NEWS OF: 8/24/2006

Portland Hooters: Come for the Hot Wings, Stay for the…

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It’s always a proud moment when your city gets its first Hooters. And thanks to a Portland businessman, it will be right downtown. That means waitresses overflowing a skimpy outfits trying to crank out a living on the kind of tips that buffalo wings bring in.

Congratulations to Michael Harris for fulfilling a lifelong dream. Maybe you have a daughter who can aspire to work there someday…

Look out, Pizzaria Uno!

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NEWS OF: 7/31/2006

Big Business Miscoded as Bad Business

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Congress has established as a goal that 23% of government contracts go to small businesses. In Maine small businesses account for 99.2 percent of all businesses, so maintaining that 23% quota means more business for Maine.

Enter “miscoding” — the process of classifying a big business as a small business for purposes of federal contracting. This happens by mistake — and deliberately — as greedy businesses grease a few palms, misfile paperwork, etc.

The government’s small business watchdog, the Small Business Administration’s Office of Advocacy, has released a report showing that $2 billion in contract work was miscoded in 2002. And the problem hasn’t been corrected. See Mike Michaud

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NEWS OF: 7/4/2006

Domestic Car Sales Running on Empty

VIEW ALL: Economy, Gasoline

Yesterday I stopped to fill up. Well, not “fill up.” More of splash, really. Twenty bucks and six gallons later I thought back to when I bought my Suzuki Sidekick ten years ago - back when I could fill it up for under $14. I love my old Sidekick. Four wheel drive and 20+ mpg. Easy to park because it’s so tiny. Oh sure, in a collision with anything but a Smart car I’d be toast, but those are life’s trade-offs.

It’s the same reason why I don’t have a panic room, bomb shelter or moat around my home. I can’t justify the expense.

Car companies flood TV with urgent jingles and “free gas” cash-back offers all summer long. Cars zip across the beach as the waves spray up (where is THAT legal?) … off-roading shots of Jeeps clambering through what looks like a national park to find that sweet fishing hole… slick, urban parents popping their youngsters into the equivalent of a luxury armoured tank.

You’ll never see an ad showing one of these gas guzzlers at a pump or the grim faces of the vehicle owners watching their kid’s college education go down the tank.

Billions was spent promoting these tinted-window cathedrals complete with wee DVD players. Hummers. Professional grade trucks that could tow an 18-wheeler. Sweeeeeet! Domestic carmakers for the month of June posted an 18.7% drop, while their Asian rivals saw an increase of 2.8%. We refuse to do even the simple math: big country + long commute does not equal super-expensive car + low mileage. Now Renault and Nissan are considering purchasing a majority stake in GM.

Those of us who remember the gas crisis of the 70s watched prices climb and the President shrug and claim there was nothing he could do. My Sidekick won’t last forever. Next car? Maybe the tiny, re-issued 2-door Yaris liftback ($11,000 and 34-39 mpg.) I’d hate to lose the 4WD, but again, it might be one of life’s trade-offs. The extra $10-30 grand? I’ll pop it into a retirement plan.

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NEWS OF: 6/30/2006

Maine’s Economy (Still) Sucks

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A new analysis by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston indicates that New England’s economy is lagging, but Maine’s economy really sucks. Quoting, “New England’s northernmost state did little but tread water in 2005, as 2004’s mild growth came to a standstill.”

It cited “lackluster” employment measures, “tepid” income growth, a cooling housing sector and a decline in the value of merchandise exports. Maine’s recovery seems to have stalled.

Well, closing all our military bases didn’t help… See Boston.com

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NEWS OF: 6/29/2006

Baldacci’s Creative Economy Development Strategy: Cut and Print!

Governor Baldacci kicked off his plans to expand Maine’s creative economy with The Blaine House Conference on the Creative Economy in 2004. Since then, the Governor’s office has signed legislation to support creative economy initiatives, created a Creative Economy Council and a Steering Committee, funded a number of local initiatives and approved tax incentives aimed at expanding Maine’s film industry.

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Sappi: Paper Cuts

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Sappi Fine Paper is advertising for replacement workers following a strike authorization vote at four mills, including two in Maine. In Westbrook, members of Local 1069 of the United Steelworkers joined their counterparts at a mill in Michigan in voting last week to authorize a strike. Within a couple of days, Sappi was advertising for their potential replacements. The company is also training salaried employees in other capacities and has brought in additional security… See Boston.com

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NEWS OF: 5/25/2006

Slow: Some Women Working

VIEW ALL: Economy, Women

The number of women working in bridge and road construction jobs has dropped from 8% to 4.7% thanks to a federal contract with the state Department of Transportation that funds on-the-job training for women that has been in limbo since last October.

Elizabeth Jamison, executive director of Women Unlimited, a group that administers the job-training program for the state, said she has a signed contract that the FHA refuses to honor. See the KJ

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NEWS OF: 4/11/2006

Maine Minimum Wage Climbs from Destitute to Dirt Poor

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In 1980, when I graduated from high school, the minimum wage was $3.10. There was no cable, satellite, Internet, or cell phone bills and a sweet new ride was around $2,500. Twenty six years later the federal minimum wage is $5.15 an hour. The extra $2.05 per hour being around $80/week. Easily offset by any one of those aforementioned bills or the sweet new ride that’s more like $25,000.

But in Maine? That wage is finally squeaking up thanks to fewer Republicans than planned showing up for the vote. See Boston.com

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NEWS OF: 4/6/2006

Cheap Bastards

VIEW ALL: Economy, Jobs

A bill to increase the minimum wage to $7 an hour by Oct. 1, 2007, hit the wall when the House voted (74-66) to both (a.) reduce the increase by $.25 per hour and (b.) delay its implementation. Just a quick reminder that $6.75 an hour is $270/week, or $1,170 per month or $14,040 year, which redefines the word “minimum.” This princely sum is roughly half the “actual” amount of money per hour required for one person to live near the poverty line.

Those arguing over that quarter? They are not making minimum wage, but perhaps they should for a few months. See BDN.

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NEWS OF: 4/4/2006

Maine: Pass the Ben & Jerry’s… and the Clicker

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Physical inactivity and excess weight cost Maine’s economy two-point-one billion dollars a year, or roughly one-third the budget for state government according to a bunch of skinny bee-aches who obviously have nothing better to do. See WLBZ

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NEWS OF: 4/3/2006

Michaud: Maine Gets WIRED

A $15 million federal Workforce Innovation Regional Economic Development (WIRED) grant will be used to strengthen Maine’s economy and create jobs in the high-tech composites and marine-related sectors. Rep. Mike Michaud announced the happy news.

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NEWS OF: 2/23/2006

U.S. Family Net Worthlessness

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The wealth of America’s families grew at a 1.5% rate between 2001-2004, down from a 10.3% rate between 1998-2001. For the bottom 40% of U.S. families, net worth fell during the Bush administration years, punctuated by rising mortgage debt and credit card debt. If you rent? Your worth dropped 22%. If you own your own home? You saw a whopping 1% increase. Fortunately, during that same time the price of virtually everything else from cars to college went up significantly. See Bloomberg

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NEWS OF: 1/30/2006

Maine’s Economic Report Card: Wait Till Your Father Gets Home!

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For 2005 Maine slipped to a D in “business vitality,” but improved to a C in “development capacity.” Maine was 39th in job growth due to new business and 36th in employment by technology-based industries and in companies that trade their stock publicly. But we were right up there in racinos and slots, I’ll bet. See BDN

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NEWS OF: 1/27/2006

Economy Growing at Snail’s Pace

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The good news is that the US economy, like the universe, is expanding. The bad news is that it’s growing at its slowest pace in three years - 1.1% in the fourth quarter of 2005. See Financial Times

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