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December 11, 2017
From the Editor

It's a wrap: Thoughts as we head into 2018

In the past year, we have seen some companies soar and others grind to a halt.

What separates them is not always clear.

Maine's economy finally seemed freed from the shackles of the recession, but it wasn't freed from its own demographics — an aging workforce or the chronic need for qualified employees. Still, companies showed a resilience in finding a way. "Find a way or make one," as Admiral Robert Peary said.

From where I sit, here were the top business stories of 2017:

  • WEX Inc., Maine's second-largest publicly traded company, broke ground on a headquarters on Portland's eastern waterfront. The site will have 450 employees and, as a bonus, WEX will continue to have a presence in South Portland. At a time when cities are clamoring for Amazon HQ2, having WEX reinvest in Maine is a vote of confidence.
  • Portland's eastern waterfront became Maine's hottest real estate market. East of Franklin Street, every block seemed to have some kind of construction. There's the planned addition of corporate headquarters of WEX (see above) and the recent move of Tilson Technology to 16 Middle St. There are at least three hotels planned, including the AC Hotel by Marriott (due to open in coming months), a 150-room hotel planned by West Elm Hotels at 58 Fore St. and then hotel planned for the surface lot east of the Hampton Inn. As evidence of the hotel market's strength, the Residence Inn by Marriott, smack in the middle of all this, sold for $55.8 million. Add to that planned development at 58 Fore St., the Luminati condos and 20 Thames St. condos and you have a bona fide building boom. That's not even all of it.
  • Growth and growing pains in coastal destinations. In October, Mainebiz featured stories that looked at Belfast, Damariscotta and Wiscasset. Each place has grappled with growth — both the need for it and the need for year-round jobs — but also the inherent challenges that go with development, including traffic, higher real estate costs and demand on services. That was our most-read issue of the year, at least based on the feedback we received, both positive and negative. Add to that list the battles going on in Bar Harbor over the cruise ship terminal and in Boothbay over expansion at the Maine Coastal Botanical Gardens and the influx of investment by Paul Coulombe, who sold White Rock Distilleries for $600 million.

There are doubtless other stories as well, many of which involve far less money, are farther from Portland, with less media coverage and possibly more vision and persistence. And those are the stories we'll be chasing in 2018.

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