Tyson plans to buy former Barber Food plant
Food giant Tyson Foods intends to buy AdvancePierre, a company that includes the former Barber Foods of Portland, for $4.2 billion. The sale’s likely impact on the Portland operation is unknown. Tyson said it intends to push AdvancePierre brands such as Barber Foods into new markets, but it also plans to cut costs and make the operation more efficient. The deal, announced Tuesday morning, has been approved by the boards of both Tyson and AdvancePierre. If it receives regulatory approval, the sale is expected to close in the third quarter of this year. Cincinnati-based AdvancePierre employs about 300 people at its St. John Street plant where frozen, stuffed chicken entrees are made and sold under the Barber Foods name. AdvancePierre bought Barber Foods in June 2011 and invested millions in modernizing the production facility, helping the frozen entree division become one of the most profitable for the company. AdvancePierre also makes sandwiches and other prepared foods for convenience stores and other retailers, as well as institutions such as schools and hospitals. Read the story.
Lawmakers approve new mining rules
A legislative committee gave near-unanimous support Wednesday to a proposed overhaul of Maine’s mining regulations that has also won the backing of many of the state’s environmental organizations. The proposal would ban open-pit mining as well as operations on state-owned public lands, in flood plains and under lakes, rivers or ponds. It also would prohibit underwater storage of mine waste and would require mining companies to create a trust fund large enough to cover the costs of cleaning up or treating any environmental contamination on a site for at least 100 years after closure of the mine. The bill, L.D. 820, has been the subject of months of work by lawmakers, environmental advocates and representatives of the Maine Department of Environmental Protection. If passed by the full Legislature and signed by Gov. Paul LePage – which is never a guarantee – the bill would end a years-long stalemate over mining regulations that began when a Canadian company sought to loosen Maine’s overly restrictive rules to mine valuable minerals below Aroostook County’s Bald Mountain. The Legislature’s Environment and Natural Resources Committee voted 11-1 – with one lawmaker absent – in support of the bill. The measure now heads to the House and Senate floors, where supporters would need to muster two-thirds support in both chambers to overcome a potential LePage veto. Read the story.
Restaurants drop no-tipping policy
Chef Cara Stadler’s experiment with a “no tipping” policy has ended nearly five months after it began at her restaurants in Portland and Brunswick. Bao Bao Dumpling House in Portland and Tao Yuan in Brunswick reversed the policy Wednesday after a review of the books for the first quarter of the year revealed it had been a failure. Chris Peterman, director of operations for the restaurants, said customers balked at the higher prices the restaurants had to charge to make up for the higher wages paid to servers who lost tip income. Peterman would not divulge specifics about the restaurants’ bottom line or how large their losses were, but he said customers were ordering less at meals and generally not spending as much money. Revenue, he said, “was not where we wanted it to be, and it wasn’t trending in the direction we were hoping for.” Stadler announced the no-tipping policy in October, just before Maine voters approved an increase in the state’s minimum wage, which went into effect Dec. 1. Read the story.
REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION
Elk’s deal closes; redevelopment planned
The Portland Elks Lodge on Congress Street is expected to be redeveloped into a mixed-use complex, which includes a smaller but wholly renovated lodge. Malone Commercial Brokers said Wednesday that the Elks organization has sold a portion of its property at 1945 Congress St. to Diversified Partners LLC and Fancy Sauce LLC for $1.25 million. The entire property contains a 23,090-square-foot lodge building and 7 acres. After the renovation, the Elks Lodge 188 will have an updated, 13,500-square-foot lodge. Northland Enterprises will develop the other property into offices for Clark Insurance and a medical office building, according to the release. Read the story.
Developer buys lobster wharf in Harpswell
The new owner of a working lobster wharf next to the landmark Cook’s Lobster & Ale House on Bailey Island in Harpswell says he has no immediate plans to redevelop the property. Arthur Girard bought the quarter-acre property at 66 Garrison Cove Road at auction Tuesday for $510,000, outbidding the owners of the adjacent restaurant. The pier was built around 1950 and includes a bait shed and small office that is leased by Eastern Traders, a lobster dealer that serves about two dozen local fishermen. Buying the property was a spur-of-the-moment decision, said Girard, and he expects eventually to sell it to the owners of Cook’s Lobster. Read the story.
BANKING & FINANCE
Strong first quarters reported at Camden and Northeast
Camden National Bank, the largest bank chartered in Maine, reported a 17 percent increase in net income in the first quarter compared with a year earlier. The Camden-based bank reported net income for the quarter of $10.1 million, up from $8.7 million in the first quarter of 2016 but down 8 percent from $10.9 million in the fourth quarter of 2016.
Earnings per share for the publicly traded bank was 64 cents, up 14 percent from a year earlier but down 9 percent from the previous quarter. Another Maine-based bank, Northeast Bancorp of Lewiston, also reported quarterly financial results this week. Its net income for the quarter ending March 31 – the third quarter of Northeast’s 2017 fiscal year – nearly doubled from a year earlier. Northeast reported net income of $3.5 million for the quarter, up 94 percent from $1.8 million a year earlier. It reported earnings per share of 39 cents, up 105 percent from 19 cents in the third quarter of its 2016 fiscal year. Read the story.
Lumber tariffs welcomed by local sawmills
Maine sawmill owners are welcoming the Trump administration’s announcement that it is imposing stiff duties on imports of Canadian softwood lumber, intensifying a longstanding trade dispute with the United States’ largest trading partner. President Trump revealed the decision to a gathering of conservative journalists Monday night, pre-empting the Commerce Department, which had planned to make the announcement Tuesday. Starting next week, the department will impose duties of 3 percent to 24 percent on softwood 2-by-4s, planks and other lumber arriving from Canada. The punitive duties are retaliation for Canadian provincial governments allegedly providing unfair subsidies to their industry. The action might raise the price of house framing lumber made from spruce, fir, pine and other softwood trees, but Maine’s sawmill owners say the action levels the playing field. Read the story.
Report: Strong exports buoy Maine economy
Maine’s export growth outperforms the nation’s, a positive sign for the state’s economy, which otherwise lags behind the U.S. and the rest of New England. Exports were one of the few bright spots highlighted in Measures of Growth 2017, the annual report released Tuesday by the Maine Development Foundation and Maine Economic Growth Council. The report assigns grades to 26 economic indicators that range from unemployment rates to fourth-grade reading scores and the quality of Maine’s air and water. Each indicator has a benchmark and an analysis of the state’s performance. International sales from Maine grew by 5 percent from 2015 to 2016, while U.S. exports declined by 3.3 percent over the same period. Maine’s export growth was rated second-best in New England and eighth nationally, according to the report. Read the story.
Portland visitors’ bureau rebrands itself
The Greater Portland Convention and Visitors Bureau is changing its name after 35 years. As of Thursday, the tourism marketing organization for Maine’s biggest city and surrounding area will be known simply as “Visit Portland.” Rebranding is a way to clarify the organization’s role for visitors, businesses and residents, said Lynn Tillotson, president and CEO. More than 200 convention and visitors’ bureaus across the country have ditched their cumbersome names for shorter labels in recent years, she added. Read the story.
Cat ferry schedule extended by two weeks
The Portland City Council unanimously approved a contract Monday to extend the season for the Portland-to-Yarmouth Nova Scotia ferry service by two weeks. The new lease would also allow the Bay Ferries to lease the ground-floor space in the Ocean Gateway terminal building for an additional $1,400 a month. All told, the amended agreement is expected to generate an additional $16,600 in revenue for the city, which last year received $265,000 in rent, parking and fees. Under the new agreement, Bay Ferries will operate The Cat high-speed ferry service from May 31 to Oct. 15. Last year, The Cat ferried 35,551 passengers during the 2016 season, which ran from June 1 to Sept. 31, though the first voyage did not occur until June 15. Read the story.