Vets First Choice partnership expected to produce new public company

Vets First Choice of Portland is poised to become Maine’s newest publicly traded company. The veterinary technology provider plans to merge with the animal health division of an existing public company called Henry Schein Inc., which would be spun off as its own entity, according to a company statement issued Monday. The new company would be called Vets First Corp. and would be based in Portland, company officials said. The transaction, which is subject to approval by securities regulators, is expected to happen by the end of this year. Henry Schein is a global distributor of health care products and services with a presence in over 30 countries. Upon completion of the transaction, Henry Schein shareholders would own roughly 63 percent of the new company, and Vets First Choice shareholders would own about 37 percent, according to the statement. Henry Schein expects to receive between $1 billion and $1.25 billion in cash from the transaction. Once the transaction is complete, Vets First Corp. would become Maine’s fourth non-bank publicly traded company, joining Idexx Laboratories Inc. of Westbrook, Wex Inc. of South Portland and ImmuCell Corp. of Portland. Read the story.


Proposal still bars most short-term rentals

The South Portland City Council reached consensus last week on changes to a controversial short-term rental ordinance that would allow residents to rent out their homes for up to two weeks at a stretch. But the modifications discussed Tuesday leave the core of the original restrictions intact: Most non-hosted short-term rentals would still be barred. The amendments would allow two adults per room, with a cap of six people in an owner-occupied rental. Owners of apartment buildings with at least four units would be able to rent out two apartments as long as they live in one of the other units, and all short-term rentals would have to be licensed by the city. Councilors supported dropping language that would have prevented people from renting their homes out for a week or two while they are on vacation. Read the story.

City seeks bids to broker industrial park lots

The city of Portland is seeking bids from real estate companies to broker sales for three vacant lots at the Portland Technology Park off Rand Road. Bids are scheduled to be opened May 3. The city wants to see who would be interested in brokering the property and how they might approach marketing. City records show five companies have asked for information, including the Dunham Group, which markets the lots now. The lots for sale range from 1.3 to 3.5 acres, priced from $270,000 to $600,000, according to a sales brochure. They are part of the first phase of development on 26 acres, where one lot was sold in 2015 to Patrons Oxford, an insurance company that moved from Auburn and opened offices in 2017. Read the story.


Home sales dip slightly, but prices edge up

Tight housing inventory statewide led to a decrease in sales of Maine’s existing single-family homes in March while prices increased by double digits from a year earlier, according to the Maine Association of Realtors. The association reported Monday that 1,156 homes changed hands in March, down 2.8 percent from 1,189 homes in March 2017. With a limited supply of homes available for purchase, the statewide median home sale price in March shot upward by 11 percent from a year earlier to $212,000. The median price indicates that half of the homes were sold for more money and half sold for less. Read the story.


Threats could lead to suspension of ferry service

State officials have authorized the potential suspension of Maine State Ferry Service between Islesboro and Lincolnville after threats to employees stemming from the service’s plan to double ticket prices next month. The ferry serving Penobscot Bay islands is still operating, but service will cease if the threats and intimidating behavior toward ferry employees continue, Maine Transportation Commissioner David Bernhardt wrote in a letter to Islesboro Town Manager Janet Anderson. During a special meeting Monday, Selectman Gabe Pendleton said some ferry workers were feeling “a little uncomfortable, while others did not notice any problems,” according to draft meeting minutes. The threats and intimidation took a number of forms, Bernhardt’s letter said. “Examples include a post to the Islesboro Facebook page suggesting customers firebomb the ferry service, a comment to a crew member … about needing to wear a bulletproof vest, and a large group of individuals approaching a crew member off the boat … harassing him about the new rate structure,” Bernhardt wrote. Read the story.


EMHS to partner with Mass General

A Maine-based health care system says its patients will now have access to resources at Massachusetts General Hospital in Boston. The Wednesday announcement by Brewer-based Eastern Maine Healthcare Systems stated the organization had signed a clinical affiliation agreement with Mass General. The Bangor Daily News reports this means it will bring the Boston hospital’s resources to patients in the Bangor area. Massachusetts General, a teaching hospital of Harvard Medical School, is about a four-hour drive from Bangor, but EMHC officials say Maine patients will benefit from the affiliation without having to make the trip. Read the story.



City considers pros and cons for mandated paid sick time

Portland city councilors heard strong testimony Wednesday both in support of and in opposition to a proposal that would require businesses in the city to give all of their full-time, part-time and seasonal employees as many as six paid sick days a year. Workers – sometimes holding multiple jobs – told stories of having to go to work sick and spreading illnesses to clients and customers. But some business owners, who support the idea in concept, said profit margins are thin and each business needs to figure out what works for them. They warned of increased costs, potential abuse and loss of better benefits programs already in place. Tuesday was the first hearing about a proposal drafted by the Maine Women’s Lobby and the Southern Maine Worker’s Center to make Portland the first community in the state to adopt a mandatory earned sick time ordinance. Read the story.


Group awards research grant to study scallop yields

The Foundation for Food and Agriculture Research, a nonprofit corporation established by the 2014 Farm Bill, has awarded Hugh Cowperthwaite of Coastal Enterprises Inc. a $300,000 matching research grant to investigate the economic viability of a Japanese scallop production technique that has been shown to grow scallops faster and produce larger meat yields. CEI is an economic development group based in Brunswick. Read the story.


Second BIW stealth destroyer accepted by Navy

The Navy has accepted delivery of the second of three stealth destroyers. A statement from Naval Sea Systems Command on Tuesday indicates the future USS Michael Monsoor successfully completed extensive tests, trials and demonstrations by shipbuilder Bath Iron Works. Capt. Kevin Smith, program manager from Program Executive Office Ships, said the shipbuilder and the Navy “incorporated many lessons” from construction of the first-in-class USS Zumwalt, which is homeported in San Diego. He said both parties “are proud of the end result.” The final ship in the class, the Lyndon B. Johnson, is still under construction in Bath. It’s due to be christened later this year or early in 2019. Read the story.

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