Students invited to submit business ideas for contest

Young entrepreneurs will have a chance this fall to try running a business as part of a new competition.

High school and college students are being asked to submit business plans for the Rising Business Leaders Youth Pop-Up Competition. Four teams will be selected and provided startup funds, a storefront and small business support to open their business on Main Street in Biddeford from Nov. 5 to Dec. 3.

The competition is sponsored by the Orton Family Foundation, with support from local property owners and the downtown revitalization nonprofit Heart of Biddeford.

After the month of operating the business, teams will be judged based on net profit, storefront design, marketing and entrepreneurial spirit. The winning team will keep 50 percent of its profits, and the other teams will keep 25 percent. Remaining profits will be split among sponsoring organizations to help fund next year’s competition.

The deadline to submit proposals is Oct. 3. For more information, visit www.heartofbiddeford.org.

 

Solar executives plan to remain silent at hearing

Two top executives at a bankrupt California solar energy company say they will invoke their Fifth Amendment rights and refuse to answer questions when they appear at a House hearing on Friday.

Solyndra Inc. Chief Executive Officer Brian Harrison and Chief Financial Officer W.G. Stover sent letters to the House Energy and Commerce Committee on Tuesday informing them of their plans to remain silent.

Harrison and Stover said they still plan to appear before the committee, which is investigating a $528 million loan Solyndra received from the Energy Department in 2009.

Solyndra filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection earlier this month and laid off its 1,100 employees. The company was the first renewable-energy company to receive a loan guarantee under a stimulus-law program to encourage green energy and was frequently touted by the Obama administration as a model.

 

Disney bringing world of ‘Avatar’ to its parks

The Walt Disney Co. has struck a deal to bring the fantasy world of “Avatar” to Disney Parks, starting with a multi-attraction themed land at Disney’s Animal Kingdom in Orlando, Fla.

Director James Cameron and his producing partner Jon Landau – the team behind the 2009 cinematic blockbuster “Avatar” – will serve as creative consultants, working with Walt Disney Imagineering to bring the fantasy world of Pandora and the broader “Avatar” universe to Disney’s parks throughout the world.

Ground-breaking at Animal Kingdom is planned for 2013.

 

Justice Dept. to investigate potential conflict at SEC

The inspector general of the Securities and Exchange Commission has asked the Justice Department to investigate whether a former top SEC official who benefited financially from Bernard Madoff’s Ponzi scheme violated conflict-of-interest laws in helping establish SEC policy.

The SEC’s former general counsel, David Becker, played a key role in crafting agency policy on how Madoff’s victims should be compensated – after he inherited a Madoff account from his mother.

SEC Inspector General David Kotz said in a report issued Tuesday that Becker participated “personally and substantially” in issues in which he had a financial interest.

Kotz said he has referred his findings to the Justice Department’s Public Integrity Section for possible criminal prosecution.

 

Housing starts down 5 percent in August

Builders started construction on fewer new homes in August, underscoring how the depressed U.S. real estate market shows little sign of recovering.

Housing starts fell 5 percent to an annual rate of 571,000 last month, the lowest level in three months, according to Commerce Department data. Most of August’s decline took place in the Northeast, where new building tumbled 29.1 percent.

 

ConAgra’s income falls as cost of ingredients rises

ConAgra Foods Inc.’s fiscal first quarter net income fell 42 percent as soaring costs for ingredients cut into its profitability.

The maker of foods such as Slim Jim, Chef Boyardee and Healthy Choice said Tuesday that it is dealing with “severe” cost inflation. The company backed its full-year earnings forecast, but said it expects those costs to grow during the year and it will continue to increase its prices.

It’s tough news for shoppers, whose budgets are already strained, as it appears food makers are likely to continue to raise prices as they have for the past year or more.