Entries Filed in 'Business & Innovation'

New KeepME Home initiative to make life better for older Mainers

August 21st, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Health Care

The Maine Council on Aging (MCOA)—made up of over 30 organizations working to ensure the well-being of Maine’s older adults—announced its support today of a package of legislative proposals presented by Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, Mark Eves.

“Maine is the oldest state in the nation — each day more than 50 people turn 65. These numbers must be a call to action for our state leaders,” said Eves, who has who has spearheaded a statewide aging initiative to address Maine’s aging challenges. “We must transform how people age in our state so they can live independently in their communities and homes. That is the goal of the “KeepME Home” initiative.”

The “KeepME Home” initiatives announced by Speaker of the Maine House of Representatives, Mark Eves addresses several critical needs for older Mainers: affordable housing near services, access to needed home care and financial security.

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Federal grant helped C&L expansion in Bangor not LePage

August 13th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation

bangor

During a campaign stop to improve the image of Gov. Paul LePage, Republican Governors Association Chair Gov. Chris Christie visited C&L Aviation in Bangor. The company was able to expand thanks, in part, to the work of U.S. Rep. Mike Michaud.

During their visit Christie and LePage tried to rebrand LePage’s dismal record on economic development and job creation using C&L Aviation. A major contributing factor to the C&L Aviation expansion was a $580,000 federal grant that Michaud helped secure from the Economic Development Administration.

C&L Aviation originally came to Bangor when Governor John E. Baldacci offered the company Pine Tree Development Zone status, (PTDZ), which is a tax incentive package started under his two terms as governor. The Bangor Chamber of Commerce as well as the City Council also played major roles in securing C&L Aviation as a Bangor business.

PTDZ status was granted to over 300 companies during the Baldacci Administration helping Maine companies expand and it brought new companies to the state. LePage has renamed the PTDZ tax incentive package to make it appear as his administration’s policy. It’s now just a Tax Incentive Package.

Michaud has long been a supporter of the EDA and has continually fought to protect its funding.

In November 2012, Michaud, along with other members of Maine’s congressional delegation, wrote a letter to the EDA urging it to approve funding for the expansion of C&L. And, in April 2013, Michaud hosted Matt Erskine, deputy assistant secretary for economic development for the U.S. Economic Development Administration in Bangor to tour the Bangor International Airport and project site for proposed expansion. According to the Bangor Daily News, that visit “made an impression” on Erskine, who approved funding for the project just three months later.

Under LePage’s leadership, Maine’s economy has lagged behind the rest of New England and the country. Maine is ranked near the bottom in job creation and personal income growth, and the state is currently ranked 47th in the country in economic development.

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New Business Insider 47th ranking: Maine’s economic growth lags

August 5th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation

Mike Michaud helped secure funds for UMaine's first in the Americas floating wind turbine project, VoltunUS. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Mike Michaud helped secure funds for UMaine’s first in the Americas floating wind turbine project, VoltunUS. Photo by Ramona du Houx

The ranking is among the latest evidence showing Maine’s job and economic growth behind other states in the country. According to national labor statistics, the country has recovered 106 percent of the nonfarm payroll jobs lost during the recession. Regionally, New England has recovered 116 percent of jobs. Maine lags behind, recovering only 63 percent of the jobs lost in the recession. Top legislative leaders said the latest ranking is yet another indicator of LePage’s failed management.

Governor LePage reneged on a deal the state had made with Statoil by manipulating the legislature. The company was going to invest $120 million in their project when LePage pushed his bill through the legislature taking away rights given Statoil under the Maine Public Utilities Commission. Statoil–an international clean energy innovator was ready to make Maine’s name as the world’s leader in floating offshore wind platforms. International sales in the technology, jointly created with the University of Maine, would have highlighted this cutting edge industry while creating hundreds of jobs and pumping millions of dollars in to Maine’s economy. Statoil has since invested $2.5 billion in the U.K.

“Maine people deserve leaders who will put economic opportunity and jobs ahead of ideology,” said Speaker of the House Mark Eves of North Berwick. “Governor LePage billed himself as a businessman who would turn around Maine’s economy yet he has chosen Tea Party politics over jobs and what’s best for the people of Maine at every turn.”

LePage also pushed his agenda through the legislature. By doing so Maine’s 1 percent got a huge tax break while most every citizen saw an increase in their property tax bill. What happened was simply: By giving the rich a tax break LePage took funds that normally would have gone to local towns away from them. These local municipalities had to keep emergency services and their schools running so property taxes went up and some services were cut. Jobs were lost, and incomes slashed with LePage’s policies.

Additionally, LePage is the only Governor in the country who vetoed five bills to increase access to life-saving health care under the Affordable Care Act, turning down nearly $1 million per day in economic investment in the state. According the Maine Center on Economic Policy, the federal investment in life-saving health care would have created and saved 4,400 jobs in the state.

“Gov. LePage may want to tell folks that he’s done right by Maine’s economy but once again, I don’t think he should be bragging about these bottom-of-the-pack numbers,” said Senate President Justin Alfond. “After almost for years, it’s clear his strategies are not effective. Governor LePage and his allies in the legislature are not what Maine needs or can afford.”

Under Paul LePage’s economic leadership, Maine has experienced, a job creation record among the worst in the U.S. since the bottom of the recession, ranking 42nd out of 50 states in the latest report (June 2014). Additionally, Maine has the 5th highest rate in the country of people who work only part-time because they can’t find full-time jobs.

The state has had the second worst personal income growth record in the U.S., ranking 49th from 2009 through 2013. Plus, median household income is down $1,600 and $4,600 below the U.S. median.

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ReEnergy announces plans to restart operations at biomass-to-energy facility in Ashland, ME

August 5th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Creative Economy, Energy Issues, Environment

ReEnergy Holdings today announced plans to resume operations at its biomass-to-electricity facility in Ashland, ME.

“We are very pleased to be resuming operations of this critical energy asset,” said ReEnergy Chief Executive Officer Larry D. Richardson. “This will restore jobs, improve forest health, and enhance reliability and stability in the delivery of electricity in northern Maine. This was only possible through the collaboration and support of key stakeholders.”

The 39-megawatt ReEnergy Ashland facility generates renewable energy from responsibly harvested green forest residue biomass and unadulterated wood. It is capable of producing approximately 284,000 MWh of electricity each year — enough to supply nearly 37,000 homes. The facility, which opened in 1993, was acquired by ReEnergy Holdings in December 2011 as part of a multi-facility portfolio purchase from Boralex Industries Inc. It has been idled since March 2011. It is anticipated that the facility will be fully operational by December.

“The reopening of the Ashland biomass facility is welcome news for the important jobs it will restore and the renewable energy it will generate. The forest economy is a tremendous asset in our state and biomass plants like the one in Ashland play a vital role,” said Senator Susan Collins.

The facility has a significant economic impact in northern Maine. The resumption of operations will restore 25 well-paying direct jobs and an estimated 150 indirect jobs associated with the facility, many of them related to the supply of the forest residue fuel supply to the facility and additional jobs tied to local goods and services related to the facility. At full production levels, the facility purchases more than $16 million annually in fuel from local loggers. When considering the payrolls of the direct and indirect jobs along with taxes paid by ReEnergy Ashland, the annual economic impact on the region is well in excess of $20 million.

ReEnergy’s plans to restart the power plant in Ashland is great news for the community,” said Ashland Town Manager Ralph Dwyer. “It will create many well-paying direct jobs at the plant as well as other indirect jobs supplying the facility with biomass fuel. The Town of Ashland appreciates ReEnergy’s commitment to our community and look forward to seeing the plant in operation again.”

ReEnergy has achieved certification to the Sustainable Forestry Initiative® (SFI®) Standard for the facilities that are currently operating in Maine and New York. ReEnergy will seek similar certification for the Ashland facility, and this certification will provide third-party verification that ReEnergy’s biomass procurement program promotes land stewardship and responsible forestry practices. ReEnergy is the first company solely devoted to electricity production to be certified to the SFI Standard.

ReEnergy’s strategy is to own and operate its facilities in regions capable of supplying raw materials while simultaneously ensuring the long-term sustainability of the forests where those facilities are located. The company owns and operates three other biomass-to-energy facilities in Maine: ReEnergy Stratton (48 MW); ReEnergy Livermore Falls (39 MW); and ReEnergy Fort Fairfield (37 MW). ReEnergy also owns and operates a facility in Lewiston that processes construction and demolition material. With Ashland operating, ReEnergy will employ more than 140 people in Maine and support more than 1,000 direct and indirect jobs.

“This is great news for the town of Ashland and another sign of the positive things that are happening in Aroostook County’s forest economy,” said Patrick Strauch, executive director of the Maine Forest Products Council.

Biomass-to-energy offers substantial long-term employment and positive rural economic impacts. With in-state equipment manufacturing, fuel harvesting, processing, and jobs from facility construction to ongoing boiler service, the bioenergy industry contributes significantly to the state’s economy. As a rule of thumb, each megawatt of biomass-fueled electricity supports approximately five full-time jobs: one direct job in the biomass facility, and four indirect jobs in surrounding forests and communities.

The Ashland facility has been idled since March 2011 due to market conditions. The restart has been made possible due to a confluence of factors, including an increased need for electric grid stability in northern Maine, availability of transmission capacity, a growing need for a local outlet for mill and forest residues, and energy market changes.

The facility has been maintained in a manner that will allow for a prompt return to its standard of reliability, but several months of preparation will be necessary to hire and re-hire employees, build fuel supply, and assess and re-tune equipment.

About ReEnergy Holdings:

ReEnergy Holdings LLC, a portfolio company of Riverstone Holdings LLC, owns and/or operates facilities that use forest-derived woody biomass and other waste residues to produce renewable energy. It also owns facilities in New England that recycle construction and demolition debris. ReEnergy was formed in 2008 by affiliates of Riverstone Holdings LLC and a senior management/co-investor team comprised of experienced industry professionals. ReEnergy owns and/or operates nine energy generating facilities with 325 MW of installed renewable energy generation capacity and processes for recycling more than 700,000 tons per year of construction and demolition material. ReEnergy operates in six states and employs more than 300 people.

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Maine teachers learn to integrate ocean science in the classroom at Bigelow Laboratory

July 31st, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Science

Nine high school teachers and one junior high school teacher from across Maine spent a week at Bigelow Laboratory for Ocean Sciences in July learning about ocean sciences so they could integrate what was learned into their classrooms this fall. This was the fourth time Bigelow Laboratory invited teachers in for what has become an annual Keller-Bigelow Laboratory Orders Of Magnitude (BLOOM) Teachers workshop.

The four-day summer workshop is led by Bigelow Laboratory researchers, Dr. David Fields and Dr. Nicole Poulton, provides teachers with training, tools, and hands-on research experience so that they are better equipped to teach ocean science in their classrooms. Educators learn how to teach the fundamentals of ocean science in a local and global context and receive curriculum materials, aquatic field sampling and laboratory equipment, and follow-up academic year support.

“Our goal is to enhance teachers understanding of the ocean, how it works, what lives in it, and how it is changing so that they can take this knowledge and share it more effectively with their students, “ explained Fields. “Given that the ocean is so vital to our economy and way of life here in Maine, a greater focus on ocean science is a winning situation for everyone involved.”

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Hope is on the horizon for Maine’s small businesses and healthcare

July 25th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Creative Economy, Editorials, Issue 41

Front Street Shipyard has enhanced Belfast's creative economy. Photo by Ramona du Houx

Front Street Shipyard has enhanced Belfast’s creative economy. Photo by Ramona du Houx


EDITORIAL

Artists, artisans, farmers, engineers, designers, IT computer professionals, inventors, microbrewers, and unique retailers can be found in every corner of our state. More café’s and restaurants are opening daily. Maine’s creative economy, embracing technology, talent and tolerance, is in full swing. These, more than 143,000 small businesses, entrepreneurs are our mainstay.

Two out of every three jobs are created by a small business—and more than 280,000 Mainers are employed by a small business.

They are forging ahead, despite a bad business climate created by Gov. LePage’s administration. But small businesses hurt when their taxes go up because the state has cut back funds to municipalities forcing towns to increase property taxes. They hurt when there is a new law that doesn’t allow a business, where you live and work, to deduct part of their property expenses on the Maine tax return. They hurt when people’s incomes stagnate.

Under Governor LePage’s watch, Maine ranks forty-sixth in the nation for jobs recovered since the recession. While the rest of the country has recovered 101 percent of lost jobs, Maine has only recovered 48 percent, and most of them are in the Portland area.

According to CNBC, Maine is ranked 45th on its list of America’s Top States for Business– including specific rankings as 46th in infrastructure and 48th in overall economy.

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The Largest Microbrewer of Japanese sake is in Kittery, Maine

July 24th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Issue 41

SAKE

Blue Current Brewery, LLC, of Kittery, is the first microbrewer and manufacturer of sake east of Texas and the largest microbrewer of the Japanese rice wine in the nation.

Sake fermentation process differs from wine and is more akin to the brewing process of beer. To make beer or sake, the sugar needed to produce alcohol must first be converted from starch, which is a two-step process with beer. With sake the conversion from starch to sugar and from sugar to alcohol occurs simultaneously.

“Sake is the most difficult thing to brew in the world, hands down,” said BCB founder Dan Ford.

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Report shows Maine leading the way in farming revival

July 18th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Community Maine, Farming, Issue 41, Issues

Organic Farm, photo by Ramona du Houx

Organic Farm, photo by Ramona du Houx

Statistics from the U.S. Department of Agriculture show that farming in Maine is on the increase, with Maine leading New England in the number of farms in operation.

“The farm economy in Maine is alive and well and growing,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “It’s grown by almost 25 percent over five years and Maine farmers are younger and more likely to be women than in the country overall. And CSAs are more popular in Maine than in nearly any other state in the country.”

According to Gary Keough, a statistician for the U.S. Department of Agriculture, agriculture sales increased by 24 percent from 2007 to 2012. The average age for Maine farmers is 1.3 years younger than the national average, and 29 percent of Maine farmers are women, compared to just 17 percent nationally. And Community Supported Agriculture (CSA) arrangements, where consumers pay a fixed price for a share of a farm’s output, are more popular in Maine than almost anywhere else in the country, with Maine ranking third in the number of farms participating in CSAs.

“You can see Maine people take high quality local food and farming seriously,” said Pingree. “Just look at the growth of organic farming, which increased by over 50 percent in five years.”

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Statoil pumps $2.5 billion in UK offshore floating wind project instead of Maine

July 15th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Energy Issues, Environment, Issue 41

Hywind Scotland Park Overview, courtesy of Stratiol

Statoil Oil is investing $2.5 billion in the Dudgeon Offshore Wind Farm project off the shores off the coast of Norfolk, UK.  Statiol’s 30 MW pilot project under construction will consist of five, 6 MW floating turbines operating in waters exceeding 100m of depth. The Pilot Park objectives will demonstrate cost efficient and low risk solutions for commercial scale parks. The project was destined to be in Maine, until Governor Paul LePage got involved. He forced through a bill revoking an agreement between the state of Maine’s Public Utilities Commission and Stratoil to build an offshore wind farm, with help from rate payers. Once the company learned that Gov. LePage would not honor the business agreement they decided to build the wind farm in the UK.

The technology that will be used in the pilot project has been tested in a demonstration project off the coast of Norway and with tests in Boothbay Harbor, Maine. Statoil had plans for four test turbines off Boothbay Harbor. The company pulled out of Maine in October, 2013, saying it would focus its research and development in Scotland, which had a clearer policy on offshore wind energy.

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Michaud and Pingree help restore funding for tidal power in Federal Spending Bill

July 11th, 2014 · No Comments · Business & Innovation, Community Maine, Energy Issues

Congressman Michael Michaud and Congresswoman Chellie Pingree helped restore $9 million in funding for a program that has already invested over $18 million in Maine tidal projects since 2008. Michaud, who had previously led a House effort to support funding for the program, joined Pingree, a member of the powerful House Appropriations Committee, to successfully push for an amendment to the bill that sets spending levels for the Department of Energy. Their amendment, which was also sponsored by Rep. Suzanne Bonamici of Oregon, passed the House today by a wide margin, including the support of dozens of Republicans.

“The Water Power Program supports critical private-sector research, development, deployment and commercialization for marine hydrokinetic energy technology developed here in Maine,” said Michaud. “Other countries have already shown interest, presenting great opportunities for exporting American technology. Now is not the time for a drastic cut to this important program. I look forward to working with the Senate to increase funding even more.

The amendment restores $9 million in cuts to the portion of the Department of Energy budget that funds the Marine and Hyrdokinetic Energy Program. That program promotes research and development of emerging technology that generates clean energy from the nation’s oceans and rivers. Michaud and Pingree’s amendment pays for the restored funding by cutting the budget for the Department of Energy’s administrative expenses.

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