THOMASTON (AP) – Dragon Products Co. has completed a $50 million modernization it says will make its cement plant more environmentally sound and energy efficient.

Dragon President Joseph Koch said the changes will also enable the company to maintain or increase employment levels for the next 20 to 30 years. The company has more than 225 full-time employees statewide.

Dragon, which is headquartered in Portland, said it’s the first major expansion of New England’s only cement plant since 1971.

The overhaul, which began in the spring of 2003, includes a $10 million upgrade of Dragon’s distribution system, the acquisition of new railcars and construction of new storage capacity.

It also changes cement-making there from a wet, slurry-type process to a dry, state-of-the-art process.

The company’s modernization “is a boost to the midcoast region as well as a significant investment in Maine,” said Dana Connors, president of the Maine State Chamber of Commerce.

Celebrated falcon ends island stay

EDGARTOWN, Mass. (AP) – The rare red-footed falcon that set birders’ hearts aflutter with its western hemisphere debut has apparently flown the coop.

The celebrated raptor, which drew flocks of birders to Martha’s Vineyard, has not been seen since Tuesday afternoon, said Gus Ben David, director of the Massachusetts Audubon Society’s Felix Neck Wildlife Sanctuary.

“Where he is now, we don’t know,” Ben David said.

Simon Perkins, field ornithologist with the Massachusetts Audubon Society, said that the chances of this falcon being spotted again are “slim to none.”

“I’d be very surprised if anyone ever saw this one again. It would be a needle in a haystack,” Perkins told The Cape Cod Times.

Local birdwatcher Vernon Laux spotted the year-old male raptor on Aug. 8 flying near the Katama Airfield in Edgartown. It was the first documented sighting of a red-footed falcon in the western hemisphere, generating excitement throughout the birding world.

For more than two weeks, bird-watchers brought binoculars, cameras and tripods to the island for a glimpse of the falcon, coming from as far as Alaska, California, and Canada.

“It was an avian phenomenon I haven’t seen the likes of in a long time,” Ben David said.

The phone at the Martha’s Vineyard Chamber of Commerce rang off the hook with callers asking about the falcon, and how best to get to the island, said chamber spokeswoman Carol Ward.

“We got tons of calls about the bird. It was incredible the amount of excitement it generated,” Ward said.

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