Business and Economy

Business news

China's hunger for American lobsters is helping keep prices high to U.S. consumers, but a tariff on the seafood does not appear imminent.

Federal stats say China imported a record of more than 17.8 million pounds of lobster from America in 2017, eclipsing the previous record of about 14 million pounds in 2016. The value of imports also surged from $108.3 million in 2016 to $142.4 million last year.


Industrial space has become almost impossible to lease or buy in the greater Portland area, after cash-rich marijuana growers snapped up existing warehouses. That's helped to force vacancy rates way down and prices way up, just as conventional businesses are ready to expand.

Maine's Elver fishing season starts today – technically. But the valuable baby eels don't like the cold, so fishermen today are limited to staking out their spots on Maine's rivers and streams.

Darrell Young is the founder and co-director of the Maine Elver Fisherman's Association. He's staked out his spot in Ellsworth on the Union River, but he says right now, it's snowing sideways.

“The weather dictates everything, and right now we've got two feet of snow, and it's snowing now, we'll get six inches of snow today,” Young says.

A.J. Higgins / Maine Public

Law enforcement advocacy groups estimate there are currently more than 100 vacant officer positions throughout the state of Maine, and that the pool of new applicants is small. The problem is even worse in small, rural departments where a job posting may only illicit a single response. Local departments are doing what they can to recruit, and retain, qualified officers.

Attorneys for unionized workers at the closed Downeast Correctional Facility (DCF) in Machiasport are asking a judge to clarify her recent order requiring the LePage administration to keep the prison "operational" until the Legislature decides otherwise.

Attorney David Webbert says the administration disclosed Tuesday that it intends to recall five out of 55 workers who were laid off from DCF last month and return a "small population of inmates" who were abruptly transferred to other facilities in February.

A petition to roll back regulations restricting short-term rentals through services like Airbnb has forced a Maine city to reconsider the rules.

Petitioners in South Portland gathered more than 1,000 signatures in opposition to a new requirement that owners live in their rental homes. The successful drive forces the City Council to reconsider to its 6-1 vote approving the new rules.

If the council does not overturn itself, the public will be allowed to vote on the issue in a referendum.

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.