Lose a few, win a few?

It’s been a long few weeks at the Bangor Daily News’ Portland Bureau, a.k.a., my ‘digital language lab’ a.k.a., my den (or, if you’re my boys, ‘the toy room that dad keeps kicking us out of.’)

We’ve had multiple reports of layoffs across the state, and it’s easy to just see that negative news – heck, in this economy, it’s almost impossible to do otherwise.

– Global Contact Services in Pittsfield lost a major contract and shut down, with 65 out of jobs.

– Verso Paper decided to remove capacity from the market and shut down some machines, including one in Bucksport. The Number 2 machine will go down, and take 125 jobs with it. (I particularly hate paper mill closures – I grew up in a paper mill town, worked as a summer spare, and my dad still works there, as do a lot of my old friends in town.)

– Barber Foods in Portland, under new ownership, is letting go of 71 as their processing becomes more efficient.

– The Press Herald/Maine Sunday Telegram, my old paper, is cutting 61 from its work force.

– And today, Lowes said it was closing “under-performing” stores, including the ones in Biddeford and Ellsworth – another 185 jobs.

Geez – that’s over 500 jobs gone.

I’ve been back in Maine since 2002, and I’ve written about way too many layoffs – from Great Northern to Westpoint. The news makes for miserable headlines.

But I’ve long held – and long heard, from employers – that while we report on layoffs, we don’t report so well on the hires. It’s the nature of the news beast – a company shuts, there’s an immediate and large impact – 100 jobs, 200 jobs, etc.

But when a machine shop in Windham expands and hires another worker, we don’t write about that. And that sort of thing happens all the time. It’s hard to capture those ones and twos, threes and fours, however.

There was a bit of balance in recent weeks, however.  My colleague, Nick McCrea, reported recently that NexxLinx, the Atlanta-based company that acquired Microdyne Outsourcing in February,  is creating 200 new jobs in Orono. Microdyne employed about 275 people, and NexxLinx already has added 150 employees since taking over the facility. With 200 more jobs coming, the company will have doubled its size in less than a year.

Today, I interviewed a spokesman for Books-A-Million, the company that had taken over the Borders stores in South Portland and Bangor, and the Waldenbooks in Auburn. They plan on hiring what would more or less amount to replacement staffs for those three stores. When Borders closed those stores, and the Brunswick store, the state estimated job losses of about 137. The Brunswick store isn’t part of the Books-A-Million deal – so let’s figure they’re bringing on, what, 90 jobs? Maybe 100?

And the week before last, we wrote about how the Blackstone Charitable Foundation was investing $3 million in Maine to strengthen and expand programs that help entrepreneurs.

So if NexxLinx has added 150, with another 200 for a total of 350, and Books-A-Million’s adding, let’s say 100, to make it even – that’s about 450 jobs. Hopefully what Blackstone’s doing will help a few people chase their dreams and make their own jobs, too.

On top of that, Nick Sambides up in the Katahdin region writes today that “with 215 papermakers on its payroll, the new Great Northern Paper began producing virgin newsprint to fill its first order at 6 a.m. Monday.” Papermakers who were out of work are drawing a check again, punching the clock and running the machines.

So as a state, we’ve lost some – but we’ve won a few, too.