REAL ESTATE & CONSTRUCTION

Historic racetrack and complex for sale in Scarborough

Scarborough Downs and its 483 acres stretching from Route 1 to Payne Road are for sale. Fresh off a failed land deal that aimed to preserve the long-struggling racetrack, the owners have set their sights on unloading the swath of prime real estate for $7.5 million with little or no interest in keeping the harness racing enterprise alive. They say the Downs is being snuffed out by dwindling profits and attendance, increasing competition from casinos and online gambling, crumbling facilities that have drawn recent scrutiny from government officials, and continuing controversy with horse owners and trainers. Town officials and others see an opportunity to turn Scarborough Downs Road into Main Street – complete with shops, offices, restaurants, apartments and townhouses. The Town Council approved special zoning regulations with that potential in mind three years ago, when preserving the half-mile track and maybe adding a casino were still top priorities, so they were written into the permitted uses. Andrew Ingalls, the listing broker, helped to draft the Crossroads Planned Development standards for the Downs property. Read the story.

Brewery gets OK to expand

Maine Beer Co. is set to start construction on an expansion that will more than triple the size of its Freeport brewery and tasting room. Freeport’s Project Review Board voted Wednesday to approve a 20,330-square-foot addition to the brewery on Route 1. The expansion will include areas for brewing, bottling and storage and staff offices, employee lounge, lockers and bathrooms. The company’s tasting room and retail store will be widened into the existing 6,000-square-foot brewery and an expanded outdoor seating area with room for food truck parking will be added. It will expand the number of parking spaces from 30 to 125. Read the story.

LABOR

Groups consider revisions to newly passed minimum wage law

Opponents of a new minimum wage law approved Tuesday by Maine voters said they plan to ask the Legislature to repeal or modify some aspects of the measure to protect restaurants and other small businesses from its “seismic” impact. However, the lead organizer of the wage increase campaign said it would be unwise for state lawmakers to water down the voter-approved initiative. The measure raises Maine’s hourly minimum wage from $7.50 to $12 by 2020 for non-tipped workers, and by 2024 for workers who rely on tips. Representatives of Maine’s restaurant and retail industries said they are not seeking to roll back the $12 minimum wage, but would like to restore the “tip credit” for businesses with employees who receive a substantial portion of their income from tips changed, and change a provision that ties future minimum wage increases to inflation. A lobbyist for the state Chamber of Commerce said some state lawmakers already had agreed to consider taking up the minimum wage issue during the next session if the measure passed. Read the story.

GENERAL BUSINESS

Backlog at ImmuCell translates to lower sales in Q3

Sales were down 20 percent in the third quarter for Portland-based animal health products maker ImmuCell Corp., the company reported Thursday. ImmuCell, which makes bovine health products for the dairy and beef industries, reported revenue of $2 million for the quarter, down from about $2.5 million in the third quarter of 2015. Net income for the third quarter was $35,000, a decrease of about 90 percent from $351,000 during the same period of 2015. ImmuCell, a publicly held company that trades on the Nasdaq exchange under the symbol ICCC, said the decrease in sales of its flagship product, First Defense, was due in part to a prolonged period in which the company could not keep up with customer demand, creating a backlog of orders and causing some customers to switch to a competitor. The company has since increased its production capacity and the backlog has been eliminated, it said. Read the story.

Chamber head offers resignation in wake of rifle raffle

Matt Leonard, president and CEO of the Lewiston-Auburn Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, offered his resignation Wednesday amid the fallout from a now-canceled raffle of an assault rifle that was advertised to members on Election Day without prior approval from the chamber’s board of directors. Leonard, a 21-year Navy veteran, said Wednesday in a news release that the board had chastised him for his decision to advertise the raffle of a semi-automatic AR-15 rifle on Tuesday without its consent. Leonard said the timing of the raffle advertisement and the item being auctioned were not intended to be taken as related to Tuesday’s divisive presidential election between former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and real estate mogul Donald Trump, who is now president-elect. Still, he called his decision to disseminate the raffle notice Tuesday “inexcusable.” The chamber board will take up the matter next week. Read the story.

TRADE

Businesses see new markets for Maine wood chips in EU

Maine is poised to finally begin shipping wood chips to Europe for power generation next year if plans underway at Eastport and Searsport stay on schedule. After years of false starts, these developments would be especially welcome now, as the ongoing decline of the paper and in-state biomass power industries has hit hundreds of loggers and truckers who used to harvest and move fiber to Maine mills and generators. The value of U.S.-based wood fuel sent to the European Union in 2015 exceeded $684 million, according to export research firm WISERtrade, but none of it came from Maine. The state’s first opportunity could come next year in Eastport. A company it has partnered with is building special equipment that processes the chips to standards required in Europe. Chris Gardner, the authority’s director, said that while the equipment may be ready by year’s end, he thinks it’s more realistic to begin exporting wood chips in 2017. Meanwhile, Maine Woods Biomass Exports LLC, has begun making railroad ties and other wood products in Millinocket along a rail line that connects the North Woods with Searsport. The ties are being sent by rail to Quebec, but the work is a prelude to shipping logs through Searsport to India in January, and wood chips to Europe in early 2018. Read the story.

COMMERCIAL FISHERIES

Shrimp season to remain closed for third year

The Maine shrimp fishery will remain closed in 2017, but the amount that shrimpers can take during scientific surveys and then sell has more than doubled. Interstate fishery managers at the Atlantic States Marine Fisheries Commission voted Thursday to keep the shrimping moratorium in effect for the 2017 season on the advice of its science advisers. The popular winter seafood had been a favorite throughout New England before the population collapsed in 2013 despite several years of increasingly stringent fishing restrictions, such as trip and trap limits, and smaller landings. The increase in the amount of shrimp that can be hauled for research work will mean this hard-to-get regional delicacy will once again be available over the winter, albeit in very limited batches. Buyers paid a record $4 a pound for Maine shrimp at a research set-aside auction at the Portland Fish Exchange in 2015. Scientists say the status of northern shrimp “continues to be critically poor,” and blame the rising temperatures of the Gulf of Maine for limiting the stock’s recovery. Read the story.