TECHNOLOGY

Idexx revenue jumped 11 percent last year

Westbrook-based veterinary technology firm Idexx Laboratories Inc. said Thursday that it generated revenue of $1.97 billion in 2017, an 11 percent increase over the previous year. The company also said it will use excess funds from the recent corporate tax cut to increase its contribution to employee 401(k) retirement funds from 4 percent to 5 percent. Idexx reported net income of $263.1 million, or $2.94 per share, for the year, up 20 percent from $222 million, or $2.44 per share, in 2016. Its 2017 revenue of $1.97 billion was up 11 percent from $1.78 billion in 2016. Read the story.

Tyler Technologies opens $28 million Yarmouth expansion

When Tyler Technologies acquired Maine-based Munis in 1999, people in the community worried it was the beginning of the end for the Texas company’s Maine presence. But nearly 20 years later, Tyler has reinforced its long-term commitment to Maine by completing a 94,425-square-foot expansion to its Yarmouth facility with plans to add nearly 600 jobs in the state by 2025. The Plano, Texas-based company celebrated the grand opening of its Yarmouth expansion Wednesday with a ceremony attended by local and state officials. The expanded facility adds a variety of amenities and can accommodate up to 750 workers, company officials said. Read the story.

AQUACULTURE

Norway company to build salmon farm in Belfast

A Norwegian company plans to build one of the world’s largest land-based salmon farms in Belfast, a project that would create 60 jobs within two years and up to 140 once it is completed, according to the company’s chief executive officer. Nordic Aquafarms, an international developer of land-based aquaculture, has signed agreements to purchase 40 acres on the outskirts of the city and plans an initial investment of $150 million in the project. Nordic Aquafarms CEO Erik Heim said Tuesday his company chose Belfast after a six-month search that started in Japan and China, then took stock of Ireland and Spain before settling on Belfast. He announced the plan at the University of Maine’s Hutchinson Center. Heim cited Maine’s “pristine environment, cold water conditions, long history as a leader in the seafood industry and proximity to major consumer markets in the Northeast United States,” as reasons for choosing the Belfast location. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Data company scrutinized over tax breaks

A state senator said it’s “really inappropriate” for Carbonite to slice its workforce in half over the past three years by shipping some jobs overseas while getting a state tax break for hiring in Maine. Sen. Nate Libby, D-Lewiston, said he was shocked Wednesday to read in the Sun Journal that Carbonite, a data-protection software company, was sending customer service positions to Jamaica as they became vacant in Maine. He said the sort of “slow drip” job loss was clearly “flying under the radar” and suggested officials eye revisions to the Department of Economic and Community Development’s Pine Tree Development Zone program to keep an eye on these sorts of changes. The company receives 80 percent of Maine state income tax withholdings on “qualified employees” for 10 years, according to its acceptance letter. Workers included under the provision must be full-time and earn above-average wages to qualify. According to its annual Pine Tree reports, Carbonite had 368 qualified jobs as recently as 2015. That number dropped to 226 in 2016. Now there are fewer than 180 at its Lewiston office on Mollison Way. The company said it is shifting its staffing model, but wil lretain good jobs in Lewiston for the long haul. Read the story.

Unum boosts minimum wage, charitable contributions

As a result of its strong financial performance in 2017, Unum Group is adding new parental leave benefits, upping its minimum wage to $15 an hour and boosting its charitable contributions by $1 million. The minimum wage increase will affect about 80 employees in Portland, Unum said Thursday. Unum is based in Chattanooga, Tennessee, but has a major presence in Portland with over 3,000 workers. Under the new parental leave policy, eligible employees will have six weeks of paid leave to care for a newborn, or a child placed through adoption or foster care, at any time during the 12 months after birth, adoption or fostering, Unum said. The disability insurance provider also will boost the compensation of its lowest-paid workers so that all employees earn at least $15 an hour across the U.S. The change will show up in paychecks on March 30. Read the story.

Maine working to prevent federal tax overhaul from increasing state taxes

Maine lawmakers on Thursday began trying to figure out how to ensure Mainers aren’t hit with a higher state tax bill because of the Republican tax overhaul that President Trump recently signed into law. Gov. Paul LePage’s administration said the governor plans to submit legislation this month aimed at preventing a state tax hike that could occur if Maine does away with its personal exemption on income taxes to conform with that change in federal tax law. For the 2017 tax year, Maine’s personal exemption was $4,050, the same as the federal exemption. The new federal tax law cuts tax rates and nearly doubles the standard income deduction. It also caps or eliminates some popular itemized deductions and eliminates the personal exemption. The LePage administration’s new report finds Maine residents and businesses overall could see $1 billion in federal income tax cuts under the overhaul. Read the story.

Lawmakers delay vote on bill to establish youth wages

Republican lawmakers and business groups continue to push for a compromise on changes to Maine’s voter-approved minimum wage increases but face deep skepticism from Democrats and their progressive allies. Last week, a legislative committee heard hours of testimony on a bill that would rollback Maine’s new minimum wage from $10 to $9.50 an hour beginning June 1 and only increase the wage by 50 cents each January rather than the $1-per-hour pay hike approved by voters. The controversial bill, L.D. 1757, also would establish a lower “youth minimum wage” for minors and a “training wage” for workers ages 18 to 20 during the first 90 days of their employment, thereby adding Maine to the lengthy list of states allowing lower wages for younger workers. On Wednesday, members of the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee delayed a vote on the bill until next Wednesday. Bill sponsor Rep. Joel Stetkis of Canaan and other Republicans requested additional time to work on an amended bill that appears likely to propose lower youth and training wages, but not the proposal to lower the $10-an-hour wage that took effect on Jan. 1. Read the story.

MARIJUANA

Lawmakers spike bill to extend pot moratorium

A bill to delay implementation of the Marijuana Legalization Act until the end of the legislative session died Thursday. The bill failed to win even a simple majority in the House, losing 65-81, prompting the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Roger Katz, R-Augusta, to declare it dead despite the fact that the Senate didn’t actually vote on it. As a result, the moratorium adopted by the Legislature last year to delay commercial aspects of the voter-approved referendum is now lapsed. Katz, the Senate president of the committee tasked with overhauling the voter initiative, said the failure to extend the moratorium will have no practical impact on the public because the state doesn’t have a licensing system in place. The act requires anyone who wants to cultivate, sell or make marijuana products for commercial sale to obtain a state license, and that can’t happen until the state creates a licensing system, he said. His committee will continue its work. Read the story.

ENERGY

N.H. regulators’ decision could open door for $1 billion CMP plan

State regulators unanimously rejected an application for a hydropower project that would have provided clean energy to Massachusetts but was seen as an eyesore by critics who feared it would tarnish scenic views and damage New Hampshire’s tourism industry. The decision is a stunning setback for a project that was first proposed in 2010 and, after countless hearings and protests, appeared to be a done deal. The Site Evaluation Committee voted 7-0 against the project over concerns about its impact on local business, tourism and development in the region, especially in the northern part of the state. The surprising decision comes a week after the project was selected from among dozens of bids to supply renewable energy in Massachusetts. One of the losing bids was a $1 billion proposal submitted by Central Maine Power, which wanted to build a 145-mile transmission corridor to bring hydropower from Quebec. The company said it was continuing to seek permits for the project, even though it failed to win the Massachusetts contract. Read the story.

MANUFACTURING

Old Town mill to be redeveloped for forest-products tenants

A shuttered paper mill that has been at the center of attempts to develop forest-based biotechnologies has been sold. OTM Holdings, LLC announced late Wednesday that it has purchased the former Old Town pulp mill complex from MFGR, LLC. Details of the sale were not released, but OTM Holdings said it plans to redevelop the site into a wood fiber-based complex housing multiple tenants. The sale will save the facility from the demolition that recently claimed other shuttered mills, according to a statement from Bob Maroney of Gordon Brothers, a partner with MFGR, the liquidation company that sold the mill. Maroney said the innovative redevelopment program will have broad economic impacts for the region, provide jobs and support to Maine’s forest industry. Read the story.