Written by Natalie Ladd
Salt and Sea
Community Sustained Fishery
In operation for a year and a half, Salt and Sea, a family owned, community sustained fishery (CSF) is up to 200 members who reap the benefits of eating the freshest fish possible.
"Ninety percent of the fish Americans eat is imported and in Portland the number is even higher," said owner Justine Simon. "The expectations (of fresh fish) are low. Fresh fish shouldn't smell fishy, it should smell like the ocean. We work with a number of boats and what we're trying to do is make really high quality local fish readily available."
Simon and two other employees are doing just that by offering delivery as well as several pick-up locations of different sizes of fish and shellfish CSF share packages.
"We have a variety of customers who all have the same thing in common," she said. "They want to support the local food community and put money into the economy. Our demographic is young single people, couples with kids and older folks."
When asked about the higher cost of the CSF product compared to the fish counter at a local grocery store Simon didn't hesitate to respond.
"You can get cheaper fish elsewhere but we prioritize freshness over all else and that comes with a price," she said. "It's apples and oranges and you can't really compare. There are a lot of bad practices out there like food grade bleach old fish is soaked in so it won't smell or look yellow. Some of the fish is mislabeled and people really get the wool pulled over their eyes."
Formerly housed in Portland, Salt and Sea's current cutting facility is located in Pine Point with plans to move back to the waterfront in the near future. Further fostering a sense of community, Simon's website has a blog for recipes and photos shared by members. T-shirts are available for sale and future projects are under consideration.
"There are interesting things I really can't get into but fish fertilizer is in the works," she said. "We want to draw attention to what land activities do to the ecosystem."
Simon's husband Marty Odlin is a fourth generation fisherman and shore engineer who helped pick the name that "connotes the ocean and freshness," Simon said. "We worked with a design firm on our logo and think it represents how everything is interconnected in the ecosystem. The waves, the nets, everything."
Visit www.saltandsea.me for more information about sustainably harvested fishing practices and for Salt and Sea CSF membership options and packages.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 23:23
Written by Timothy Gillis
A freshman in a local college business program has created a popular and cost-effective way for his classmates to buy and sell books. SoPo Books was invented by Saman Baghestani, a first-year student from Dallas, Texas, who got the idea in an oral communications class at Southern Maine Community College last fall.
"I heard students constantly complaining about book prices," he said, "and I had a light bulb moment. It's the sort of concept where you wonder: 'How did we not have this already?'"
SoPo Books does not have a physical store. The website, www.sopobooks.com, offers students looking to sell their used books a free and direct connection to other students looking to buy them. The sellers are getting more money from their classmates than the campus bookstore, which usually offers a 10 percent buyback. The buyers are getting the books they need for classes, at a better rate than the bookstore is charging. And Baghestani says the best deal is the boost to the local economy.
"It's got two essential things for the ecosystem," he said, referring to less waste generated from new texts that cost about the same as bookstore-sold used ones, and "when a student buys a book from us (instead of CHEGG, a nationwide company and SoPo Books' biggest competitor), those dollars stay right here."
Baghestani thought of offering SoPo Books as a nonprofit service to SMCC when he first moved here with his wife, Britta, who works at Port Resources as a clinical counselor and a dance movement therapist.
"I initially asked the Student Senate to fund a project. I'd already found a developer who gave me a low-price estimate (around $750) to build a website," he said, adding that the retail price for such a start-up cost could be anywhere from $5,000 to $25,000 for a database driven site. He was surprised by the school's response.
"They called it a conflict of branding. They loved the idea, but said they wouldn't be able to adopt it anytime soon," he said. "They said to keep them updated on my progress. The idea died here in terms of it being a school endeavor."
Kaylene Waindle, dean of effectiveness & engagement at SMCC, said, "I was working with Saman on this project. He had a really short time line. The college has to go through competitive bidding process, and also work with the college community. As a student, he's on a different timeline."
The college is expanding their website with a new launch slated for the fall, and some of the young businessman's ideas will be incorporated in the new site.
"In the long term, I was interested in expanding it with other services like rideshare and child-care," Waindle said. "Our students start many businesses. We can't always advertise, but we do try to get the word out."
SMCC has added a link from their FB page to his website. "Our students are cost-conscious and like meeting each other, so his site is a good way to do all of that," she said.
Baghestani is pleased with the friendlier tone the college has adopted towards his business.
"I was asked to tread lightly as I was marketing it," he said. "At one point, I was told not to market it in the hallway." As students began adopting the service, the school's attitude towards him went from "not-so-supportive" to adding the link to his website. There's also a link to MBS, the book company that SMCC officially contracts with, a connection that irks Baghestani.
"The school gives them full permission to set up a table and buy books back from students at 10 percent," he says, then resells the same book at much closer to the new price.
He cited the example of "rebranded books" from publishers, with new, distinctive covers from the college or university that's reselling them. Baghestani wondered about the financial relationship between the college and the big bookseller, and noted that the rebranding makes it harder for students to resell these books to anyone else.
"The Science of Psychology" by Laura King is a required text that retails for around $170. A new book, with an SMCC-specific cover, also costs $170.
"It's not available at a store," Baghestani said. "We were trying to add the book to our inventory but couldn't find it anywhere. Students can expect to get $17 from MBS, who will turn around and sell it for more than $100."
The text is now available on www.sopobooks.com. A quick inquiry brought three emails with offers to sell the book — one for $100 and two which asked for the applicant to contact the seller.
Baghestani sees even a small savings as a big reward, since the money stays in town, and he knows that over four years, students will save big by shopping through SoPo Books.
"Books costs since 1978 have risen more than 800 percent," he said. "We don't buy anything. We facilitate connections between students. The students can set the prices themselves. We only offer guidance and information, regarding the Amazon price."
Of the 7,000 or so students at SMCC, more than 700 are using his website, according to Baghestani, who is connecting used book buyers and sellers on the South Portland and Brunswick campuses, as well as those in distance learning.
"We're not making any money right now," he said. "There are no fees to post or buy."
SoPo Books has just expanded to the University of Southern Maine.
"We're really focused there right now," he said. "We presented to the USM Student Senate last Friday. We also went to organizations like Greek Life, department heads, the faculty, and the Free Press student newspaper, to try to get all the stakeholders engaged. Professors are the perfect mouthpiece; they are doing that now at SMCC."
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 23:23
Written by Tony Payne
It is estimated that in Maine, more than 200,000 people have "some college" education but have not yet attained their associate's or bachelor's degrees. In New Hampshire, there are approximately 146,000 people in the same boat. Yet, census data says people who have graduated from an institution of higher learning will have lifetime earnings far greater than those who simply have a high school diploma or some college. How much of a difference?
The U.S. Census Bureau indicates that a high school grad between 25 and 64 years of age earns about $30,000 per year. Those with a Bachelor's degree are averaging $45,000 per year. Over a 40 year work-life, the one with a degree may earn as much as $600,000 more than those without a degree. For people earning a Master's degree, they may expect to earn as much as $1.2 million more in their career than those without a degree. Those simple facts suggest it's worth getting a degree or even an advanced degree.
So, let's imagine igniting that well of pent up talent among those with "some college." The benefits to our communities would be immeasurable.
Education is the great equalizer; it is the ticket to creating more options in one's life. If there is a single public investment that produces exponential returns, it is funding post-secondary education to help people attain degrees or technical certifications. Bringing marketable skills to the workplace isn't simply about understanding how to put tab A into slot B; it is completing a course of study that helps engineer those tabs, develops critical thinking and improves the ability to communicate. It also is about broadening the horizon of opportunities that allow us to dream, create and fulfill. In a phrase: to aspire higher.
Another fundamental truth in our society is that free enterprise, individual responsibility and personal well-being require that public higher education be available at a reasonable cost. Said another way, "you can pay me now or you can pay me later." Public higher education is a smart taxpayer investment.
What are the facts?
Northern New England faces a dwindling number of high school graduates. We simply are not producing enough babies or attracting enough people from away to keep up with the death, retirement and exodus rates. New Hampshire's population grew by a mere half percent between 2010 and 2013 according to U.S. Census Bureau estimates. The same data shows Maine actually losing population. The pool of recent high school graduates is getting smaller and the competition for their tuition dollars is fierce.
In Southern Maine alone, there are at least eight colleges and university campuses offering degrees. Overall, both Maine and New Hampshire boast more than 25 institutions of higher learning.
When you add all the other education options that are available out-of-state and online, we have a wealth of faculty and programs for teaching liberal arts and technical skills to everyone ready and willing to learn. The key is to make public education affordable which means taxpayer support for well-managed public universities.
Not only is having a degree highly correlated to earning more money, it allows people to care for their families, buy homes and invest for retirement. If you have earned such a degree, it is in your self-interest to see others achieve one, as well. An educated and productive workforce is more self-sufficient throughout their lives.
Another fact is that the baby boomers are retiring at a fast clip which will leave employers with gaping holes that will need to be filled. Forty five percent of workers in the private sector in Maine are over the age of 45. More than half of those in educational services, health care, transportation and manufacturing are over 45. These positions need to be filled from our current residents or by people from away. The alternative is to lose those jobs to more populated and better educated regions of commerce.
Learning shouldn't stop when we retire. No better prescription can be offered for maintaining health and well-being than continuing education through such programs as the Osher Lifelong Learning Institute. Founded at USM, the institute now is offering courses throughout the nation to those over the age of 50. In New Hampshire, programs are available at Dartmouth and Granite State. With these courses and student dialog, socialization and mental acuity are enhanced and our quality of life is improved.
Higher education is part of a risk management strategy whether for your business or society as a whole. For business owners, the prospect of perpetuating businesses with well-educated, younger, willing and capable buyers is very much in their self-interest. In addition, an educated workforce can be more productive and innovative.
Whether for yourself, your employees or family members, making continuing education an imperative will improve our economy, boost employment and enrich our health and well-being. If you can help make higher education an expectation in your place of business, family and community, we can look forward to raising all ships on the tide of knowledge.
Public higher education is a critical part of meeting that objective.
Last Updated on Tuesday, 22 April 2014 23:27
Written by Staff Report
City, state and federal officials on Friday joined representatives from the Thompson's Point Development Company, Inc. to break ground on the $3.8 million off-site public infrastructure improvements for the Thompson's Point project.
The beginning of this work paves the way for the $110 million development project to proceed, a city press release reported. The improvements include the widening of the Thompson's Point Connector Road to three lanes, Fore River Parkway multi-use trail improvements, I-295 Exit 5A ramp improvements, new Sewall Street sidewalk and street lighting, and Congress Street traffic calming, ADA improvements and re-striping. In addition to the $3.8 million improvements, the project includes up to $1 million for rail crossing improvements.
"It's great to be here today for this significant milestone," City Manager Mark Rees said, according to the city press release. "We are standing on the site of a major gateway to our city, one that is quite visible from every mode of transportation, and one that has been blighted for too long. But I'm excited to say that because of our public-private partnership, that will soon change, and we will welcome a thriving transit-oriented development."
Funding for the off-site public infrastructure improvements represents a city, state, federal and private partnership between the City of Portland, the Maine Department of Transportation, the U.S. Department of Commerce's Economic Development Administration, and the Thompson Point development team. The total funding break down includes $1.5 million in EDA funds, $525,000 in State DOT funds, $90,000 in federal transportation funds, and $1.68 million in private developer matching funds provided to the state and city.
"Collaboration is key to getting things done in the city," Mayor Michael Brennan said. "In order for us to fulfill our vision for increased economic growth, we must all work together. And I'm proud to say that's exactly what happened here. Portland continues to attract national attention and private investment like this because of our unique quality of life."
The mixed-use project recently received its master plan approval from the city. The plan calls for redeveloping roughly 30 acres of former industrial land off Congress Street near I-295 into a thriving transit-oriented commercial and residential complex. Specifically, the project is expected to bring a new outdoor event venue, sports and event center, hotel, restaurants, office building, circus conservatory, an art and cultural center, up to 300 residential condominiums, and walking trails and water access. The project will be built in phases over several years.
With the start of the off-site public infrastructure improvements, the development team is also beginning work on the conversion of an existing brick building into office, café and retail space, followed by the creation of a multipurpose outdoor live event space within the existing 14,000-square-foot structure at the end of the point. This space will host the Beer Camp Across America Festival on Aug. 1 as well as other events to be announced.
Officials on hand for the ceremony Friday included Portland City Manager Rees; Mayor Brennan; Portland City Councilors; Maine DOT Commissioner David Bernhardt; Maine DEP Commissioner Patricia Aho; U.S. Department of Commerce, EDA Rep. Alan Brigham; and Chris Thompson from Thompson's Point Development Company, Inc.
Last Updated on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 00:06