FORT WORTH, Texas (AP) – RadioShack plans to close up to 1,100 of its underperforming stores in the U.S. and reported a wider loss for its fourth quarter as customer traffic slowed during the critical holiday season. Its stock tumbled almost 21 percent in premarket trading Tuesday. CEO Joseph Magnacca said in statement that the planned store closings would leave RadioShack with more than 4,000 U.S. stores, including more than 900 dealer franchise locations. The company didn’t immediately identify what stores are being closed. The electronics retailer said that the stores to be closed are being selected based on location, area demographics, lease duration and financial performance. Magnacca said the latest quarter’s performance was also hurt by increased promotional activity – particularly in consumer electronics; a very soft mobility marketplace and a few operational issues. (read more at Kennebec Journal)
BANGOR, Maine — The owner of a local used car dealership owes $9,000 in overdue fines to the Occupational Safety & Health Administration for workplace safety violations in 2012 and 2013, according to government documents. The release of information by OSHA about businesses owned by Glenn A. Geiser Jr., 48, of Brewer added to a growing list of regulatory and legal actions taken against the owner of My Maine Ride. Files obtained from OSHA through a freedom of information request by the Bangor Daily News include complaints about Geiser’s current business, My Maine Ride, and his two previous businesses, Bumper2Bumper and Bangor Car Care. The documents show the safety violations at the businesses were corrected, but most of the fines were not paid. Geiser also faced criminal charges in Penobscot County over the use of counterfeit inspection stickers and is the subject of a civil lawsuit filed by the Maine attorney general’s office alleging unfair trade practices. The used car dealer on Wednesday agreed to a 180-day suspension of his business license beginning March 1 imposed by the secretary of state’s office. On Thursday, he pleaded no contest through his attorney to 28 counts of using counterfeit inspection stickers and paid a $7,000 fine. (read more at Bangor Daily News)
SAN FRANCISCO — Facebook, the world’s largest social network, agreed to acquire mobile-messaging startup WhatsApp for as much as $19 billion in cash and stock, seeking to expand its reach among users on mobile devices. The purchase would be the biggest Internet deal since Time Warner’s $124 billion merger with AOL in 2001, according to data compiled by Bloomberg. The accord includes $12 billion in stock, $4 billion in cash and $3 billion in restricted shares, Facebook said Wednesday in a statement. WhatsApp has more than 450 million members, with 1 million users being added daily, Facebook said. Facebook, which acquired photo-sharing service Instagram for about $700 million in 2012, is counting on applications beyond its main social network, such as messaging and news, to court more users on smartphones and tablets. WhatsApp competes with Snapchat, which rebuffed a $3 billion offer from Facebook last year, as well as services from Twitter and Kik Interactive. (keep reading at Kennebec Journal)
BELFAST, Maine — Located right next to a gleaming speciality [sic] olive oil, vinegar and wine shop and two doors down from a $300-per-night boutique hotel, the Belfast Army-Navy store on Main Street seems like a holdout from a different, grittier time. On Tuesday, men wearing Carhartt coveralls picked through the racks of balaclavas and outdoor gear. Machetes and knives were kept under plexiglas at the front counter and the windows featured an eclectic display of mannequins wearing scouting uniforms and second-hand musical instruments. Everything was on sale, because at the end of April the store will close and be reopened as a Christmas shop. “We used to be a pawn shop,” Ronald Mullen, 73, the proprietor, said Tuesday morning. “Belfast has changed a lot.” He was quick to reassure his customers that he was looking out for them as he prepares to retire. The new Christmas shop will continue to sell scouting uniforms and supplies and the Home Supply Center will stock paintball gear. But still, the change is worrisome to some locals, who fear that the city may be embracing too much gentrification too quickly, especially after watching another Main Street institution, Weaver’s Bakery, close this winter after nearly 60 years in business. The storefront, where the coffee-drinking crowd of regulars gathered in early mornings for decades to shoot the breeze and discuss city and national politics, will reopen as an environmental consulting firm. (read more at Bangor Daily News)
AUGUSTA, Maine — Attorney General Janet T. Mills has sued a Bangor used car dealer in Penobscot County Superior Court for unfair and deceptive trade practices in connection with the promotion and sale of used cars. The complaint, filed Jan. 31, alleged that Glenn A. Geiser Jr., 48, of Brewer and his dealerships, Bangor Car Care Inc., Bumper2Bumper Inc. and My Maine Ride, targeted consumers with poor credit who needed financing, pressured them to buy cars that were not roadworthy and did not respond to customer complaints, according to a press release issued Friday by Mills’ office. The Consumer Protection Division of Mills’ office received 86 complaints in the last 13 months about My Maine Ride, 159 complaints about Bumper2Bumper since 2011, and 539 complaints about Bangor Car Care since 2003. The state is seeking civil penalties, which could run as high as $10,000 for each violation; a permanent injunction to bar Geiser and any entity in which he has an ownership interest from promoting, selling and/or financing used cars; and reimbursement of the cost of the litigation, including attorney and expert witness fees. (read more at Bangor Daily News)
AUGUSTA – Maine’s economy is “booming,” according to the Philadelphia branch of the Federal Reserve. Business Insider recently highlighted the news from the Reserve’s monthly coincident index for each of the 50 states. Governor Paul R. LePage today reminded Mainers how much the State has improved its business climate since 2010 when the unemployment rate was 8.4 percent in Maine and nearly 10 percent nationally.
“When we took office, Maine’s economy was a mess, workers were losing their jobs in droves, and our state budget was a nightmare after years of liberals who advocated for tax increases, out-of-control government spending and the use of one-time money from the federal government,” Governor LePage said. “We’ve come a long way in the nearly three years since then. Our economy is growing, and over 8,000 more people are working since 2011.”
The Governor notes that while this report only covers a three-month period, it is still welcome news for the State of Maine. “This is all good news, and we’re headed in the right direction, but we’re not done. Our Administration is working to reform welfare to provide Mainers with job training to enable them to become self-sufficient, and we are continuing to improve Maine’s business climate so more jobs are available.”
Recent news has shown many positive signs for Maine’s economy, including:
•Maine moved to one of the ten best in the nation in the Federal Reserve Bank of Philadelphia’s leading index forecast for economic growth over the next three months. The indexes are released a few days after the Bureau of Labor Statistics (BLS) releases the employment data for the states.
•From January 2013 to August 2013, the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development (DECD) certified 12 businesses anticipating 267 new jobs, generating $14.2 million in payroll and nearly $70 million in new investment.
•Over the same period in 2012, DECD certified 14 businesses anticipating 128 news jobs, generating $6.3 million in payroll and just over $157 million in new investment.
•In the first eight months of 2013, DECD’s Maine Made Program certified 61 new small businesses.
•The first three years of private-sector job growth under Governor LePage were the best three years for Maine in over a decade.
•Maine’s four-week average of initial weekly unemployment insurance claims is at its lowest level since 2008.
•Maine’s unemployment rate is 6.7 percent, below the national average of 7.3 percent.
For the complete report: http://www.philadelphiafed.org/research-and-data/regional-economy/indexes/coincident/
December 2, 2013
POLAND — Bath is in but Farmington is out. Both Lewiston and Auburn made the cut, but Bridgton and Lubec did not. Biddeford and Saco are in but Jay and Rumford apparently didn’t have what it takes. Paris officials hope they’ll make the list and they’re working to make it so. So far, only 25 of Maine’s 492 towns and cities have been certified “Business Friendly” by Gov. Paul LePage’s administration. State officials say only 35 have applied for the designation by filling out a seven-page application that includes narrative answers and letters of recommendation from local businesses about why a given town should be dubbed business friendly. Among other things, communities are evaluated on how long it takes to get a building permit or business license, their customer service, their involvement with business attraction efforts and how well they collaborate with others in the world of economic development in Maine. (read more at Lewiston Sun Journal)
One of the best-recognized commercial characters on Maine TV – “The Marden’s Lady” – will have to find herself a new place for “bahgains.” Karmo Sanders of Scarborough, the playwright and actress who has portrayed the slightly crazy shopper Birdie Googins on commercials for Marden’s Surplus & Salvage for at least five years, said Wednesday that the Waterville-based chain has decided it will no longer use her in advertising. Sanders said she didn’t have a contract with Marden’s but had been making at least four commercials a year for the chain, usually one per season. She said she was told in January that she would no longer be used for commercials. But since Marden’s never announced its departure from the Birdie Googins commercials, Sanders said she didn’t feel right announcing it herself. So she kept silent until asked about it by a reporter on Wednesday. “If you want my humble opinion, I think it was a little rude of them not to announce it. I was wicked popular and one hell of a real deal for Marden’s,” said Sanders, sounding somewhat like Googins as she talked. No one from Marden’s was available for comment. (read more at Kennebec Journal)
PORTLAND — Maine Medical Center plans to offer voluntary buyouts to about 400 employees, according to a memo sent to employees by the hospital’s top executive. The memo was obtained by the Press Herald, and confirmed by hospital officials. In the letter, Richard Petersen, president and CEO of Maine Medical Center, wrote that “financial challenges” have caused the hospital to look into ways to reduce “all labor and non-labor expenses” to “improve our financial stability moving forward.” “We’re going to offer incentives for voluntary early retirements for about 400 people across Maine Medical Center. More information will be communicated about this program next week,” Petersen wrote. (read more at Kennebec Journal)
A member of the local citizen group which supported a resolution opposing the possible flow of “tar sands” oil through the nearby Portland-Montreal Pipe Line said Friday their work is not done, despite a defeat of the resolution at last week’s Bethel Town Meeting. Bethel voters easily rescinded the resolution originally approved at a special town meeting in January. The resolution opposed a potential reversal of the direction of oil flow through a Portland-Montreal Pipeline Co. pipeline that passes through Bethel as it carries crude oil to Montreal. Pipeline officials who attended the January meeting never got a chance to present their case before residents voted. Bud Kulik, who circulated a petition to bring about the revote, told residents last week that if they rescinded the vote, “we can go back to square one. The proponents can always bring it up again, if they wish to do so.” That point was echoed by Larry Wilson, president/CEO of the Portland-Montreal Pipe Line. He said resolution proponents “have every right to do another resolution, and all we want to do is try to protect the operations that have been here for 72 years, to come and participate in the discussion, and be happy to accept the results.” Wilson said the resolution, which he acknowledged is not legally binding was intended by proponents “to send a message that all of the community is supporting for the elected officials in Maine to keep oil sands opportunities out of Maine.” (read more at Bethel Citizen)