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Business news

M. Spencer Green / Associated Press File

State regulators are expanding their inquiry of complaints from more than 1,000 Central Maine Power customers who say they were overbilled during the winter.

In some cases customers say their bills doubled or tripled from the same time last year — more than can be accounted for by a recent hike in the price of electricity or by the plunge in temperatures around Christmas.

PORTLAND, Maine — Spring is in the air and baby eels are in the rivers. Or at least that's what Maine fishermen hope.

The state's big-money baby eel fishery is scheduled to get started on Thursday. Fishermen seek the eels, called elvers, in rivers and streams so they can be sold to Asian aquaculture companies as seed stock.

The elvers are frequently worth more than $1,000 per pound, and this year is expected to be especially lucrative because of supply issues elsewhere in the world. Maine is the only state in the U.S. with a significant elver fishery.

The Maine Department of Transportation has announced that’s it’s delaying implementation of a new rate structure for the Maine State Ferry Service until later this spring.

DOT officials say a new resident-nonresident rate structure was supposed to go into effect at the end of March. However, due to input received during public hearings on islands served by the ferry service and in writing, Commissioner David Bernhardt says he’s going to take more time before he makes a final decision.

Irwin Gratz / Maine Public

An all-electric bus drove around downtown Portland at lunchtime Tuesday.  The Greater Portland Metro Bus system and the Shuttlebus-Zoom bus system serving Biddeford, Saco and Old Orchard Beach are considering ordering a few with funding from a federal grant.

At a press event in Portland, Al Schultz, general manager of the Shuttlebus-Zoom service, said the time for electric buses has come.

AUGUSTA, Maine - Spring flowers might not be blooming in Maine, but the spring sap is flowing.
Republican Gov. Paul LePage tapped a tree outside the governor's mansion on Tuesday to mark the coming of Maple Syrup Sunday. Mainers celebrate maple syrup every fourth Sunday of March by visiting sugarhouses all over the state.

The largest capital gift ever given to the University of Maine, $10 million from an anonymous donor, will go toward construction of a new, 100-thousand-square-foot Engineering Education and Design Center.

UMaine Dean of Engineering Dana Humphrey says the facility will be the center for the college’s undergraduate engineering education programs. He says the new building will allow students to be educated for the modern world and allow collaborative learning.

Abukar Adan / Maine Public File

LEWISTON, Maine — U.S. family-owned promotional products company Geiger is buying the largest family-owned promotional products distributor in the United Kingdom.

CEO Gene Geiger said Monday the merger with BTC Group expands the company’s footprint in Europe. The new company, Geiger BTC Group, will have nearly 400 employees.

Financial terms weren’t disclosed.

Geiger told the Sun Journal newspaper that the two companies have collaborated in the past, and that BTC’s owners let it be known that they were ready to sell.

Both management teams are staying in place.

After One-Day Strike, New Talks, Hannaford Workers Agree To Company’s Offer

Mar 19, 2018
Willis Ryder Arnold / Maine Public/file

Hannaford Supermarket officials and the union representing workers at its South Portland distribution center reached a new, three-year contract that was overwhelmingly ratified last Wednesday night.

The terms are the same as those originally offered by Delhaize America Distribution LLC to United Food and Commercial Workers Local 1445, the union working at the Hannaford distribution center in South Portland, when their contract ran out on Feb. 17.

The federal government is providing more than $58,000 in housing grants to an American Indian tribe in northern Maine.

The U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development has awarded the money to the Aroostook Band of Micmacs via the Indian Housing Block Grant program. Republican Sen. Susan Collins says the money will promote affordable housing in Presque Isle.

The Micmacs are the northernmost tribe in the state. Collins says the HUD grant will help provide access to more "safe, affordable housing" for members of the tribe.

While Vermont is by far the highest producing maple syrup state in the United States, 70 percent of the world's maple syrup is made in Québec.

And that's where the benchmark global price for bulk maple syrup — the price paid by processors to Vermont's maple syrup producers — is set each year by a powerful, but legal, cartel.

Officials with a pair of northern New England banks say the institutions have merged in a transaction valued at about $45 million.

Company officials say the merger of Granite Bank of New Hampshire and Bangor Savings Bank of Maine has been approved by regulators and shareholders. Granite Bank is merging into Bangor Savings Bank under the terms of the deal. The transaction is set to close on April 6. 

A lawyer for laid-off workers is demanding that Republican Gov. Paul LePage reopen the Downeast Correctional Facility in Machiasport immediately, but no action is expected before the first part of next week. Justice Michaela Murphy ordered the facility be reopened Wednesday, but she left it up to the Department of Corrections to determine staffing and the number of inmates.

A $17.3 million U.S. Department of Defense contract with New Balance to provide U.S.-made athletic shoes to service members is getting cheers from lawmakers in Maine, where the company employs hundreds of people. 

The cutting, stitching, assembly and sole laying for the shoe will be done at New Balance’s manufacturing facility in Norridgewock, Me and 100 percent of the midsole production and stock fitting will be conducted at New Balance’s manufacturing facility in Boston, Ma.

Toby Talbot / AP Photo

Governor Paul LePage is proposing to significantly reduce the area in which wind-turbine projects can get a streamlined permit review. Maine lawmakers, residents, businesses and environmental groups are divided on the issue.

The federal government’s Bureau of Labor Statistics is out with the latest unemployment data for Maine's three largest urban areas.

The jobless figures for Bangor, Lewiston-Auburn and Portland-South Portland were so low in December there was virtually nowhere for them to go but up – and they did. Bangor from 2.6 percent to 3.3 percent in January, Lewiston Auburn from 2.3 percent to 3 percent, and Portland-South Portland from 2 to 2.5 percent.

Those figures, along with state unemployment numbers, continue to point to a very tight labor market.