CEI Teams up with Local Organizations Helping Veterans Access VA Loans

January 19, 2017 — The Veterans Home Buying Collaboration is hosting a free seminar on February 11, 2017 to help veterans understand VA Loans. The event will be held from 10:00 am to 12:00 pm in Room 133 of USM’s Wishcamper Center at 34 Bedford Street, Portland, ME 04101. Online registration is available at

Lenders across the county are able to provide service members, veterans, and eligible surviving spouses with loans guaranteed by the US Department of Veterans Affairs. VA loans have the reputation of being difficult to qualify for and understand. According a Veterans United study, only 13% of the country’s 25 million veterans have used their VA loan benefit, and 33% are not even aware that the benefit exists. In reality, VA loans are not more complicated than regular mortgages.

Chris Kotch, outreach specialist at the Portland Vet Center, says, “The VA home loan guaranty is one of the underutilized benefits our veterans have…if they go in well informed with the most current information, they’ll find it is a lot easier than they think and will save thousands compared to traditional mortgages.” In many cases, they are the best mortgage product for veterans who want to buy a home because they have no down payment requirement, no annual mortgage insurance fee, and lower interest rates than many mainstream mortgages.

About the Veterans Home Buyer Collaborative

The Veterans Home Buying Collaborative is a group of local non-profit, lending, and realty organizations including Avesta, CEI, and Pine Tree Legal, dedicated to explaining the loan process so that veterans feel empowered to make the home buying choice that is best for them. Its goal is to educate veterans about VA guaranteed loans and the process of obtaining one, without pressuring them to buy.

CEI Ventures Closes Fourth Fund with $20 Million Under Management

January 17, 2017 (Brunswick, Maine) – CEI Ventures today announced the final closing on its fourth Venture Capital fund, Coastal Ventures IV, LP, at just under $10 million. This new fund will provide much needed growth equity capital to small businesses in Maine and the Northeast.

Currently, CEI Ventures is actively investing from two funds with $20 million under management. Coastal Ventures IV, like prior funds, seeks to create quality jobs and promote socially responsible products and services, particularly those improving the environment.

Coastal Ventures IV was capitalized by 17 local and regional banks as well as eight individual investors.  Parent company, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), provided an anchor investment of $1.5 million in the new fund.

“We want to thank our returning and new investors for their help in carrying out the important work of community and environmental impact investing.”

-Nathaniel Henshaw, President of CEI Ventures, Inc.

Founded in 1996, CEI Ventures was has raised over $45 million and invested in over 50 companies.  In turn, these companies have helped create over 2,000 net new jobs, the majority of which have benefited people with low to moderate incomes. Notable prior successful investments include Coast of Maine Organic Products, Innov-X-Systems, Cuddledown, Bar Harbor Foods, SmartPak Equine, RecruiterNet, eCopy, Beacon Analytical Systems, Soleras, Ltd, World Harbors Foods, Ektron Inc., and Avia Biosystems.

Current active portfolio investments demonstrating strong growth, employment, and environmental benefit include Pika Energy, Certify, Tilson Technology Management, BlueTarp Financial, Native Energy, Rustic Crust, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, Mingle Analytics, Maine Craft Distilling, and Gelato Fiasco.

CEI Ventures provides growth capital growing companies with innovative technologies or products and strong management. Initial investments are typically range from $250,000 to $750,000. Nat Henshaw and Chandler Jones serve as primary investment managers and Thao Duong is the Fund Administrator.  CEI Ventures is a wholly owned subsidiary of Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), a 501c(3) Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI), located in Brunswick, Maine.

Goranson Farm: Tapping Renewable Energy to Boost Maple Syrup Production

Goranson Farm has just made a big commitment towards their sustainable energy needs by tapping the power of the sun for gains in maple syrup production.

The third generation organic farm located in Dresden, Maine, is owned and operated by Jan and Rob Johanson, and their two sons Carl and Goran. The farm sells its vegetables, meats, poultry and maple syrup through local stores, farmers markets and its own Community supported agriculture (CSA) program.

The farm produces about 400 gallons of maple syrup a year. The sap is currently heated and boiled down by means of simple evaporation using firewood. “It takes 40 gallons of sap to make one gallon of syrup and that’s a lot of boiling,” says Rob Johanson. In addition to installing a photovoltaic solar array, the farm is purchasing a reverse osmosis (RO) machine, which should reduce the farm’s current fire wood usage of 16 cords to about 6. “This machine will save us a lot of time, as well as money and energy.”

The solar array consists of four dual axis solar trackers. Each tracker is rigged with 24 solar panels and one DC to AC inverter. The American-made AllEarth Trackers track the sun throughout the day to maximize energy production. The trackers, manufactured in Williston,Vt. by AllEarth Renewables, are designed for residential and commercial-scale installations and can produce up to 45% more energy than a conventional solar installation.

The new solar array is anticipated to produce 47,000 Kwh’s a year off -setting the two utility meters at the farm almost 100%.

“We love working with farmers because we share a mutual and reliable partner,” says Kim Bleakly of All Earth Renewables. “They use the sun to grow their crops and we produce a product that makes electricity from the sun. As far as I’m concerned, that’s a match made in heaven.”

The solar project was designed and installed by Maine Energy Performance Solution (MEPS) of Washington Maine. Funding for the approximately $150,000 project, was helped with two grants from USDA and financing through Coastal Enterprise Inc. (CEI).

“We have been wanting to do this project for a number of years and Rich and his team at MEPS were really able to pull the pieces together to make it happen,” says Rob Johanson. “A lot of people buy organically grown foods because they like the idea of food being raised without the use of chemicals. For us, organic is a lot more than that. It’s really a way of life and honoring the trust our customers place in us. To be an organic farmer means to grow foods working with the land and the environment in a sustainable way for future generations and this project is an extension of that.”

Register Today! CEI’s 39th Annual Meeting

CEI’s 39th Annual Breakfast Meeting will take place on March 14 at Bowdoin College’s Thorne Dining Hall in Brunswick, Maine. With new leaders, CEO Betsy Biemann and President Keith Bisson, CEI is in the midst of developing a forward-looking strategic plan that aims to increase the impact of our work in the creation of good jobs, environmental sustainability and shared prosperity.

On March 14, we’ll present the outline of our new strategic plan, and welcome inspiring speakers including Angela Glover Blackwell, the founder and CEO of Policylink, a leading voice in the movement to use public policy to improve access and opportunity for all low-income people and communities of color. Additional speakers to be announced soon!


7:30 – 8:30        Event Registration, Buffet Breakfast & Networking
8:30 – 10:35      Meeting
10:35 – 11:00    Networking

To register, visit our eventbrite page.

Happy Holidays from CEI

As we look back at the economic, political, and environmental events that defined 2016, we believe that CEI’s challenge is not to reinvent but to sharpen our focus in financing companies that provide quality jobs, operate sustainably (environmentally as well as financially), and work to expand economic opportunity, particularly for low-income people and communities in Maine and elsewhere in rural America.

This holiday season, we find comfort in connecting with friends, colleagues, partners, investors, clients and funders, and discovering and recommitting to commonalities: concern for the future and in the importance of opportunity for all people, the dignity of work, and the fact that we need each other in order to succeed. We are excited by inspiring news from our clients, such as recent expansions for textile manufacturer American Roots and music therapist pioneers Maine Music & Health LLC; new technology breakthroughs for Ocean Renewable Power Company, and the success of community gathering places Owl & Elm Pub and Fork Food Lab.

In the new year, we will be looking to you for help—and offering our help as well, in tackling the problems of poverty, racism, inequality and environmental degradation, and investing in solutions like local manufacturing, workforce training programs, women-owned businesses, and renewable energy.

Please stay in touch with us this winter as we complete a new five-year strategic plan. Effective partnerships are key to our strategies moving forward, and we commit to finding new ways to work together to reach common goals.

All of us at CEI wish you peace, love, and joy this holiday season. 

Your tax-deductible gift to CEI helps dreams come to life as small businesses, quality jobs, affordable housing, and sustainable rural economies that work for everyone, especially those with low incomes. Please donate today!

Looking for something special? Our clients have you covered for the holidays!

This season, whether you’re looking for something small or large, CEI has you covered. From candy bars and maple syrup, to solar panels and private fitness training, check out our list of amazing clients and the products they are bringing to markets in Maine and even around the world!

Note: CEI is proud to advise and provide financing and business support to thousands of businesses each year. The businesses listed below are those who have given us permission to share their name.

Company Product(s) For Sale
A&K Fine K-9 Pet Grooming Pet Grooming
Abram & Isaac Handmade Children’s Clothing
AJ’s Market, LLC Market/ Deli
Allen’s Seafood Market/ Butcher Shop
American Roots Clothing
A-Pro Sporting Goods Hunting/Fishing goods
Arly Scully Massage Massage Treatments
Asmara Restaurant Restaurant
Backcountry Expeditions ATV/UTV/Jet ski rentals
Bakaaraha Halal Market Market
Bixby Bars Craft Candy Bars
Black Dinah Chocolatiers Gourmet Chocolates
Blue Ox Malthouse Malt Products
Bouchard Family Farms Ployes Pancakes
By Golden Star Custom hand-crafted children’s gowns & accessories
Central Maine Meats Market/ Butcher Shop
Central Street Farmhouse Market
Clover Leaf Farm Horse Boarding and Lessons
Dove Tail Bats Custom Baseball Bats
Durafresh Sustainable Wash Cloths
Earth Angels Arts Creative artwork and classes
East Coast Woodworking Custom Woodworking
Farnsworth Art Museum Museum
Flagship Inn & Suites Lodging
Fork Food Lab Tasting Room & Shared Kitchen
Frontier Maple Sugarworks Maple Syrup
GoBabe Children’s Apparel, Bedding & Accessories
Goranson Farm Organic CSA
Grime Studio Artist & Music Rehearsal Space
Harvest Tide Organics Organic CSA
Heartfelt Cookies Gourmet Cookies
Heather Perry Jewelry Jewelry
Hemphill’s Horses, Feed, & Saddlery Horses, Feed & Saddlery
Hyperlite Mountain Gear Outdoor Packs & Shelters
Illuminated ME Jewelry Handcrafted Beaded Jewelry
Indian Meadow Herbals Organic Skin Care
Joy to the Wind Gallery Art Gallery
Kidz Clothesline Clothing/ Toys
Knowlton Corner Farm Farm and Bakery
Khiev’s Oriental Market Market
Little Bucket Firestarters Firestarters
Little Village Bistro Restaurant
Mack’s Place Restaurant
Maine Beer Company Brewery
Maine Craft Distilling Craft Distilling
Mainely Pinatas Specialty Pinatas
Meg K Walsh Handcrafted Ceramics
Mel’s Place Restaurant
Mom’s Organic Munchies Homemade snacks
Morgan Mitchell Designs A Design House- Handpainted & Photographic Tee’s & Clothing
Natural Fitness Customized Fitness/Wellness Provider
New Beat Farm Organic CSA
Night Moves Bread + Pie Locally Sourced Bread and Pies
Night Moves Bread + Pie Locally Sourced Bread and Pies
Old Port Wool & Textile Company Clothing/ Textile
Press Hotel Boutique Hotel
R.e.d.d. Superfood Energy Bars
Rambler’s Way Clothing
Realistic Fitness Club Fitness Club
ReVision Energy Solar Installations
Sailboat Interiors Sailboat Bedding
Sea Bags Bags and Accessories
Sur Lie Tapas Restaurant
The Gelato Fiasco Gelato
The Milkhouse Dairy Products
Tiller & Rye Market
Trails End Steakhouse & Tavern Restaurant
Tri-Sports Motorcycles, ATVs, Scooters, etc
Trösko Design
UU Supermarket Market
Vintage Maine Kitchen Potato Chips
Waves Restaurant Restaurant
Wild and Alive Organics Raw Vegan Organic Chocolate

Give for Shared Prosperity!

Like you, we believe that investing in people and businesses strengthens communities.

Every day, we work with women, immigrants and refugees, first-time entrepreneurs and people who have lost their jobs or are in danger of losing their homes, who are striving hard to move down the path to economic self-sufficiency. We also help businesses improve the quality of the jobs they can provide with training resources, connections to resource providers, and advisory services.


Sustainable economic development has been at the heart of CEI’s work since 1977. We:

• finance businesses that otherwise cannot get loans or investments,

• work with entrepreneurs so their companies can be more profitable,

• connect employers with people looking for work,

• help jobseekers connect with training and jobs,

• counsel individuals and families looking to buy a new home or stay in a home where they live,

• support growth and innovation in Maine’s natural resource-based industries,

• support the growth of green businesses, and

• work to advance policies and partnerships that help ensure that all people, particularly those with low incomes and those living in rural communities, have the opportunity to work and achieve a decent livelihood for themselves and their family.

Your financial contribution will allow us to grow this critical work in a time of ongoing economic uncertainty and change. Please click here to donate.

Thank you for your generosity and compassion.

Betsy Biemann's Signature

Betsy Biemann

Keith Bisson's Signature

Keith Bisson

US Treasury Awards $80 Million in New Markets Tax Credit Capacity to CEI Capital Management

(NOVEMBER 17, 2015 – Portland, Maine) – Today, the U.S. Department of Treasury allocated $80 million in New Markets Tax Credit capacity to CEI Capital Management. The firm will deploy the tax credits to economic development projects that create opportunity in rural communities with low incomes across Maine and the nation.

A leading practitioner of the program, CEI Capital Management has employed New Markets Tax Credits for 90 projects since 2004, creating or preserving 4,699 permanent jobs for positions in primarily rural places. These projects have supported the growth and economic viability of enterprises across industries spanning manufacturing, the arts, healthcare, agriculture, conservation, hospitality, technology and more.

“We are grateful and encouraged to receive this award. It allows us to identify new opportunities to strengthen rural economies so the effect of each newly created or saved job ripples through the community. In our dozen years working with this program we have crisscrossed the nation, working on the ground and getting to know the people in rural places who are dedicated to bringing positive change to their communities. We share their vision of renewal and are glad to be their partners in building a path to prosperity for themselves and their families.”–Charlie Spies, CEO, CEI Capital Management

Altogether, the U.S. Department of Treasury made allocations to 120 organizations nationwide for a total of $7 billion in New Markets Tax Credit awards. This is the largest single award round since the New Markets Tax Credit Program was created in 2001. It is fitting that Treasury Secretary Jacob J. Lew announced the 2015-2016 awards at Educare DC, an innovative, state-of-the-art preschool in the nation’s capital, offering early childhood educational programs which benefited from an NMTC investment; CEI Capital Management also used New Markets Tax Credits to help finance an Educare facility in Waterville, Maine.

CEI Capital Management carries the triple bottom line mission of its parent, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI).

“This award will enable us to work with community leaders to understand the long-term needs of their regions  and to help grow businesses that create jobs and provide avenues to economic opportunity for individuals and families, particularly those with low-incomes, who live there.” –Betsy Biemann, CEO, CEI

The project partners working with CEI Capital Management have shared numerous testimonials highlighting the economic benefits that they have experienced because of New Markets projects. This summer, the owners and employees of St. Croix Tissue in rural Baileyville, Maine celebrated the grand opening of a new papermaking facility with state-of-the-art equipment that positions the company to be successful in a globally competitive market. As a result, the project not only creates 80 new, skilled jobs, it preserves hundreds more, keeping livelihoods intact, and creating a ripple effect that benefits the entire region.

Similarly, Premium Peanut in Georgia is using the program to build a shelling facility for 225 member farms, and help them to access market opportunities. Through guaranteed contracts and profit distribution, farms will see better overall profitability and smooth out the vagaries of boom and bust cycles that are notorious in the peanut industry.

On the island of Lana’i, Hawaii, CEI Capital Management worked with the community health center to open its doors, bringing affordable, on-island healthcare, including maternity services, to the local population.

The new allocation announced today will be deployed to projects in rural places that create or preserve jobs and further contribute to revitalizing the community.

Renovation of Neglected Rosa True School Expands Affordable Housing Options in Portland

October 25, 2016—As the proverb goes, big things often come in small packages. For Portland developer Kevin Bunker, the City of Portland, Maine Housing, and Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), the historic Rosa True School in the city’s East End represents not just an architecturally important building, but a resource to society as well.

“With low income housing in high demand in Portland, our aim was to save the building while increasing the efficiency and number of units in the space,” said Kevin Bunker, principal at Developers Collaborative, an association of independent real estate developers interested in projects that build community. “This was a relatively small project, but the 1844 school is worth stepping in and preserving.”

Adding affordable units on the Peninsula was a high priority for the City of Portland, who deferred the existing debt on the project and provide additional resources to help the project achieve feasibility.  Housing is considered “affordable” if the household spends no more than 30% of its income on housing-related costs (mortgage or rent, utilities, taxes, insurance, and maintenance). The median rent in Portland is $1,183. Rent at Rosa True is $990 for a two bedroom apartment and $1,139 for a three bedroom apartment. The building is fully rented. Financing for the project was made possible through a $308,000 State Historic Tax Credit equity investment from CEI, which has provided loans since 1992 for property maintenance and repairs.

We are thrilled to see this building getting the attention that it needs and deserves, as both an historic property, and a long-term, high quality solution for Portland’s affordable housing needs.This is exactly the kind of project that exemplifies the mission of the State Historic Tax Credit program—where we are giving new life to an old building, supporting downtown revitalization, and also providing housing for people with low incomes.– John Egan, SVP of Lending and Investment at CEI

Named for a longtime teacher and principal who died in in 1917, the Rosa E. True School is an historic property at 140 Park Street. When it was closed in 1972 after 128 years, it was the longest serving public school building in contiguous use. In 1987, Greater Portland Landmarks launched a $5,000 revolving loan to help convert the property into a multi-unit apartment building.

The renovation involved building two additional two bedroom units, and converting another into ADA accessible. Much of the building envelope was in great need of repair to maintain a watertight environment and keeping the historic integrity of the building.  Significant repointing of the brickwork needed to be completed to keep the building weather tight.

people gather at the Rosa True opening event on October 25

People gather to celebrate the opening of the Rosa True School affordable housing.

In 1992, anti-gentrification efforts and the availability of tax credits contributed to the new life of the property as an eight-unit low income apartment building. All of the historic fabric retained in the rehabilitation of 1992 remains today. On the exterior, a majority of the building has been re-pointed while original windows and doors have been repaired.  On the interior, the two historic main staircases remain. The corridors feature beaded board wainscoting, historic door casings and picture rails.  Within the units themselves, the wainscoting remain with historic chalkboards and window trim.

The greatest challenge to the project was accomplishing a total rehabilitation of an unfinished basement while the majority of the units above were occupied. This resulted in a lot of coordination between the Contractor Hardy Pond, the Property Manager Avesta and the occupants.  Every water turn off and electrical turn off was executed with the tenants in mind.  The largest inconvenience was the spray insulation where upon tenants had to be housed in local hotels for a few days and children transported to school.

The foundation has been completely waterproofed around the two new units and new utility tie-ins were accomplished as well.  The two new units, having started from scratch, have more modern amenities and are flush with light from restored or replaced windows.  The original stone exterior wall was left exposed in one of the units showing an outline of the original window locations, now an interior wall since the 1900 expansion.


Developers Collaborative is an association of like-minded independent real estate developers interested in projects that build community. While this can mean different things, core themes like smart growth, environmental sustainability, affordable housing, and innovative design are central in our work.

Just the Beginning: A $12 Miniumum Wage for Maine

“This initiated bill raises the minimum wage to $9.00 per hour in 2017 and by $1.00 per hour each year after that until it is $12.00 per hour in 2020.  The minimum wage then increases at the same rate as the cost of living.  The minimum wage for workers who receive tips increases to $5.00 per hour in 2017 and then by $1.00 per hour each year until it matches the minimum wage for all other workers, which occurs no sooner than 2024.”

-Summary, proposed amendment (Sec. 1.  26 MRSA §664, sub-§1, as amended by PL 2007, c. 640, §4)

CEI supports the 2016 minimum wage referendum, viewing a significant increase in Maine’s minimum wage as a starting point for an inclusive economy.

Working Mainers have coped with stagnant wages for many years, despite their rising productivity and educational attainment.  Meanwhile, inflation has shrunk the purchasing power of Maine’s minimum wage by about 15% since it was last raised in 2009. A minimum wage increase will lift thousands of hard working Mainers and their families out of poverty and move a quarter of Maine’s workforce closer to the goal of a “living wage.”

The minimum wage legislation proposed by the referendum question can be strengthened by: 1) linking the minimum wage increase schedule to economic cycles of recovery and recession; 2) recognizing stark differences in Maine’s regional labor markets; and 3) reducing pressure on small businesses, which can find it difficult to absorb a large or sudden increase in their payrolls.  CEI supports consideration of measures like these, which other states have included to temper potential negative effects on businesses or workers, in future years.

While raising the floor for lower-wage workers is essential, it is also crucial to build ladders so that more low-wage workers have opportunities to move up to higher levels of employment, compensation, and career advancement. This will require increased and strategic investment in education and training, as well as improvements in how education and training prepares students and workers for jobs of the future. It also requires working with employers, industry associations, and labor unions to develop career paths through skills training, internships and apprenticeship programs that offer on-the-job learning.

As a source of capital and business advisory services to small and medium-sized businesses across the state, CEI will reach out to these and other companies that are affected by a potential change in law and assist them in minimizing adverse effects on their enterprises, workers and customers.  At the same time, we will build out the next phase of our quality jobs strategy to help workers take steps up the skills and income ladder.