Business and Economy

Business news

Patty Wight / MPBN

The Oxford Casino is expanding.

Casino owners, lawmakers and Gov. Paul LePage broke ground Tuesday on a new hotel due to open in 2017. The project will include more than 100 new guest rooms and an expansion of the gaming floor.

“We are honored to continue investing in this community, to create new jobs, and generate economic development, both for Oxford and surrounding communities,” says Bill Mudd, chief operating officer of Churchill Downs, the company that owns the Oxford Casino.

LePage praised Churchill Downs for bringing jobs to Maine.

Jennifer Mitchell / MPBN

According to U.S. Department of Agriculture figures, honey production in Maine jumped by 25 percent last year, and more people are keeping bees than ever before.

But as part of a local foods boom, there’s still room for growth in Maine’s tiniest livestock.

In Springvale, honey bees are getting ready to fly out for a day’s exploration. Over the next few months the bees will embark on a sun-up to sun-down race to visit every tasty flower, gathering pollen and nectar as the hive makes as much of the liquid gold as it can before the next winter hits.

A new overtime rule released by the federal Department of Labor could put more money in workers pockets — or not.

The rule almost doubles the pay level at which employers must pay overtime for work over 40 hours a week. But businesses and workers advocates sharply disagree on whether the change is too much, too fast.

Susan Sharon / MPBN

Maine is trying to cope with the challenges posed by decreased property tax revenues in the aftermath of five paper mill closures in just two years.

Jennifer Mitchell / MPBN

Maine’s forest service will get almost $400,000 from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help support the state’s forest products industry.

“We’ve got an overabundance of wood, we’re growing a lot more than we’re harvesting right now,” says Maine Forest Service Director Doug Denico.

Denico says the challenge is connecting people to that overabundance of wood — the grant money will go toward programs aimed at helping do just that.

As Maine’s economy continues to improve, construction projects ranging from new single-family homes to large commercial and government buildings are underway in the state, but builders say they are having trouble finding enough workers to meet the demand.

Matthew Marks, CEO of the Associated General Contractors of Maine, a trade organization representing many Maine construction companies, says some of his members are so busy they can’t handle all the work that’s coming their way.

The looming expiration of a 30-year agreement between more than 180 communities and the Penobscot Energy Recovery Co. is triggering a major debate over the future of waste disposal in northern Maine.

PERC, which generates electricity with its Orrington incinerator, would like to keep its arrangement going with the towns. But a coalition of communities is pursuing a competing proposal involving a newer technology and a facility that hasn’t even been built yet.

A big change is coming in federal rules on overtime pay. The U.S. Department of Labor is expected to soon issue a new rule that could more than double the salary levels at which workers must be paid overtime.

PORTLAND, Maine - A seafood processing plant started four years ago in Mid-coast Maine by a young entrepreneur has closed its doors, and will go up for auction next month.

Sea Hag Seafood, which specialized in raw frozen lobster tails, was headed by Kyle Murdock, who was just 21 when he told MPBN that it was time for Maine to process more of its own seafood.

"We feel that the true Maine lobster, produced in Maine, is a product that will compete very well in the domestic market because of brand - exactly," Murdock said back then.

FRYEBURG, Maine - Maine's supreme court has upheld regulatory approval of a contract allowing Fryeburg Water Co. to sell water to the parent company of Poland Springs.

The Maine Public Utilities Commission approved the contract between the privately owned utility and Nestle Waters after concluding the deal could benefit ratepayers.

In its decision, the Maine Supreme Judicial Court unanimously ruled Thursday that there was no abuse of discretion or violation of statutory provision.

Federal Fishery regulators, in an unprecedented move, are closing the northern Gulf of Maine scallop fishery on Friday — a scant two months after it began.

“They’ve been fishing very hard since March — a lot harder than they ever have. We’ve never closed this area before,” says Travis Ford, scallop policy analyst with NOAA Fisheries.

Normally, he says northern Gulf fishermen don’t catch the entire allowable harvest in less than a full year of fishing, which starts on March 1.

Fred Bever / MPBN

After a big legislative fight over regulations for mid- and small-scale solar power projects in Maine, a key issue affecting the solar industry now heads to the state’s Public Utilities Commission.

Solar installers and customers are wondering whether a major shift in the regulatory climate is underway, and whether it could dim the prospects for a sector whose future once seemed so bright.

Creative Commons

A British cruise line says one of its ships is sailing to Canada as planned despite evidence of a possible norovirus outbreak following a visit to the U.S., which included a stop in Portland on Sunday.

The CDC reports that around 250 of the 900 passengers had fallen ill, as well as eight members of the 500-member crew, since the 34-night cruise began in England on April 16.

A company that makes modular homes in Oxford has notified the Maine Department of Labor that it is going out of business.

Keiser Homes says it will close all of its facilities in Maine and several other states. About 120 workers in Maine will lose their jobs. Some had already been laid off earlier this spring.

Julie Rabinowitz, a spokesperson for the Labor Department, says the state has scheduled Rapid Response sessions to try to assist workers with unemployment and other services.

BANGOR, Maine - Maine marine regulators are proposing the same length sea urchin season as the one that ended in March.

"The fishery itself is stabilized over the past few years," says Marine Resources spokesman Jeff Nichols says the seasons in both sectors of the urchin fishery, south and east, will remain the same, with a 15-day fishery in the southern section, and a 38-day fishery in the eastern portion.

Nichols says the urchins are harvested for their uni, or roe. "It's served as a type of sushi."