to a release. However, she will continue to provide strategic guidance to the company as a member of its board of directors starting in January.. Read the story.


Maine’s jobless rate drops to 3.5 percent in October

Maine’s jobless rate continues to maintain historic lows. The state’s preliminary October unemployment rate is 3.5 percent, down slightly from September’s rate of 3.7 percent and also below the October 2016 rate of 3.9 percent. It is the 25th consecutive month the state’s jobless rate has been at or below 4.0 percent, according to a release from the Maine Department of Labor. The U.S. preliminary unemployment rate of 4.1 percent for October was little changed from 4.2 percent for September and down from 4.8 percent one year ago. Read the story.

Trade group forms for outdoor-related businesses

A collection of Maine businesses has formed a new trade group aimed at growing the state’s outdoor products and service industry. Maine Outdoor Brands will be announced at a Nov. 20 press conference at the Press Hotel in Portland. The nonprofit “is an alliance of like-minded companies united in their desire to promote the innovators and entrepreneurs whose products and services are inspired by the vast, outdoor playground we proudly call home,” according to the group’s website. It has 26 members who value creating a business climate conducive to outdoor product brands and the young workforce they attract. Read the story.


Neighborhoods wary of Maine Med expansion

Maine Medical Center’s request for a special zoning designation covering surrounding neighborhoods in Portland’s West End has prompted concerns among neighbors about the hospital’s long-term development plans. The hospital’s request for an “Institutional Overlay Zone,” a crucial step in the hospital’s proposed $512 million expansion plan, will go before the City Council on Monday night. Representatives from the Libbytown and St. John and Valley street neighborhood associations are expected to express concerns, including how the hospital’s long-range plans might affect housing and other development in the area. The expansion plan calls for increasing the footprint of the hospital’s main campus by about 25 percent. The cornerstone would be a 270,000-square-foot building along Congress Street, replacing an existing parking garage. But it’s the hospital’s long-term plans, which could include expanding Maine Med’s footprint by adding medical offices on surrounding streets, that have become a growing point of contention. Read the story.

Historic West End inns for sale

Two historic West End inns are for sale, reflecting more activity in Portland’s red-hot hospitality market. The Inn on Carleton and the West End Inn are both listed by The B&B Team, a boutique hospitality real estate agency in Kennebunk, and Dana Moos, broker. The Victoria-era inns were built in the late-19th century and located in the trendy West End section of the city, near the Arts District. The Inn on Carleton, at 46 Carleton St., is listed at $1.6 million. It was built just three years after the fire of 1866 that devastated the city, and opened as Portland’s first B&B in the 1970s, according to the listing. The West End Inn, which is listed on the city’s Register of Historic Homes and built in 1871, is listed at $1.3 million.. Read the story.


BIW seeking an extension of state tax credit

Navy shipbuilder Bath Iron Works wants to extend a tax credit for up to $3.5 million a year, which it says is needed to remain competitive. The Times Record reports that the Maine Legislature will consider a proposal to continue the tax credit that’s due to expire in 2018. Since the late 1990s, the Bath shipyard has benefited from Maine’s Shipbuilding Facility Credit as long as it invests $200 million in its facility. A report by Maine Revenue Services says the company had invested $464 million through 2015.. Read the story.

Shipbuilder considers frigate work

Bath Iron Works has taken the first step in a competition for a Navy shipbuilding contract that could be worth billions of dollars. The company, which is owned by General Dynamics, confirmed Wednesday it plans to submit a conceptual design proposal – the submission deadline is Dec. 18 – for the Navy’s new class of guided-missile frigates, the FFG (X). The conceptual design proposal is the first step in a lengthy, competitive process the Navy will use to select one shipyard to build 20 frigates. Inside Defense, an online news service that covers the Defense Department, reported that BIW is among six companies to express interest in the design contract. Read the story.


ACA insurers urge state to change stop-loss rule

Harvard Pilgrim Health Care says a type of business insurance being offered by Aetna is luring companies with younger, healthier workers away from the Affordable Care Act marketplace, leaving others to provide small-group coverage to companies with older and less healthy employees. In a public meeting before the Maine Bureau of Insurance on Thursday, Harvard Pilgrim and Community Health Options argued that the rules governing “stop loss” plans such as the one Aetna is offering are outdated and threaten to implode the ACA-compliant small-group market in Maine, which currently covers about 100,000 peopled employed by small businesses. Under the current rules, insurers can offer a replacement for small-group insurance that allows them to cherry-pick the businesses they want to cover, thus violating the spirit of the ACA. The bureau will attempt to render a decision that strikes a balance between not discouraging small businesses in Maine from offering employee health insurance, and not undermining the ACA small-group market. Read the story.


Commission votes to raise pilot fees in harbor

The Board of Harbor Commissioners has approved new rates for piloting large ships into Portland Harbor, including a minimum fee that is slightly lower than a fee approved just eight months ago, but more than 50 percent higher than the minimums charged last year. During a public hearing Thursday, four commissioners voted unanimously to charge a minimum fee of 150 pilot units, about $1,077 at the new rate, for ships that need to be guided into port. Pilot fees are determined by the size and draw of a ship being piloted, as well as fuel costs. In Portland Harbor, ships are charged $7.18 per pilot unit. Pilot rates are regulated and set by the commission. The new rate will replace a $1,200 minimum fee the commissioners approved in May at the request of Portland Pilots Inc., the one pilots association serving Portland Harbor. The minimum fee was $709 before the May increase.. Read the story.