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  • Rapidly growing Maine business, INDEXX, sets example for training, caring for workforce

    By Ramona du Houx

    Maine lawmakers and local officials on October 29,2015 heard first-hand from management and workers at IDEXX Laboratories, in Westbrook, about the growing demand for highly trained workers.

    The visit to IDEXX, the state’s largest publicly traded company and a manufacturer of veterinary diagnostic tools and water testing devices, was the eighth stop on a statewide jobs tour launched in January by House Speaker Mark Eves. Products to help detect and treat kidney desease in pets are examples of what IDEXX produces. INDEXX was certified as a Pine Tree Development Zone company under the Baldacci administration enabling it to take advantage of tax incentives. All PTDZ companies have to hire workers, and train them.

    The purpose of the jobs tour is to spotlight the need to grow good jobs and strong wages in Maine at a time when the state lags the nation in economic growth.

    “IDEXX is a bright spot in Maine’s economy,” said Speaker Eves, D-North Berwick.  “It is an engine of economic growth and a strong example of how to grow good jobs and strong wages right here in Maine. We were incredibly impressed with the effort the company makes to train, develop, and care for its workers. We hope we can help them find ways to continue to flourish.”

    Lawmakers including State Rep. Drew Gattine, State Senators Anne Haskell and Cathy Breen, as well as Westbrook Mayor Colleen Hilton and William Baker, the city's director of business and community relations, toured the LEED-certified Synergy Center. The Synergy Center is the company’s open work space concept building with a state of the art gym, local food based cafeteria, and clinic.  

    “IDEXX is one of our region’s largest employers, and I was impressed to see its operation in person and meet some of the great people who work there,” said Sen. Breen, who represents a part of Westbrook and is the lead Senate Democrat on the Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee. “The company’s commitment to environmental stewardship and employee health was clear during the tour of its Synergy Center, and its dedication to employee wellbeing is also a model to be followed.”

    IDEXX employs roughly 2,400 people at the Maine headquarters in Westbrook and 6,000 worldwide.  IDEXX  added 1,000 new jobs last year and expects to grow at its workforce 4 percent per year.

    “IDEXX is an excellent company to work for and a great corporate citizen of our city," said Rep. Drew Gattine, D-Westbrook. "Our visit focused on how we can work together to get more Maine students and workers into their pipeline for hiring.”

    Sen. Anne Haskell, who also represents part of Westbrook, was impressed by the company’s commitment to its workers.

    “The precision and technical work that takes place at IDEXX every day requires the kind of highly skilled workforce that must be prioritized to meet the demands of the 21stCentury economy,” said Haskell. “It was great to see IDEXX engaged in the kind of leadership development and training that can help their employees succeed. These are the kind of good business practices policymakers should support.”

    Lawmakers have met with employers, workers, and community leaders across the state in York, Aroostook, Hancock, Kennebec, Somerset, Waldo and Oxford counties. The meetings prompted lawmakers to create the Put ME to Work program this session to partner with employers to train workers across the state for good paying-jobs in growing industries, such as logging, agriculture, health care and manufacturing.  

  • Proposed law to help contractors and subcontractors in Maine draws public support

    By Ramona du Houx

    Local business owners spoke in support of legislation proposed by Rep. Denise Tepler which would ensure developers of large-scale projects pay contractors and subcontractors more of what they are owed in a timely fashion.

    “Improving cash flow for contractors and subcontractors will make it easier for them to earn a living, hire more employees and transition between jobs,” said Tepler at a public hearing before the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee Thurday. “We have the opportunity to encourage business and job growth by putting more capital to work.”

    Under current law, private developers can withhold any portion of a project’s cost – customarily around 10 percent – until the entire project is determined to be fully complete. Withholding that money can hurt both contractors and smaller subcontractors who often complete their portion of a project earlier in the building phase but end up waiting years for the final payment, especially if there are major delays in the overall project.   

    Tepler’s bill limits the amount a private developer can withhold to 5 percent of a project’s total cost – the same limit now used by the state for public development projects.

    “A move to 5 percent retainage would still ensure that general and subcontractors complete their work and would allow them to keep more of the money that they’ve earned,” said Tepler. “Right now many contractors don’t see that final 10 percent for several months after job is done. The larger the job, the harder that can be on their business.”  

    Gordon Kinney, owner of All Season Brick and Stone in Topsham, told committee members Tepler’s bill would help subcontractors like him keep their businesses in better financial shape. 

    “When credit lines are maxed, and suppliers want their money within 30 days, only holding 5 percent retainage would help most subcontractors with their cash flow,” said Kinney. “Please consider this change to help the many sub-contractors that could use this money that they have earned and not have to go into their line of credit to fund a job.”

    Nick Whatley, President of Morningstar Marble & Granite in Topsham, also expressed concern about the current trend toward 10 percent retainage.

    “I checked an income statement for the last ten years and found that we have had a 5.7 percent profit margin,” said Whatley. “I think in my industry this is pretty typical. I do not feel that it is fair for a general contractor to hold what essentially is twice our margin for an indeterminate and sometimes extended time period.” 

    The committee will hold a work session on Tepler’s bill in the coming days and make a recommendation to the full Legislature.

     

    Tepler, a member of the Legislature’s Taxation Committee, is serving her first term in the Maine House and represents Topsham.