CMP plan poised for massive Massachusetts contract

The proposal to build a $950 million power line through western Maine received a major boost on Monday, when a decision by a regulatory board in New Hampshire mortally wounded the project’s competitor. Action by the New Hampshire Site Evaluation Committee to delay its final decision on the Northern Pass transmission line likely will make an alternative proposal from Central Maine Power the default winner in a bid to supply vast amounts of hydroelectricity from Quebec to Massachusetts, according to a chief opponent of Northern Pass. The shifting fortunes of Northern Pass and CMP’s project, New England Clean Energy Connect, have been chronicled for months in media reports, but now seem to be coming to a head. The result is placing new scrutiny on CMP’s plan to build a 145-mile line along a corridor it already owns. The line would run from Beattie Township, on the Canadian border north of Route 27 and Coburn Gore, through Farmington and Jay to Lewiston, where it would connect to the regional electric grid. Regulatory delays faced by Northern Pass all but guarantees it can’t receive a go-ahead for its $1.6 billion venture by the March 27 deadline set by Massachusetts. Read the story.


Ski operator intends to buy two Maine resorts

Sugarloaf and Sunday River resorts in Maine are among the properties being acquired by Boyne Resorts. Boyne has announced an agreement with Ski Resort Holdings, LLC, an affiliate of Oz Real Estate, to acquire six mountain resorts and a scenic chairlift attraction currently leased by the resort company. The deal also includes Loon Mountain in New Hampshire. In a statement, Boyne, which operates the properties and owns additional resorts, says it has a 70-year history of ski industry innovations and describes itself as the third-largest mountain resort company in North America. The transaction is expected to close this year, well ahead of the 2018-19 ski season, once regulatory approvals are granted, according to the statement. Boyne has been operating Sunday River in Newry and Sugarloaf in Carrabassett Valley for years. Read the story.


Ready Seafood plans new lobster processing facility

A new lobster processing facility planned for 40 acres on Route 1 in Saco represents a significant addition to the state’s limited processing operations. The facility received a necessary zoning change from Saco municipal officials Monday night, allowing the plan by Ready Seafood Co. to go forward. The company already has processing facilities in Scarborough and a holding facility in Portland. Last fall it announced plans to partner with the University of Maine in a research project to see if they can discover and test safe methods to toughen the shells of soft-shell lobsters, which would allow the crustaceans to be shipped greater distances for distribution. Maine has six large lobster processing facilities, one in eastern Maine and five in the Portland region, but in a typical year, 30 to 40 percent of the lobster catch in Maine goes to Canada for processing. The Ready plant will be built on the northwest side of Route 1, down the road from the Saco Drive-In. Read the story.


Thompson Point hotel plan ready for review

A long-planned hotel that is part of the redevelopment of Thompson’s Point in Portland is headed for a Planning Board workshop next week. The five-story, 148-room hotel will be part of Marriott International, Chris Thompson of Forefront Partners said during a neighborhood meeting in January. The hotel has been planned from the project’s outset and is a component of the master development plan approved by the Planning Board in 2014. The site was shifted to the lot behind the Brick South building, which is used for events that include the Maine Flower Show. The hotel would be across the access road from the outdoor concert venue and winter skating rink. Along with the change of sites, plans for 24 condominium units on the top floor were also scrapped. Read the story.

Canadian firm to test for mining potential in northern Maine

A Canadian company could develop Maine’s first large-scale mining operation in decades if a $1 million exploration project finds high-grade metal deposits. Wolfden Resources Corp. is currently testing core samples from a deposit under Pickett Mountain in Penobscot County. The CEO of the Ontario-based company says it could be one of the highest-grade undeveloped volcanic deposits in North America. Read the story.

Lawmakers spike LePage nominee’s appointment to head housing agency

Senate Democrats on Thursday blocked Gov. Paul LePage’s nominee to lead the Maine State Housing Authority. The Senate voted 20-13 to confirm George Gervais, who is currently serving as LePage’s commissioner of economic and community development, but the result was two votes shy of the two-thirds needed for confirmation. Gervais’ nomination to succeed John Gallagher as executive director of the quasi-state agency was the subject of much debate at his committee-level confirmation hearing this month. The committee voted out a split recommendation on March 1 – with seven Democrats opposing and six Republicans supporting his nomination. Read the story.


Kennebunk technology firm acquired by Boston investment group

Plixer, a computer network analytics provider based in Kennebunk, says it is poised for significant growth after being acquired by Battery Ventures, a technology-focused Boston investment firm. Founded in 1999, Plixer has 54 employees and provides services to more than 3,000 customers in 108 countries, said Bob Noel, the company’s director of strategic relationships and marketing. Noel would not disclose the terms of the Battery Ventures acquisition, but he said it will lead to significant growth for Plixer in the coming years, including the hiring of additional staff in Kennebunk. He said the specifics of the company’s growth plans are being worked out. Plixer offers a product called Scrutinizer that conducts forensic analyses on a wide variety of network activity. It allows customers to quickly troubleshoot problems such as a hack or security breach and return their networks to normal operation. Read the story.


Ferry service to pay for upgrades at Portland terminal

Nova Scotia will pay for improvements at the Portland ferry terminal required by the federal government so international ferry service can resume this summer. The provincial government will spend as much as $1.5 million for license plate readers and radiation detectors at the U.S. Customs and Border Protection facility at Portland Ocean Gateway, said Marla MacInnis, a spokeswoman for the Nova Scotia Department of Transportation and Infrastructure Renewal. The future of the high-speed Cat ferry between Portland and Yarmouth, Nova Scotia, was thrown into doubt last year, when Customs and Border Protection said it would no longer screen and process passengers without upgrades to make the terminal comply with the department’s standards. Portland officials have said the $7 million estimated total cost is too much for the city to pay alone, considering the ferry’s mixed record since service restarted in 2014 after a four-year hiatus. Read the story.


Bank raises minimum wage to $15 per hour

Bangor Savings Bank has raised the minimum rate it pays employees in all positions to $15 an hour, the bank said Thursday. The increase, which took effect Feb. 25, supports the bank’s objective to pay a living wage to all employees regardless of location, position, or whether they are full-time or part-time, Bangor Savings said in a statement. In January 2016, Bangor Savings raised its minimum wage to $13 an hour. The bank said it has made three subsequent wage increases since then as part of a living wage initiative. Read the story.


Pot-themed radio show launches

Maine is now home to a cannabis-themed radio show, an hourlong mix of music and talk that is co-hosted by a high-profile medical marijuana caregiver. Dawson Julia, the owner of a medical marijuana shop in Unity, will tackle a different topic every week on the Cannabis Connection, which airs from 6-7 p.m. on Mondays on WFMX-107.9 The Mix. He is joined by on-air personality Chris Rush and a different special guest each week, ranging from a state representative who works on state medical cannabis legislation to a nurse practitioner who certifies medical marijuana patients to a criminal defense lawyer. In its first month, it has been a mix of pre-recorded and live segments, with about 20 minutes of talk spread over one hour. Read the story.