ECONOMY

Brexit triggers uncertainty for Maine business owners

Mainers who import goods and services from the United Kingdom and the European Union said that while the immediate impact on their businesses may be positive because of favorable currency exchange rates, they think the long-term effects will be mostly negative. Those that export goods to the U.K. and EU said the Brexit could hurt their operations right away. Tim Regan, a British national who lives in Falmouth and operates a semiconductor business in Portland and the U.K., said he is all for living in interesting times, but that the economic uncertainty caused by the Brexit vote cannot be good for anyone’s business. “I think in the medium and long term, this is very bad news,” Regan said. “Nobody knows where it’s really going to go from here.”

Forecast calls for slow growth in Maine’s 3 metro areas

Maine’s three metro areas are expected to grow slowly this year and next, a forecast prepared for the U.S. Conference of Mayors said. The report, released Thursday, said metropolitan areas contribute the lion’s share of economic growth, jobs and wages in the U.S. That’s true in Maine as well: The report said the Portland-South Portland-Biddeford metro area accounts for 50.5 percent of the statewide economy and Bangor contributes another 10.3 percent, followed by Lewiston-Auburn, with 7.5 percent of the state’s economy. Read the story.

Maine personal incomes jumped by 1.4 percent in first quarter

Mainers’ personal incomes shot up 1.4 percent in the first quarter of 2016, the second-highest growth rate in the country. According to the Bureau of Economic Analysis, Maine’s personal income grew the most among the six New England states, and nationally it ranked only behind Washington state, where personal incomes grew by 1.5 percent in the quarter, compared with the final quarter of 2015. The bureau said personal income in Maine reached an annual rate of $58.1 billion in the first quarter, adjusted to offset seasonal variations. It was $57.3 billion in the previous quarter. Read the story.

MANUFACTURING

Judge confirms Verso’s bankruptcy reorganization plan

A judge has confirmed Verso Corp.’s bankruptcy reorganization plan, clearing the way for the beleaguered papermaker to emerge from bankruptcy. Judge Kevin Gross of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the District of Delaware signed the confirmation order Thursday, less than five months after Verso and its subsidiaries filed for bankruptcy protection in late January under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. If Verso follows the reorganization plan as written, all of its pre-bankruptcy debts will be erased. The plan’s centerpiece is to issue shares of stock to creditors in lieu of cash repayment. New common stock will be issued to creditors that were owed money by Verso and its NewPage subsidiary before the bankruptcy. Verso also must take the necessary steps to have its shares once again listed on the New York Stock Exchange. Verso’s stock was delisted in September because its share price fell below the required $1 minimum. Read the story.

Cascades to close Auburn pulp mill, laying off 45

Cascades Inc. is closing its Auburn mill that produces de-inked pulp from recycled paper, laying off 45 employees, according to a release the company posted on its website Wednesday. The plant will end production July 8 and close its doors on July 15. The rapid erosion of the printing and writing paper market, the overall deterioration of market conditions for de-inked pulp and the low potential for integration with other Cascades activities are all factors that have had significant negative consequences for our Auburn plant, a company executive said. Read the story.

COMMERCIAL FISHERIES

EU asks Sweden to justify claim that North American lobster is invasive

European Union scientists have given Sweden until July 31 to address U.S. and Canadian objections to Sweden’s claims that North American lobster is an invasive species that should be subject to an import ban. The scientific forum on invasive species met Wednesday to discuss Sweden’s claim that North American lobsters, which have been found in small numbers off the coasts of Sweden, Norway and Great Britain, pose a threat to the smaller European lobster. The forum asked Sweden to update its scientific justification for labeling the North American lobster as an invader to address objections raised by U.S. and Canadian scientists this month, including the argument that Sweden can’t show proof of an invasion despite decades of imports, or that offspring of the two species can spawn a second-generation hybrid. Read the story.

Mercury findings prompt state to widen lobster fishing ban in Penobscot River estuary

Maine has expanded its ban on lobstering and crabbing in a small section of Penobscot Bay after finding elevated mercury levels in lobsters tested south of the existing no-fishing zone. The Maine Department of Marine Resources had declared seven square miles of the Penobscot River estuary off limits to lobstermen and crabbers in 2014 after a federal court-ordered study detected elevated mercury levels in lobsters found as far south as Fort Point on the west bank and Wilson Point on the east bank. On Tuesday, based on the results of state-funded tests done after the initial closure, the department announced it would add 5.5 square miles to the no-fishing zone, extending it south to Squaw Point on Cape Jellison and Perkins Point in Castine. Read the story.

REAL ESTATE

Maine existing-home sales jump 25 percent from a year ago

Sales of existing single-family homes in Maine increased by 25.2 percent in May compared with a year earlier, and the median sale price rose by 2.8 percent, according to the Maine Association of Realtors. In May, 1,672 existing homes were sold in Maine, compared with 1,335 sales in May 2015. The median sale price was $190,250, up from $185,000 a year earlier. The median price indicates that half of the homes were sold for more and half sold for less. Among Maine’s 16 counties, the biggest year-over-year increase in sales during the three-month period was 43.5 percent in Washington County. Every county experienced a double-digit sales increase except Waldo County, where sales for the three-month period were up 5.6 percent from a year earlier. Read the story.

TECHNOLOGY

Islesboro voters OK move toward becoming Maine’s first ‘gigabit island’

Residents of Islesboro, east of Northport and Lincolnville in Penobscot Bay, voted June 18 at their annual town meeting to construct and operate a municipally owned fiber-optic “gigabit” internet service that will connect homes and businesses for an estimated annual fee of $360 per user.

Islesboro Town Manager Janet Anderson said the $360 annual fee, which works out to $30 a month, is based on a subscriber base of at least 500 homes and businesses. If fewer residents subscribe, the price could be higher. Still, Anderson noted, many residents are paying more than $30 for phone and DSL internet service that tops out at 30 megabits per second. The municipal internet service will be 1 gigabit per second, equivalent to 1,000 megabits per second. That’s fast enough to download a 1 gigabyte video file in eight seconds. Read the story.

 ENERGY

SunEdison sale of Aroostook wind farm raises concerns in Somerset County

The recent sale of a wind power development site in Aroostook County to out-of-state investors has an anti-wind development group in Somerset County concerned that a similar scenario could unfold for a planned project in the Moosehead Lake area. A federal judge last week approved the sale of SunEdison’s King Pine project, a planned 600-megawatt wind farm in southern Aroostook County, to San Francisco-based Pattern Energy for $26.5 million, according to federal court filings. The sale is the latest move by SunEdison, which declared bankruptcy in April, to rid itself of its Maine assets. In 2015, the company also sold its Bingham and Oakfield wind projects to a division of J.P. Morgan and withdrew a Department of Environmental Protection application for a project in Hancock County. Read the story.

NGL looks for new propane depot site in southern Maine

NGL Energy Partners is still seeking a new site for a liquefied petroleum gas depot in southern Maine after the state acquired the company’s leased distribution site in Portland and the city of South Portland rejected the company’s plans to build a new facility at Rigby Yard. The Maine Department of Transportation acquired NGL’s depot site on Commercial Street in Portland to make way for the ongoing expansion of the International Marine Terminal near the Casco Bay Bridge. NGL, a Tulsa, Oklahoma, company that includes Brunswick-based Downeast Energy, has vacated its rail-side depot on Commercial Street and started decommissioning the site, said Kevin Fitzgerald, NGL’s regional operations manager. Read the story.

ENTREPRENEURSHIP

Maine Startup and Create Week brings entrepreneurs to Portland

Maine Startup and Create Week 2016 kicked off Monday with hundreds of entrepreneurs converging on Portland to network and learn new skills. The weeklong event, now in its third year, attracted about 4,000 attendees in 2015, founder Jess Knox said. Each day was broken up into a series of lectures, demonstrations and workshops designed to help entrepreneurs and small businesses. This year, scores of speakers and panelists were scheduled to appear throughout the week, including representatives of large and small companies and institutions in Maine and across the U.S. Unum, Tom’s of Maine, CashStar, L.L. Bean, Disney, Google, Amazon and Allagash Brewing Co. are just a few of the many organizations that will be represented. Read the story.