Entries Filed in 'Business & Innovation'
A proposed law to address how changing ocean chemistry can damage Maine’s coast, shellfish industry and jobs won unanimous support from the Marine Resources Committee on Monday. Bill L.D. 1602, sponsored by Rep. Mick Devin, would establish a commission to look at the effects of ocean acidification and its potential effects on commercial shellfish harvested along the Maine coast.
“Maine’s history and way of life are tied to our coast,” said Devin, a marine biologist. “If the health of our ocean waters is at risk, so are thousands of jobs, the seafood and tourist industries and the seafood we eat.”
The commission would be tasked with recommending policies and steps to respond to the adverse effects of ocean acidification on commercially important shellfish fisheries and Maine’s shellfish aquaculture industry.
Shellfish hatcheries on the West Coast have failed in recent years due to 60 to 80 percent production losses caused by ocean chemistry changes. Major inshore shellfisheries in Maine that provide clams, oysters, lobsters, shrimp and sea urchins, could see major losses if ocean acidification is left unchecked.
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Tags: Aquaculture in Maine·Climate change·Lobster fishing in Maine
In a letter to FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler and Attorney General Eric Holder yesterday, Congresswoman Chellie Pingree urged the government to block a proposed merger between Comcast and Time Warner. U.S. Rep.Pingree warned the proposed merger would lead to less competition and could result in higher prices and fewer choices for consumers.
“In the end, a merger between Comcast and Time Warner will lead to higher rates, less competition and a loss of innovation and choice in programming. In short, it will be bad for the American consumer and this merger should not be allowed to go through,” Pingree wrote in her letter.
Together, the two companies would serve more than a third of the US cable market and half of all “bundled” customers, who get internet, TV and telephone service all from one cable company. Pingree raised concerns about prices, service and the effects on a free and open Internet.
“Access to broadband should not be jeopardized by further market concentration in an entity that not only has a last-mile monopoly in large swaths of the country, but also control over must-have broadcast content,” she wrote in the letter.
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Tags: Congresswoman Chellie Pingree of Maine·Corporation mergers·Economy·TIme-Comcast merger
Maine’s capitol at night, photo by Ramona du Houx
In a letter to the state’s top budget officer, Democratic leaders urged the administration to make public a list of shovel-ready projects and jobs that will lose out as result of Governor Paul LePage reneging on statewide jobs bond contracts.
Millions of bond funds voted for by the people of Maine are still waiting to be released. Only $30 million in bonds have been authorized by LePage over the past four years. Maine’s credit rating is high and interest rates low making it the idea time to jump start the economy with already approved bonds.
The letter comes in response to a press conference held by LePage where he doubled down on his threat to hold jobs hostage by reneging on bond investments he gave the go-ahead to last July. He said, “I cannot stand by and watch as Democrats destroy our state’s credit rating and cash reserves.”
“The people of Maine expect a governor who is going to lead–not jump from crisis to crisis. And unfortunately, this time, there are real consequences to the governor’s volatility,” said Senate President Justin Alfond. “Reneging on jobs and projects that are shovel-ready hurts Maine businesses, workers and our economy.”
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Today the Joint Select Committee on Maine’s Workforce and Economic Future gave strong bipartisan approval with a vote of 12 – 1 for a $73 million bond package supporting jobs in microbiology, marine resources, and technology.
“This is jobs bond encourages, supports, and stimulates Maine’s economy and job growth,” said Democratic Senator Linda Valentino the Senate Chair of the Workforce Committee. “We’ve heard from economic experts that investment in our innovators will lead directly to commercialization, job creation, and can help bolster Maine’s economic recovery.”
The package is the culmination of the committee’s work over the last eight months after hearing from leaders in the business and research and development communities. The focus of the package is to provide funding that small businesses and institutions will use specifically for job creation efforts.
“This bond proposal helps propel business toward near-term job creation. It’s just what the state needs as it continues to shake off the effects of the recession,” said House Majority Leader Seth Berry , the House Chair of the Workforce Committee. “Targeted, smart investment by the state can create good-paying jobs in 21st century fields that will keep our bright young people here at home, enlarge the markets for what we provide, and push Maine’s economy forward.”
The package includes:
- $ 5 million for the FAME Loan Guarantee Program, which is expected to create or retain 1,935 jobs and has a performance leverage of 17 to 1, will spur investment and innovation;
- $ 15 million for the FAME Regional Economic Development Revolving Loan Program, also known as the REDLIP Program, will be used for flexible loans to create jobs, revitalize downtowns, and strengthen Maine’s rural economy;
- $ 10 million for the Maine Technology Asset Fund which will leverage matching funds on at least a one-to-one basis to promote research development, and commercialization for economic development and private sector job creation;
- $ 8 million for a lab at the University of Maine Cooperative Extension to assist farmers and foresters improve plant, animal and human health;
- $ 15 million for Jackson Laboratories for a new biometric analysis lab which will be matched by $16 million in private and public contributions. An investment in this area can make the state a global resources for precision medicine;
- $ 5 million for a Mount Desert Island Biological Lab which will be matched by $9.5 million in private and public funds to increase biotechnology workforce training from 350 to 500 students per year
- $ 15 million for a marine economy expansion
Since 2011, Maine has ranked last in terms of private sector job growth and has recovered merely one-third of the jobs lost from the recession and
“As a former FAME board member, I know what a difference this could make for job creation. This type of investment can grow small businesses and our rural economies,” said Representative Joyce Maker of Calais.
Rep. Timberlake voted against the measure and Rep. Grant and Rep. Bennett were both absent for today’s vote.
A letter along with the bond measure will now be sent to the Appropriations and Financial Affairs Committee for review. That meeting has not yet been scheduled.
Tags: Bonds for jobs in Maine
Peter, a part-time worker from Ellsworth, has a blood clot which requires weekly tests and medication. He lost his MaineCare in December because Governor LePage refuses to accept the Affordable Care Act federal funding to expand health care. Peter fears that without the medication and weekly blood tests, he will end up back in the hospital.
Peter is just one of almost 70,000 Mainers who are being denied access to health care by Governor LePage.
This week Republican State Sen. Roger Katz introduced a plan he hopes will work with the Democratic plan to accept the ACA funding. That Medicaid funding would be free… yes free… to the state for the first three years. After that the state would only have to pay 10 percent and the federal government will pick up the 90 percent bill. Lives will be saved and workers productivity should increase.
The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) will allocate $32.8 million in disaster assistance to aid those impacted by difficult fishing conditions in the Northeast. In September 2012, the U.S. Commerce Department declared the Northeast Multispecies Groundfish Fishery a “commercial fishery disaster,” making it eligible for federal disaster assistance.
“This assistance is long overdue. Maine’s fishing industry continues to feel the pain of difficult stock conditions and strict annual catch limits. I’ve been proud to stand with the New England delegation to push for relief for those affected by a very difficult few years at sea,” said Congressman Mike Michaud. “It is my hope that this assistance will quickly be distributed in a way that provides measurable relief to Maine fishermen, our fishing industry, and the communities that rely on them.”
In November, Michaud and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree joined members of Congress from states affected by five commercial fishery failures declared in 2012 and 2013 in urging appropriators to provide robust disaster assistance in a final FY2014 appropriations package. $75 million was included in the FY2014 omnibus spending bill that passed the House in January.
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Tags: Agriculture·Fish farming in Maine·Fishing in Maine
A Maine Midcoast Innovation Hub is being created in cooperation with Midcoast Magnet, and will provide a series of support services and programs to identify entrepreneurs in the midcoast region and help them start innovative businesses.
“There is a great deal of creative talent in the midcoast, and the new relationship with Blackstone Accelerates Growth will help the region’s entrepreneurs grow successful businesses here,” said Amanda Roberson Austin, president of Midcoast Magnet and the new Coordinator of the BxG Midcoast Innovation Hub.
The hub intends to support existing midcoast businesses to help them grow. The Innovation Hub program is designed to provide connections for entrepreneurs and businesses, provide access to resources and to help accelerate business growth.
“Our expectation is that working with a strong regional organization like Midcoast Magnet will create a sustainable community of support in the region,” said Martha Bentley, Operations Director for BxG in Maine.
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Governor Paul LePage has wasted nearly $200,000 additional funds to pay for the controversial no-bid Alexander Group contract.The Alexander Group, has produced a biased report in Pennsylvania. Their initial work in Maine exhibited the same level of unprofessionalism. Lawmakers have submitted a bill, An Act to Cancel the No-Bid Alexander Group Contract to Produce Savings in Fiscal Year 2014, in order to prevent further waste of taxpayer dollars.
“It amazes me that the state continues to pay the Alexander Group when there is no new product,” said bill sponsor Rep. Richard Farnsworth, the House Chair of the Health and Human Services Committee. “It seems to me that standard business practice is that you pay when you receive either goods or services. At this point we have received only flawed goods and only a small portion of those goods at that.”
On Feb. 7, the administration made a payment of $193,360, bringing total taxpayer dollars spent on the failed contract to $378,000 total, according to payment records from the non-partisan Legislature’s Office of Fiscal and Program Review. The contract is expected to cost taxpayers $1 million, if it continues.
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Tags: Government transparency·Maine's quality of life·Need the ACA in Maine
Maine State Capitol. Photo by Ramona du Houx
A new report shows that from 2009 to 2011, the top one percent in Maine captured 60 percent of all income growth. That is among the findings The Increasingly Unequal States of America: Income Inequality by State, 1928-2011, released today by the Economic Policy Institute (EPI)., which partners with EPI on economic policy analysis, reacted to the EPI findings.
“In Maine, as across America, the income gap between those at the very top of the economic ladder and everyone else is growing wider,” said Garrett Martin, executive director of the Maine Center for Economic Policy (MECEP). “For those nearer the bottom of the ladder, incomes are stagnant or rising at such a slow pace that working families increasingly must struggle just to make ends meet. And basic worker protections like the minimum wage have failed to compensate for this expanding divide.”
Adjusted for inflation, the minimum wage in Maine is no higher than it was 40 years ago and substantially lower than its peak in 1968.
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Tags: Maine's income disparity
The VolturnUS floating offshore wind turbine 1/8th pilot at it’s launch. VolturnUS is the only offshore wind turbine in the Americas. photo by Ramona du Houx
President William Jefferson Clinton in his book Back to Work wrote, “The surest way to create jobs, cut costs, enhance national security, cut the trade deficit by up to 50 percent, and fight global warming is to change the way we produce and consume energy.”
A measure to strengthen Maine’s wind energy law, sponsored by Senate President Justin Alfond received strong support today at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Energy, Utilities and Technology Committee.
“Business and industry need a fair, consistent, and predictable regulatory environment,” said President Alfond. “Renewable energy and wind power development are very important to Maine, and this bill is an attempt to create a regulatory environment where decisions are made in a transparent, consistent, and predictable manner.”
The bill explicitly states that the Department of Environmental Protection shall not establish new requirements on permitting without going through established procedures. The bill also requires a written explanation when the primary siting authority ignores the opinion of a hired expert.<
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Tags: WInd energy in Maine