Camden Bank awards bonuses based on expected tax savings

Camden National Bank said Thursday that it will give one-time bonuses of $1,000 to all non-executive full-time employees and $750 to all part-time employees in response to the recently enacted federal corporate tax cut. The total cost of those bonuses will be $620,000, it said. Camden National employs about 660 workers and is Maine’s largest community bank with assets of almost $4 billion. According to its most recent quarterly earnings statement, the bank’s effective tax rate was 31.5 percent for the first nine months of 2017. Its income tax liability was $14.5 million for the same nine-month period. Read the story.


Accelerator gets grant to support entrepreneurship

Portland-based business accelerator Venture Hall has received a $475,000 grant from the Ewing Marion Kauffman Foundation, a large nonprofit organization based in Kansas City, Missouri, that promotes entrepreneurism. The purpose of the grant is to help organizations that provide assistance to entrepreneurs with their efforts to promote business-friendly policies in their respective states. Kauffman chose six recipients nationwide for the grants from a large, unspecified number of applicants. Venture Hall President Jess Knox said his organization will use the funds, to be paid out over three years, to host events and other activities that will give Maine entrepreneurs opportunities to share their stories and concerns with policymakers. Venture Hall is an educational nonprofit that supports the development and success of companies with a high potential for growth. Read the story.


Lobstermen raise objections to increased regulation

Lobstermen, the Maine Lobstermen’s Association and the state Department of Marine Resources expressed opposition to a proposal calling for 100 percent reporting of all lobster catches in Maine. The proposal from the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission got a hearing Wednesday night in Scarborough. Interstate regulators want Maine to move toward 100 percent reporting, which all other states already require, to help them monitor the health of the lobster stock, know where to focus the scientific studies and understand the economic impact of the fishery. Current regulations require a random sampling of 10 percent of the fleet for data such as where they fish and how much they catch. Read the story.


State lawmakers want to overhaul Maine’s medical marijuana caregiver program

On Wednesday, the Legislature’s Health and Human Services Committee held hearings on seven new medical cannabis bills, ranging from a plan to tax adult-use cannabis to pay for medical cannabis testing to a bill that would allow opioid addicts to qualify for medical cannabis certification. The proposals drew long testimony from people within Maine’s caregiver community who asked that the state preserve current rules for small caregivers while considering more oversight of large operations. The committee will hold work sessions on these bills, and will likely try to cobble together pieces from several into one large omnibus medical marijuana bill, according to one lawmaker. The department that has regulatory oversight of the program has not yet weighed in, he noted. Read the story.

New U.S. Attorney says pot charges to be considered individually

The U.S. Attorney for Maine said Tuesday that he can’t declare that his office won’t prosecute marijuana possession, but such cases have not been a priority. Halsey B. Frank said he has been asked about his approach to enforcing federal laws against marijuana possession and use after U.S. Attorney General Jeff Sessions repealed an Obama administration policy that said the federal government would not pursue those cases in most circumstances. The Obama policy was adopted as more states were making the sale and use of small amounts of marijuana legal for recreational or medical purposes. In Maine, both medical marijuana and recreational use by adults over 21 is legal, although state officials are still working out the details on how to regulate sales of recreational marijuana. Frank’s statement doesn’t provide much clarity for medical marijuana businesses that are already operating, or for the emerging market for recreational marijuana, which has the potential to be a multimillion dollar industry in Maine. Read the story.


Two solar arrays go online

During the darkest days of the year, both Brunswick Landing and the town of Woolwich just completed projects to harvest energy from the sun. A $2.5 million solar array project, constructed by ReVision Energy, had a ribbon cutting on Jan. 9 at Brunswick Landing. With its completion, the solar array – containing over 4,500 photovoltaic panels – is providing power to over 100 businesses at the former naval air base. A smaller project at the former Woolwich landfill on Middle Road has also powered up, generating electricity for the town office and other municipal buildings. The large array at Brunswick Landing is part of an overall goal to create a “microgrid” at the former base. Read the story.

 Delegation attempts to prohibit drilling off Gulf of Maine

A bipartisan group of U.S. senators and representatives from New England has introduced a bill to prohibit oil and gas drilling off the New England coast. The New England Coastline Protection Act would prohibit oil and gas extraction activities off New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maine, Massachusetts and Rhode Island. It came in response to the Trump administration’s plan to open nearly all U.S. coastlines to offshore oil and gas drilling. Maine’s Sens. Susan Collins and Angus King issued a statement Thursday saying, in part, “With our environment so closely tied to the vitality of Maine’s economy, we cannot risk the health of our ocean on a shortsighted proposal that could impact Maine people for generations.” Collins and King told Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke in a letter Monday that “the risk of harm from oil and gas drilling off Maine’s coast far outweighs any potential benefit.” Read the story.


L.L. Bean makes $2 million charitable donation to encourage outdoor activity

Retailer L.L. Bean is giving $2 million to charity with a renewed focus on groups that help get kids outdoors. The company says its board of directors last month approved gifts ranging from $5,000 to $412,000 to a variety of organizations engaged in conservation, outdoor recreation, health and human services, education and the arts. Chairman Shawn Gorman says the Freeport-based company’s goal is to support organizations that strengthen communities and protect the outdoors. Read the story.

Boothbay Harbor Shipyard bought by Rhode Island firm

A Rhode Island-based company has acquired Boothbay Harbor Shipyard, which provides repairs and other services for all vessel types. Shipyard operations will continue under the leadership of Vice President Eric Graves, according to a statement Wednesday by Bristol Marine. Improvements to the facility are planned. Terms of the acquisition weren’t made public. Boothbay Harbor Shipyard was founded in the later 1800s and has worked on tall ships, superyachts, tugboats, Navy vessels, sailing yachts and workboats. Read the story.

State employee union feels squeeze from contract dues change

The state’s largest public-sector union has dropped several paid positions as it braces for hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue loss and some decline in membership now that a provision of a new contract has eliminated a key fee-paying requirement for some state workers. Four months after state workers represented by the Maine State Employees Association ratified contracts that gained 3 percent raises in two consecutive years starting in 2018, the effects of eliminating the so-called “agency fees” requirement with the start of a new year already are showing. Ramona Welton, president of the MSEA, Local 1989 of the Service Employees International Union, as well as a unit member, did not have the exact amount of the drop in income but estimated it was in the hundreds of thousands of dollars. Read the story.