TRANSPORTATION

Metro rolls out new bus lines Monday

The largest public transit expansion in two decades will launch next week, when Portland Metro begins a new service to Gorham and adds a bus line across Westbrook. The expanded service includes a unlimited transit pass for University of Southern Maine students and staff, projected to add hundreds of thousands of new boardings a year for the growing transit agency. The $4.5 million Transit West expansion was proposed more than two years ago as a way to improve bus service in Westbrook and west Portland, provide public transit to Gorham, and integrate USM’s transportation system with the public bus agency. Anchoring the expansion is the Husky Line, a limited-stop bus service designed to carry students and commuters on an 11-mile route from downtown Gorham to USM’s Portland campus and Monument Square downtown. Read the story.

MANUFACTURING

Companies partner to speed up footwear production

Two Maine startups involved in footwear production are joining forces through technology. Bangor-based Cobbler Technologies will start printing the soles of high-end sandals made at Soak in Kennebunk later this year. Although the company will still make many of its soles with the traditional injection-mold technology at its factory, the new method will allow it to make modifications and quickly spin out a few extra pairs of a particularly popular item on a specialty 3-D printer developed by Cobbler. Traditionally, soles are made by injecting foam or rubber into molds and then letting them harden. That requires individual molds for each model of the shoe and for every shoe size of that model. Using 3-D printers make production more adaptable and changes can be made quickly. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE & DEVELOPMENT

Thompson’s Point lands $495,000 loan

The Finance Authority of Maine has approved a loan totaling $495,000 to help the developer of Thompson’s Point in Portland renovate a historic former rail building. The renovation of the building known as Brick Burb is part of a larger, $3.3 million project involving the construction of a new building as part of a land swap designed to relocate Suburban Propane’s facility from Thompson’s Point to a replacement site on Riverside Street in Portland. The project also includes the demolition and cleanup of existing buildings on the site. The loan is expected to help create and retain 12 Maine jobs, according to FAME. Since the project began in 2009, the 30-acre property has evolved from a derelict former railyard to a mixed-use project now home to a variety of Maine companies. Read the story.

Former church that houses Portland restaurant for sale

The 1856 Gothic revival church that is home to Grace, a popular Portland restaurant, is up for sale for just under $2 million. But diners needn’t worry: Owner Anne Rutherford says the restaurant will remain open. Rutherford is selling the Chestnut Street building, which is listed on the National Register of Historic Places, to get out from under a second mortgage, she said, but has no plans to close the restaurant. She said she won’t sell it unless the potential new owner allows the restaurant to stay put. The 14,358-square-foot building was designed by architect Charles Alexander and was home to a Methodist church for most of its 162 years. Read the story.

Volume of home sales and their prices rose in July

Maine experienced solid gains in both median price and sales volume for existing single-family homes in July. Maine Listings reported Wednesday that 1,864 homes changed hands – an increase of 9.7 percent from the same period a year earlier – and the median sale price jumped by 9.2 percent to $225,000. For the three-month period ending July 31, statewide home sales volume increased by 3.7 percent in Maine compared with the same period in 2017. The median sale price for the three-month period increased by 9.8 percent compared with a year earlier, to $225,000. Read the story.

TIF considered for Scarborough Downs redevelopment

Developers and Scarborough town officials are negotiating a tax increment financing agreement for the 500-acre Scarborough Downs property. At a Town Council workshop Wednesday, developers said they will need a partnership with the town to complete their vision of community space and a “modern, active mixed-use” downtown area on about 40 acres at the core of the property. With a TIF, the property taxes paid by the developers might be returned to them to pay for project amenities, like the community space, that benefit the town. The tax money, however, can also sometimes be returned to businesses to help their bottom line. When it is completed, the project will include $600 million in taxable value, according to one of the project partners, Rocco Risbara III. The specific amount to be returned to the project through the TIF district has not been negotiated, Town Manager Thomas Hall said. Another hearing is planned for early September. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Gourmet food shop Aurora Provisions closing

Aurora Provisions, a popular gourmet foods retail shop and cafe on Portland’s West End, is closing in order to focus on its catering business, owner Melissa Carr says. The cafe and market, located at 64 Pine St. next door to Chaval restaurant, will close its doors on Sept. 1, the Saturday of Labor Day weekend, she said. Carr has owned Aurora Provisions for just a little over one year. She said the cafe staff will be given the opportunity to join the catering side of the business as seasonal employees. Read the story.

FCC chairman to deliver keynote address in Portland

Federal Communications Commission Chairman Ajit Pai will deliver the keynote address for the Maine Heritage Policy Center, a conservative research organization, at a fundraising luncheon in September. The center announced Pai’s appearance in a statement Tuesday that noted his controversial role in ending the FCC’s net neutrality regulations and touted his efforts to eliminate fraud, waste and abuse in federal programs. Pai was appointed to the chairman’s post by President Trump, although he served on the commission prior as an appointee of former President Obama. Pai will attend the center’s 2018 Freedom & Opportunity Luncheon at the Holiday Inn by the Bay in Portland on Sept. 14. Read the story.

USDA awards $530,000 in business grants

Small businesses in southern Maine are in line for federal grants to help them save energy and grow their companies. Nearly $530,000 from the Renewable Energy for America Program and Value Added Producer grants will be allocated to six Maine businesses, according to a news release from U.S. Rep. Chellie Pingree, who sits on the committee with oversight of the U.S. Department of Agriculture programs. They are Turtle Rock Farm in Brunswick, T&D Wood Energy of Sanford, Mook Sea Farms of Walpole, Flying Frog of Freeport, Mallory Property Holdings of Newcastle and Porchside Properties of Dresden. Read the story.

TECHNOLOGY

Biotech firm moves into Waterville’s Hathaway Center

An Ellsworth-based biotechnology firm has occupied space in the Hathaway Creative Center in Waterville, making it among the latest tenants to move into the redeveloped old mill. The GenoTyping Center of America, which has a business office in Ellsworth, opened a laboratory in early summer that will perform genetic testing services. The move was announced this week in a news release from the Central Maine Growth Council. The company, founded in 2012, has experienced growth of about 90 percent over each of the past three years, the release said. It currently employs six people in the Ellsworth and Waterville offices, but anticipates another three to four jobs being added in the next year. Read the story.

EDUCATION

USM considering a name change

Since it was founded as the Gorham Normal School in 1878, the University of Southern Maine has undergone several name changes. Now, its current president is proposing that its name be changed again, possibly to one more in line with the school’s connection to the city of Portland. USM President Glenn Cummings sent letters to the entire USM community recently suggesting that it might be time to explore a name change. The name change would require approval by trustees and the Maine Legislature, and would apply to the Portland, Gorham and Lewiston campuses. Surveys soliciting input are expected to be mailed in mid-September to the university community. Read the story.