About Town - June, 2006

Thursday, June 29, 2006

POOR HOUSE - Maine is one of only two states to decline in 2005

An article in today's New York Times discusses a new report by the Federal Reserve Bank of Boston which found that Maine has a strong tourist economy but a relatively weak yearlong economy in the wake of our dissolving manufacturing base. Hardly breaking news.

But the extent of the trouble is: According to the Reserve, Maine is one of only two states in the country to suffer economic decline in 2005. The other state is Louisiana.

Officials cited in the Times article blame our shoddy showing on business and residents' fears during contract renewal for Bath Iron Works, the closing of the Brunswick Naval Air Station, and Bank of America buying MBNA.

According to the Times, some in Maine say the state needs to cut taxes and train workers more effectively:

Dr. John Fitzsimmons, president of the Maine Community College System, said that about 4,200 technical jobs in health care, manufacturing and construction went begging or were filled by people from out-of-state because of a shortage of slots in Maine's associate degree programs.

"What you have is a local work force not being upgraded for job opportunities that already exist in the home state," Dr. Fitzsimmons said.

To read the report in the current issue of the Reserve's Indicators magazine, click here.

6/29/2006 4:12:31 PM by Sara Donnelly | Comments [0] |  

Monday, June 26, 2006

HOT DATE - The Natural Resources Council will screen Gore's movie

The Natural Resources Council of Maine will host a screening of Al Gore's movie "An Inconvenient Truth" on Thursday, July 6, at 7 pm. 

"Truth" opens this Wednesday at the Movies On Exchange in Portland. It runs from June 28 through July 25. NRCM staff will introduce the movie at their event next week by talking about global warming, its effect on Maine, and what we can do about it. Tickets cost $7.50 for adults, $6.50 for seniors and students, and $5 for children.

Anyway, the movie, if you haven't already heard this a hundred times by now, is about Al Gore's number one issue these days - global warming.

Al Gore is good and pissed about global warming (as evidenced below). Find out why this weekend.


6/26/2006 6:00:45 PM by Sara Donnelly | Comments [0] |  

Thursday, June 22, 2006

MAIL CALL - Organic beer shipped in wasteful plastic

UPDATED June 22, 2:15 pm.
I just talked to the company president, Jon Cadoux, who explained how this all came about. Apparently, the company sent out a sample to another media outlet a week or so ago, in packaging that they thought was more restrained and more environmentally aware, and got a call from an irate reporter, who had opened the box to broken glass and a sopping-wet press kit, because the bottle had broken during shipment.

So this time they went the other direction, overpackaging and hoping for success. Cadoux said he appreciated my feedback, and said he would look into finding other ways to ship samples. I suggested to him that they do it the way Sam Adams ships beer samples - in a 12-pack box, with the 12-pack dividers in place. Two sample bottles are wrapped in bubble wrap (they're not marketing themselves as organic; I suggested Cadoux use corrugated cardboard or cellulose "peanuts" instead), and put in the middle two slots, the only two spaces in the carton that do not directly contact the outside of the box. That gives the bottles plenty of cushioning, and there's room for press materials. Plus, the whole thing (except the bubble wrap) is recyclable.

He said he'd look into that, as well as finding other ideas for how to ship beer without breaking. All told, he was a pretty nice guy, and recognized the faux pas. Apparently, he just can't win, yet. But he's trying hard, so we'll give him credit for effort. Look for an update when the next Peak Brewing package comes in to the Phoenix office!

---Previous posting---

A new beer company, brewing its wares in Portland, has sent a sample of its product to our office.

Opening the box, from Peak Organics, a company whose board chairman is Gary Hirshberg, organic-foods guru and head of Stonyfield Farm Yogurt, revealed a bottle of beer in a Ziploc-style plastic bag, surrounded by bubble wrap, and packed into a needlessly large box with Styrofoam peanuts. (See picture.)

The marketing material touts the fact that the beer is made "without toxic and persistent pesticides and chemical fertilizers," saying that is "more enjoyable, both for consumers and for the planet."

"The company is a strong supporter of the environment," said Sue McGovern, the company's PR consultant, when I called to ask "what gives?" with the packaging that is as environmentally insensitive as it gets.

"Organic is a system of agriculture," she said, "not a lifestyle statement." But surely she can't believe that.

Anecdotes from consumers - who, in a cool twist, can win contests and have their names, photos, and quotes appear on bottles of the beer - were included in the press kit as well as on the company's Web site. They described "peak experiences" with nature and the outdoors, clearly marketing the product at people who value the Earth.

The sample beer was, the company said, brewed in Portland. The package was postmarked in Burlington, Massachusetts, where the company also has an office, meaning a beer made in Portland was sent to Massachusetts to be packaged up and sent back to Portland. Is this efficient, either?

McGovern said the company, and many who support organics and environmentally responsible actions, is "looking for progress, not perfection."

She asked me how I would have shipped a liquid beverage in a glass bottle. Apart from the fact that it's a needless marketing ploy that cost $5 to mail, I suggested wrapping it in corrugated-cardboard wrapping and cushioning it with crushed paper or recycled-paper "peanuts." (I'm still not sure whether the plastic bag was necessary, though if the bottle did break, that would be a nice touch.)

McGovern also noted that the company president, Jon Cadoux, personally wrapped the beer in all that plastic for packaging. Apparently, Cadoux will be calling me sometime today or tomorrow to talk more about this.

What do you think? What should I tell Cadoux when he calls? I'll update this when he does.

6/22/2006 12:16:31 PM by Jeff Inglis | Comments [0] |  

Wednesday, June 21, 2006

BRINGING OUT THE DEAD - Activists will read names of soldiers lost in Iraq

Anti-war activists plan to gather in a peaceful demonstration in Tommy's Park in Portland on July 7 to read the names of the US dead in the Iraq War to date and an equal number of names of Iraqi dead. The gathering will begin at 11:30 am and the reading of the names will begin at 1:00 pm. According to figures released by the Pentagon last week, the number of US military killed in Iraq has reached 2500. Some tens of thousands of Iraqis have been killed, reports Reuters news service.

The reading is being organized by Maine Veterans for Peace. A related email sent by Jack Bussell, a MVP board member, predicts the reading will take at least six hours. He encourages participants to bring lawn chairs, umbrellas, and "drinks and snacks to share."

The rain date for the event is Friday, July 14 at the same time and place.

6/21/2006 4:15:09 PM by Sara Donnelly | Comments [0] |  

Tuesday, June 20, 2006

DEAD MOOSE - East End antics

A moose found wandering in the East End was killed this morning. Portland police say one and possibly two moose came ashore on East End Beach this morning. One ended up in Back Cove, where it was scared off into woods near P