PORTLAND, Maine – A record of over 750 of Maine’s real estate professionals gathered recently to hear experts give statewide economic projections for 2015 at the Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA)’s annual Forecast Conference, sponsored by TD Bank, in Portland. Industry leaders revealed high hopes for the state’s economy in 2015.
The daylong event featured a welcome address by Governor Paul LePage, stating that in 2015 “the most important thing [for the state’s economy] is to get job creators to invest in Maine”, as well as eight market forecast presentations. These initial projections cite 2015 as ushering in a “new normal” of consistent growth.
Michael Dolega, Senior Economist at TD Economics, a highly experienced US economic researcher and forecaster, provided his insight on the future of Maine’s economy predicting 2015 as the year of strongest economic growth for Maine in at least the last decade.
Southern Maine’s industrial, residential, office and retail forecasts all showed a promising industry outlook for 2015. Justin Lamontagne of NAI The Dunham Group cited low vacancy rates in the industrial sector, while Brit Vitalius of Vitalius Real Estate Group noted due to lack of inventory, the multi-family Portland housing market may expand to new areas of growth, such as Westbrook. According to Angelia Levesque of Better Homes and Gardens, The Masiello Group, while student loan debt and misconceptions prohibit millennials from taking the next step, 73% of Gen Y believes that home ownership is an excellent investment.
The Southern Maine office market is also looking bright, as Portland saw the first significant rise in rents since 2009, according to presenter Nate Stevens of CBRE | The Boulos Company. The retail sector is also on the upswing. Mark Malone of Malone Commercial Brokers stated a 3.6% vacancy rate, compared with a national rate of 9.7%.
In Bangor, a thriving entertainment environment is supported by what Bev Uhlenhake of Epstein Commercial Real Estate calls “Bangor mojo”. As we head into 2015, the challenge for the Bangor-area will be in balancing this prosperity with the loss of regional mill jobs.
In Lewiston/Auburn, Kevin Fletcher of Malone Commercial Brokers noted the riverfront as a hot spot for commercial development in 2015 to tap into the over 500,000 Mainers within a 30 mile radius. Fletcher also cited renovation of old mills as strong economic drivers for the area.
For Maine’s Vacation and Hospitality forecast, Darren Hebold of the LUX Realty Group offered 2015 predictions that occupancy will remain flat while the consolidation trend of individual ownership to multi-property operators will continue.
The organization also unveiled its 2014 Fall MEREDA Index, which measures the pulse of Maine’s real estate industry. The Index has risen by 6.6% over the past year, from third quarter 2013. It has recovered 16% since the recession low in the third quarter of 2010 – but still remains 20% below pre-recession levels of early 2006. A copy of the Index can be found at mereda.org/about.php. This standing room only event also featured the annual Member Showcase with over 60 participating exhibitors and the 2015 Awards Ceremony.
The Maine Development & Real Estate Association (MEREDA) is a nonprofit whose members banded together in 1985 to present the views of the state’s real estate industry to lawmakers in Augusta. Today, MEREDA’s more than 290 member firms are primarily from the commercial real estate industry and employ thousands of Maine citizens and drive a huge percentage of Maine’s economic activity. The organization aims to promote fair and responsible development and ownership of real estate throughout Maine. For more information, please visit mereda.org.