COMMERCIAL FISHERIES

Lobster sales to China continue their descent

American lobster exports to China continue to plummet as the industry struggles with stiff trade barriers activated in July on its second-largest export market. About 85 percent of the lobster exported from the U.S. originates from Maine waters, but some is shipped from other states and not reflected in Maine’s total exports. Still, Maine and Massachusetts together accounted for about two-thirds of all U.S. live lobster exports to China last year. Since July, that market has virtually evaporated. The two states combined to export about $1.4 million worth of lobster to China in August, an 83 percent drop from June sales. Read the story.

ENERGY

Heating oil costs expected to increase by 20 percent

The cost of staying warm this winter is going to grow for the average American, and it’s going to be especially painful for those who rely on heating oil, a federal agency said. The U.S. Energy Information Administration forecasts a 20 percent increase in spending for heating oil but more modest increases of 3 percent for electricity and 5 percent for natural gas. Propane expenditures are expected to be roughly on par with last year, the agency said. It’s tough news for residents of the Northeast, which accounts for more than 80 percent of the nation’s residential heating oil consumption. Six in 10 Maine homes heat with oil. Read the story.

Maine likely to keep getting Irving fuel after New Brunswick blast

Maine energy officials say they don’t expect any broad supply interruptions with heating oil, gasoline or diesel fuel as a result of Monday’s fire and explosion at the Irving Oil refinery in Saint John, New Brunswick. Angela Monroe, who heads the Governor’s Energy Office, said she spoke Wednesday with Irving representatives who said the refinery was performing scheduled maintenance at the time, and that they had established contingency plans to replace the supplies that would be unavailable as a result of the explosion. “Although we do know that Maine receives significant amounts of its gasoline, diesel, and home heating oil from this facility,” Monroe said, “we are still working to quantify those amounts and will provide additional information when it is available.” The Canadian facility is the largest supplier of Maine’s gasoline, diesel fuel and heating oil, so officials have been monitoring events to see if the damage would have had any impact on supply or price. Read the story.

HOSPITALITY

Portland housing panel seeks temporary rental moratorium

Portland’s housing committee will ask the City Council to order a six-month moratorium on new short-term rentals in non-owner-occupied homes. The committee proposed the moratorium during a meeting and public hearing Thursday regarding a raft of proposed amendments to tighten Portland’s short-term rental rules. Committee members were poised to debate and vote on changes Thursday, but Chairwoman Jill Duson delayed deliberations because Councilor Pious Ali, a committee member, was unable to attend the meeting. A moratorium was needed, members agreed, because city staff believes the number of non-owner-occupied rentals advertised on online home-sharing sites such as Airbnb may exceed the 300-unit cap on mainland Portland that was established by the 2017 short-term rental ordinance. Read the story.

LEISURE

Professional hockey comes back to Portland’s arena

After a 21/2-year hiatus, fans and local merchants alike welcome the sport’s return as the Maine Mariners hockey team took the ice Saturday in Portland. It was the inaugural game of the ECHL franchise that marks the return of pro hockey to Portland’s Cross Insurance Arena after two dormant winters. The arena is scheduled to host 36 home games from October through early April for the Mariners, professional hockey’s Double-A equivalent that is affiliated with the Hartford Wolf Pack of the AHL and the New York Rangers of the National Hockey League. Adam Goldberg, vice president of business operations for the team, said as of Thursday the Mariners had sold 860 season tickets to fans and another 122 to businesses – topping the 750 season tickets sold by the AHL Pirates in their final season, according to the arena’s management firm. The team expected a crowd of about 5,000 for Saturday’s game at Cross Arena, which has a capacity of 6,435. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE & DEVELOPMENT

Portland landmark building sells for $9.3 million at auction

Downtown Portland’s iconic but troubled Time & Temperature Building has been sold at auction for $9.3 million. Bidding in the auction, which began Tuesday, had reached $5.25 million as of Wednesday night. The auction was scheduled to run until 1:30 p.m. Thursday, at which point the leading bidder would submit finances for approval to finalize the sale. However, the countdown clock for the auction kept being extended in small increments until roughly 1:45 p.m. The winning bid price was removed from the auction website after bidding was closed, but Matt Cardente of Cardente Real Estate in Portland, the lead broker for the auction, confirmed in an interview Thursday afternoon that $9.3 million was the winning bid. He said the sale price was in line with his expectations for the property. Read the story.

Scarborough OKs first phase of racetrack redevelopment

The Scarborough Planning Board on Tuesday unanimously approved subdivision and site plans for the first phase of the redevelopment of Scarborough Downs. The multiphase project calls for building four 12-unit apartment buildings, 16 single-level duplexes and four eight-unit garden-style condominium buildings between Route 1 and the racetrack. The nearly 500-acre property was purchased in January for $6.7 million by the Risbara and Michaud brothers, local businessmen who intend to redevelop the failing harness-racing venue into a mixed-use village center as outlined in the town’s comprehensive plan. The brothers are seeking a property tax break, known as a credit enhancement agreement, worth as much as $81 million over 30 years to help cover initial costs of putting in roads, sewerage lines and other infrastructure. Read the story.

BANKING & FINANCE

Technology institute upends financing protocols for startups

The Maine Technology Institute has radically changed the way that it awards millions of taxpayer dollars to private companies for research and innovation. The publicly funded nonprofit is one of the few reliable sources of money for entrepreneurs and innovators in Maine, but companies have criticized its application process for being cumbersome and inefficient. Now, after a year of review, MTI is trying a new approach. Instead of using a rigid schedule for companies to apply for specific grant and loan programs, applicants will be screened by MTI staff on a rolling basis and offered funding based on their needs. Since MTI was established almost 20 years ago, it has invested almost $230 million in more than 2,000 projects across the state. Read the story.

MANUFACTURING

Rumford, Old Town mills purchased by Hong Kong company

ND Paper LLC has increased its presence in Maine, reaching an agreement to purchase the Old Town pulp mill that closed three years ago, saying that it will create more than 100 jobs in the Penobscot County community. The U.S. subsidiary of Hong Kong-based Nine Dragons Paper Holdings Ltd. recently purchased the Catalyst paper mill in Rumford and hopes its latest deal will be completed in 30 days. The sale is a cash deal for an undisclosed sum. ND Paper plans to make capital investments in Old Town and restart the mill in the first quarter of 2019 with the capability of annually producing 275,000 air-dried metric tons of unbleached kraft pulp. Read the story.

TRANSPORTATION

JetBlue to drop year-round, daily service to New York

Starting in January, JetBlue will no longer offer year-round daily service between the Portland International Jetport and New York City. The popular low-cost carrier will still fly daily between Portland and John F. Kennedy International Airport during the summer, the company said in a news release Tuesday. JetBlue will stop service to Portland after Jan. 7, 2019. Jetport officials expect service to resume after Memorial Day. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Travis Mills receives honor from regional business group

Travis Mills, an Army staff sergeant who lost all his limbs in Afghanistan and returned to Maine to serve veterans here, has been honored by a regional business organization.

The New England Council, one of the country’s oldest business groups, selected Mills as a New Englander of the Year. He was honored at a dinner in Boston Thursday night.

Last year, he raised more than $2.5 million to open a retreat for wounded veterans and their families in the Belgrade Lakes Region. In its first season, more than 80 families came to the pastoral compound to relax, recreate and bond with one another. Read the story.

Hotelier Tom Walsh dies; known for promoting Maine

Thomas “Tom” Walsh, a Bangor native who built one of the largest hotel management companies in the world and helped raise Maine’s stature as a premier destination for luxury hospitality, has died. He was 88. Walsh was a self-made mogul whose first hotel in Brewer spawned an empire that stretches from Canada to Florida with additional properties in the Southwest. And while his last name may not be as synonymous with hospitality as Marriott or Hilton, Walsh’s contributions to the industry and the community have been no less significant, former colleagues said. Walsh died Oct. 6 surrounded by his family, according to his obituary on the Brookings-Smith funeral home website. Read the story.