REAL ESTATE AND CONSTRUCTION

Home sales spike in June

Sales of existing single-family homes statewide increased 18.2 percent in June, according to a release from Maine Listings, an affiliate of the Maine Association of Realtors. The Maine Listings report mirrors a report released Tuesday by RE/MAX Integra New England, which reflected similar trends in volume of sales and pricing. According to the Maine Listings report, 1,788 existing homes were sold statewide in June, compared with 1,513 homes a year earlier. The statewide median sale price for homes sold in June increased by about 1.5 percent to $187,700. The median indicates that half of the homes were sold for more and half sold for less. Waldo County experienced the biggest jump in median price during the three-month period, up 17.2 percent to $150,000. Lincoln County had the biggest median price decline, down 16.5 percent to $167,000. Read the story.

Colby College buys downtown buildings

Colby College has bought two vacant downtown buildings – the former Levine’s clothing store and the Hains Building – in an effort to help revitalize the city’s historic center, build on arts and cultural assets and spur economic development. City and development officials said Wednesday they are thrilled with the purchase and plans to renovate, many using the word “exciting.” The move is part of an effort spearheaded by college President David A. Greene, who has been meeting with city officials, business leaders, downtown organizations and community advocates to help identify the city’s needs. Officials for several years have said the two buildings several blocks apart on Main Street should be renovated for reuse. Read the story.

Bike shop owner purchases Portland building

The owner of Gorham Bike & Ski has purchased the building where his Portland store is located. Jamie Wright said he completed the purchase of 691-693 Congress St. in late May. The price was $467,317, Wright said, but that reflected several years of lease payments that were applied toward the purchase. The store has operated in that location since 2008. Wright said the purchase represents financial stability and a chance to build some property equity for his company. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Ski resort’s season imperiled by aging chairlift

Saddleback Maine, one of the state’s most popular ski resorts, announced Monday that it will not open for the 2015-16 winter season unless it comes up with funding to replace an aging chairlift. In both a Facebook post and a press release, the ski resort said it needs to raise $3 million in the next two weeks to replace its Rangeley Double Chair – a 51-year-old lift that brings skiers from the base lodge up the mountain – with a four-person chairlift. That would enable the resort to double the number of skiers per hour who can be transported up the mountain, according to the Facebook post. A new chairlift would also provide long-term economic stability for the resort, the third-largest in the state behind Sugarloaf and Sunday River. Mark Berry, one of the Berry family members who own Saddleback, said the family has been looking to replace the Rangeley Double Chair for several years and has applications out to multiple financial institutions. But he said work on a new lift would have to begin by early August for it to be ready in time for the upcoming winter. Read the story.

Stonewall CEO sees new markets for specialty food producer

Stonewall Kitchens, a York-based specialty food company, says it will focus on growing its wholesale business and sending signature products to more markets across the nation, a direction of its new CEO who took the reins eight months ago. CEO John Stiker told Mainebiz he wants to bring the New England experience to more people. As one of York County’s major employers the company’s core operations will remain intact. The company, founded on 1991 by Jonathan King and James Stott, is best known for its jams and jellies. It has products in 6,000 stores in 41 countries. Read the story.

Maine’s jobless rate steady at 4.7 percent

Maine’s preliminary, seasonally adjusted unemployment rate of 4.7 percent for June was unchanged from May and April, and down from 5.7 percent a year earlier, the state Department of Labor reported Tuesday. The number of active job-seekers in Maine declined by 6,900 over the 12-month period to 32,800, it said. The U.S. preliminary unemployment rate of 5.3 percent was down slightly from 5.5 percent in May and 6.1 percent a year earlier, the department said. The New England unemployment rate averaged 4.8 percent. Rates for other states were 3.8 percent in New Hampshire, 3.6 percent in Vermont, 4.6 percent in Massachusetts, 5.9 percent in Rhode Island and 5.7 percent in Connecticut. Read the story.

TRADE

Trade officials talk of strengthening ties with Canada

Maine companies doing business with Canada have two new people to reach out to on trade issues: David Alward, Canada’s consul general in Boston, and Brenda Garrand, recently appointed as Maine’s honorary consul of Canada. The pair on Tuesday met with Gov. Paul LePage, trade officials and several Portland-area companies to discuss ways to build on Canada’s strong business ties in Maine. Canada is Maine’s largest trading partner; in 2013, $1.3 billion in goods and commodities were exported to Canada from Maine. Some 38,500 jobs in Maine depend on trade and investment with Canada, Alward said. He said he wants to reduce the regulatory burden for New England companies trading with Canada. He noted that Canada and the U.S. have the world’s largest trading partnership, worth $759 billion annually in goods and services. Read the story.

ENERGY

Winslow seeks OK for massive solar farm

Winslow is set to begin drafting regulations that could pave the way for a solar farm potentially 20 times bigger than the largest one in the state. Ranger Solar, a private Yarmouth-based energy firm, is contemplating siting a 10- to 20-megawatt solar station somewhere on Heywood Road. The project is estimated to cost as much as $25 million and take up as much as 100 acres. Winslow would be the first municipality in the state to create a utility-scale solar ordinance that would create standards for such projects, according to town officials. And the ordinance has to be in place by mid-October so Ranger can take advantage of federal solar-investment tax credits. Aaron Svedlow, Ranger’s director of environmental planning, said that the project is still in the early stages. Read the story.