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PORTLAND, Maine - Craft brewers in Maine are joining with the Icelandic shipping company Eimskip to sell more beer abroad.

They are retrofitting a refrigerated cargo container with 50 taps on its side to float a sampling of the state's beers from Portland to Reykjavik.

The "Maine Beer Box," as it's called, is the brainchild of David Carlson, co-owner of Belfast's Marshall Wharf Brewing.

"Is it a marketing stunt? Sure," he says. "Is it sexy? Sure. I mean at the end of the day it's beer, which is great."

Staff at the Maine Public Utilities Commission say regulators should reject all bids received to provide new liquefied natural gas, or LNG, storage in the state. At the same time, Gov. Paul LePage is urging the Maine Public Utilities Commission to go ahead and sign a contract.

Murray Carpenter / Maine Public

Imagine opening a restaurant in a far-flung location, but being forbidden to tell anyone it’s there.

A biomass company at the center of a dispute over payments to loggers is now asking to change the terms of its state subsidy. The company says it wants to dispel the notion that taxpayers are getting a bad deal.

PORTLAND, Maine — Consolidated Communications and FairPoint Communications say their shareholders have approved of a proposed merger of the two companies.

Consolidated announced in December it was buying FairPoint for $1.5 billion, assuming its debt and offering dividends to stockholders.

Shareholder voting took place Tuesday at Consolidated in Illinois and FairPoint in North Carolina.

PORTLAND, Maine - Officials in Portland have passed rules that are aimed at preventing the city's limited housing stock from being converted to short-term rentals.

The City Council on Monday night voted to cap short-term rentals in non-owner-occupied homes, excluding the islands, at 300 units.

The rules also require all hosts to pay fees to register such units with the city's Housing Safety Office beginning Jan. 1. No one will be allowed to register more than five short-term rentals in buildings in which they hold a financial interest.

AUGUSTA, Maine - A plan to invest up to $75 million a year into storing and distributing natural gas in liquid form is receiving criticism.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission's staff is urging regulators to rule that none of the storage proposals it's received serve the public interest.

Maine legislators last year passed a law saying regulators could execute a contract that's commercially reasonable, among other things.

The idea is to reserve space in yet-to-be-built liquefied natural gas tanks and then convert the liquid back to gas in winter when prices spike.

Both business and labor interests are supporting legislation that would give Maine companies a preference in any state contract for goods or services.

State Sen. Troy Jackson, a Democrat from Allagash who sponsored the bill, says he wants any tax dollars spent by the state to have maximum economic effect by staying in Maine.

“It’s all state contracts, construction, professional services, labor services. Maine companies would have preference,” he says.

BANGOR, Maine - Maine restaurants and inns are reporting a banner year for 2016, with more than $3.6 billion in total sales.

Steve Hewins, president and CEO of the Maine Restaurant Association and the Maine Innkeepers Association, said lodging and restaurant sales rose 7 percent over 2015, with total sales generating $300 million in state tax revenue.

Hewins says the industry hopes that the two past highly successful tourist seasons are the beginning of a trend.

Haven Daley / Associated Press

When recreational marijuana is available for retail sale in Maine sometime next year, it will generate an estimated $12 million a year in tax revenue.

Maine’s unemployment rate fell by .3 percentage points between January and February to reach 3.2 percent.

State labor economist Glenn Mills says 13 of the last 16 months surveyed show an unemployment rate below 4 percent.

“So all the indicators of a fairly tight labor market are there. There are certainly pockets of weakness — in much of Northern Maine, the challenges in the forest economy and the like — but certainly from central Maine south it’s a fairly tight labor market,” he says.

Mills says there’s nothing very surprising in the latest numbers.

There’s a sales agreement in place between the Scarborough Downs harness racing track in southern Maine and a prospective buyer.

Scarborough Downs spokesman Mike Sweeney says the prospective buyer, whom he was not authorized to name, is doing due diligence and nothing has been finalized.

Meanwhile, harness racing is set to continue in Scarborough.

“We are opening up our live racing season tomorrow so Saturday, we’re racing Saturday and Sunday with a 1:30 post time,” Sweeney says.

Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

BANGOR, Maine - Maine's maple industry seems to be off to a decent start, with no significant problems foreseen, as the state prepares to celebrate its 34th annual Maine Maple Sunday.

"Last year, you know, the season had  675,000 gallons, and that's up from 315,000 gallons in 2010," says Department of Agriculture, Conservation, and Forestry spokesman John Bott.

Bott says the trend for the last six years has been one of steadily increasing effort across Maine, with the number of taps increasing by 26 percent over the period.

Maine's Cod Fishermen Have Worst Year in History

Mar 24, 2017
Robert F. Bukaty / Associated Press/file

ROCKPORT, Maine - The cod isn't so sacred in Maine anymore.
 
The fish-and-chips staple was once a critical piece of the state's fishing industry, but state records show 2016 was historically bad. Fishermen brought less than 170,000 pounds (77,110 kilograms) of the fish to land in Maine last year. That was below the previous record low of 250,000 pounds (113,398 kilograms) a year earlier.
 
Maine's record year for cod was 1991, when fishermen brought more than 21 million pounds (9.5 million kilograms) to the docks.
 

Officials with the Maine Department of Labor says they are working with an out-of-state vendor and law enforcement to determine how to protect Mainers whose personal information may have been stolen during a recent breach.

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