REAL ESTATE & DEVELOPMENT

Brewery plans redevelopment, job reassignments

Shipyard Brewing Co.’s $65 million redevelopment proposal that includes a beer-themed hotel is forcing about 30 employees who work in the Portland brewery to look for new jobs. Founder and President Fred Forsley said Wednesday that the company is offering the affected employees jobs at Shipyard’s seven other locations and connecting them with nine other partner companies that are looking for workers. According to planning documents given to the city last month and made public Tuesday, the existing brick brewery building and tasting room would be renovated. But the rest of the buildings on the 2-acre site – including the bottling plant – would be demolished to make way for the 105-room hotel, a three-story residential building with nine units at Hancock and Newbury streets, a large office building and a four-story garage for 360 vehicles. In addition to the 60,000 square feet of office space, the development plan calls for both a 60,000-square-foot specialty pharmacy and a 40,000-square-foot distribution center known as a technical fulfillment pharmacy. Read the story.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Organizers reinvent startup week with new focus

A group of volunteers has stepped forward to carry on a version of Maine Startup and Create Week after its founder left the entrepreneurship community following his admission to sexual harassment. Conference organizers Katie Shorey and Andrew Kraus were involved in putting on the event when Jesse Knox was running it, but now they are its leaders – Shorey as president and chairwoman, and Kraus as vice president. The conference has been renamed Startup Maine, and it is being revamped to focus more on interactive workshops and entrepreneur “case studies” that teach solutions to real problems faced by businesses, the organizers said. The conference also has been shortened from five to three days, and the price of an all-access pass has been slashed from $499 to just $48. Startup Maine is scheduled for June 21-23 at the Maine College of Art and other locations in downtown Portland. More information can be found at the event’s website, startupmaine.org. Read the story.

TRANSPORTATION

Surging gas prices unlikely to hurt tourism

Gas prices headed to their highest point in four years aren’t likely to prompt drivers to hit the brakes on summer road trips and travel in Maine, analysts say. The average price for regular gas in Maine was $2.81 a gallon Wednesday, about 16 cents more than a month ago and 52 cents higher than the same time last year, according to price tracking website gasbuddy.com. The price of a gallon of gas in Maine has jumped 29 cents since January. Drivers can expect prices to go up as far as $2.90 before leveling off for the summer, said Patrick DeHaan, head of petroleum analysis at gasbuddy. There are indications consumers are pulling back spending in reaction to higher as prices, but probably not enough to make a serious change for the travel season, said another analyst. Read the story.

Grant money will be used to replace ferry

Casco Bay Lines will get a $6 million federal grant to replace one of its aging passenger ferries. Members of Maine’s congressional delegation announced the Federal Transit Administration award to the Portland-area public ferry service on Thursday. The money will pay for more than half the $10 million ferry replacement, with other government grants and a local match paying the rest, said Casco Bay Lines General Manager Hank Berg. The ferry service intends to replace the Machigonne II car ferry and Maqouit II passenger ferry in the near future, he said. Read the story.

MARIJUANA

Lawmakers endorse launch of legal recreational market

The Legislature on Wednesday overturned a veto by Gov. Paul LePage that would have again stalled the legal sale of recreational marijuana, moving Maine a major step closer to launching a legal retail market for the drug. The House voted 109-39 and the Senate 28-6 to override LePage’s veto of cannabis legalization legislation, setting the state on a path to the legal sale and production of recreational marijuana some 18 months after voters approved legalization at the ballot box in November 2016. However, it will likely be the spring of 2019 before the first retail shops can open for business. Now that the bill has passed, the state Department of Administrative and Financial Services must hire a consultant to help the state write more regulatory rules, including inspection and licensing of wholesale commercial growing facilities, licensing of retail sellers and collection of sales taxes. The rules will have to be approved by the next Legislature, which convenes in January. Read the story.

TECHNOLOGY

Wex reports strong first quarter earnings

Corporate payment services provider Wex Inc. of South Portland reported a strong first quarter Thursday, with double-digit increases in both revenue and net income. The company’s revenue for the quarter was $354.8 million, up 22 percent from $291.4 million in the first quarter of 2017. About $9 million of that increase was attributed to higher fuel prices, as one of Wex’s primary businesses is processing fuel payments for corporate vehicle fleets. Excluding one-time credits and charges, the company’s net income for the first quarter was $48.6 million, or $1.12 per share, up 65 percent from $29.4 million, or 68 cents per share, a year earlier. When adjusted to include one-time credits and charges, the company’s net income for the quarter was $78.7 million, or $1.81 per share, up 47 percent from $52.9 million, or $1.23 per share, in the first quarter of 2017. Read the story.

ENERGY

CMP documents reveal persistent billing software problems

Central Maine Power Co. has known for months that its new billing software was rife with problems, raising questions about its assertion in April that its software has nothing to do with why hundreds of customers had unusually high bills over the winter. More than 250 pages of confidential documents obtained by the Portland Press Herald show persistent problems with CMP’s new billing system, a situation that was downplayed in early April by a top manager, who said the new billing system was not contributing to extraordinarily high bills for some 1,500 customers. The internal documents, which were filed with the state Public Utilities Commission, portray a company desperately trying to understand problems with its new billing system and how to fix them. CMP switched from its 27-year-old mainframe computer system on Oct. 30, 2017 – the same day a powerful windstorm knocked out power to more than 400,000 CMP customers. Read the story.

WASTE MANAGEMENT

Ecomaine warns of penalties for contaminated recyclables

Ecomaine, a nonprofit corporation that recycles waste from several communities, is losing thousands of dollars a month as it struggles to pick out as much non-recyclable material – called contamination – as it can from the thousands of tons of recycling it processes every year. The current problem: a global price collapse brought on by a Chinese ban on importing many types of waste. Unless contamination rates come down, more than 70 towns and cities that send recycling to ecomaine could face hefty penalties – up to $70.50 a ton for very dirty deliveries. On average, about 15 percent of “recycling” is actually trash. Read the story.

EDUCATION

Packaging company donates $1 million to UMaine center

An Illinois packaging company has pledged a gift of $1 million to help build the new University of Maine Engineering Education and Design Center on the Orono campus.

Packaging Corporation of America, one of the largest makers of containerboard and corrugated packaging products in the country, made its pledge at the university’s annual Paper Days conference in April. PCA is a corporate member of the University of Maine Pulp & Paper Foundation, which sponsors the conference and encourages students to consider paper-related technical careers. Up to $15 million remains to be raised toward construction of the Engineering Education and Design Center, proposed to cost up to $80 million. Groundbreaking for the facility is planned for 2020, with completion in 2022. Read the story.