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.


Maine Delegates Trained on Japanese Aquaculture Equipment

Delegates have been observing key pieces of equipment used in Japanese scallop aquaculture, with plans to secure three machines that would help bring the Japanese ear-hanging method of scallop farming to Maine. This scallop cleaning machine clears the biofouling off of scallop shells to help increase growth rates.

Maine Scallop Delegates Welcomed to Aomori, Japan

October 6, 2016- The Maine Scallop Delegation is off to an exciting start. The week began with a welcome reception dinner in Aomori, followed by visits to the largest scallop processing facilities, tours of local fish markets, scallop harvesting in Mutsu Bay and shucking lessons from the experts!

USDA Rural Development Announces Coastal Enterprises, Inc. will receive $20 Million Loan to Reduce Rural Poverty

Please note that CEI is finalizing program details for the USDA loan award. Please check back for more information or call 207-504-5900. 

Oct. 6, 2016 (Berea, KY) – Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack today unveiled an innovative partnership with community development organizations from across the country, providing $401 million of Community Facilities program funds to recipients with a track record of successful programs to help reduce poverty in some of the nation’s poorest and most isolated rural communities. Twenty-six community development organizations have been approved to draw upon the funding to provide long-term financing to be “re-lent” to local entities to build, acquire, maintain or renovate essential community facilities. The funds also can be used for capacity building and to finance essential community services, such as education, health care and infrastructure.

“This effort builds on our commitment to lifting up the economic prospects of communities that have not benefited from the revitalization of rural America,” Vilsack said. “By engaging with local and national partners, private-sector financial institutions and philanthropic organizations, USDA will inject a game-changing level of investment capital to reduce poverty in targeted rural areas where the capacity for growth has not been realized. As we have seen with the Obama Administration’s Promise Zone initiative and USDA’s StrikeForce effort, targeted, place-based investments can have a real impact on reducing poverty. This funding adds another important tool in that fight.”

In Maine, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) of Brunswick has been selected to receive a Community Facility Direct Relending Program Loan in the amount of $20,000,000 for relending in rural communities in Maine and other states.

Congresswoman Chellie Pingree said, “Maine people are hardworking, creative and full of ingenuity, but too often rural areas just don’t get the investment and don’t have access they to capital that they need to build the local economy.  This money is going to help make sure that the resources we have in rural Maine can be put to work creating jobs for the community.  This is a great economic development investment and is going to pay real dividends for Maine.”

USDA Rural Development State Director Virginia Manuel said, “I am thrilled with this landmark $20 million investment by USDA Rural Development in Coastal Enterprises Inc. The long-standing partnership USDA Rural Development has with CEI represents the immense value of the organization and its vital role in supporting our rural Maine communities. This significant funding will enable CEI to bolster opportunity to our vibrant communities through relending, thereby supporting essential community facilities that Maine’s rural residents rely on.”

“CEI is best-known across Maine as a mission-driven business lender, but vibrant rural communities need more than individual businesses to thrive. They also need community resources that contribute to quality of life and help to retain and attract families and entrepreneurs,” said Betsy Biemann, CEI’s chief executive officer.  “CEI has financed childcare centers, a non-profit school serving youth with behavioral challenges, federally-qualified health centers and other non-profit facilities, and looks forward to working with the USDA Rural Development to channel more funding to facilities like these in small urban centers and rural communities in Maine and in other regions of the U.S.”

As a Re-Lender, CEI will loan funds to applicants primarily for projects in or serving high poverty areas or persistent poverty counties eligible under the Community Facility Loan Program. CEI’s rural lending maintains a focus on micro and small businesses, including natural resources-based industries, as well as community facilities (such as health care, childcare, arts, and social services), affordable housing, renewable energy and microlending. Of the current $39.1 million loan portfolio, $26.9 million, or 68%, is invested in rural regions.

Eligible applicants for the loans financed through the Community Facilities Re-Lending Program may use the funds from CEI to purchase, construct, and/or improve essential community facilities, purchase equipment, and pay related project expenses. Examples of allowable facilities include: health care facilities (such as hospitals, medical or dental clinics, or assisted-living facilities); public facilities such as town halls or courthouses; street improvements; community support facilities such as child care or community centers, fairgrounds, or transitional housing; public safety facilities; and educational facilities such as museums, libraries, colleges, and public or private schools.

Coastal Enterprises, Inc. is a mission-driven lender and investor specializing in rural economic development in Maine and the U.S. Since 1977, CEI and its subsidiaries have provided nearly $1.2 billion in financing to over 2,500 enterprises with over 33,000 jobs; created/preserved over 1,800 units of affordable housing; provided training and counseling to nearly 50,000 individuals and businesses; and created/preserved over 5,800 child care slots. CEI was the first organization in Maine certified by the U.S. Treasury Department as a Community Development Financial Institution and is a NeighborWorks Organization, and a member of the Federal Home Loan Bank of Boston.

The Community Facility Direct Relending Program has two unique features. First, private financial institutions, including Bank of America and others, will be providing guarantees for a portion of the loans. Second, the recipient community development organizations, or “re-lenders,” may also have an opportunity to receive grants provided by seven of the nation’s premier philanthropic organizations through a $22 million fund to assist in managing and capacity building. The Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation will manage this grant fund.

Vilsack made the announcement at Berea College, which has received USDA funding to help businesses become more energy efficient. Earlier this year, the town of Berea received a $10 million Community Facilities loan to renovate and expand the city hall and public safety facilities.

The project is led by the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in collaboration with USDA, the Department of Labor, the Corporation for National and Community Service, the Appalachian Regional Commission, the Delta Regional Authority, the Annie E. Casey Foundation, the W.K. Kellogg Foundation and other philanthropic partners. The members of this public/private partnership have selected 10 local and tribal communities and placed AmeriCorps VISTA members there to provide technical assistance and capacity-building resources to reduce child poverty. At a White House Rural Forum convened in State College, Pa., earlier this week, the partners announced that the AmeriCorps VISTA members will remain in the 10 communities for a second year.

USDA expects the financing announced today will serve as a catalyst for additional investment. Many of the community developers already have established relationships with other private and philanthropic funders. The ability to relend money could foster greater leveraging of private and philanthropic investments in rural communities.

USDA Rural Development has a $215 billion loan portfolio and offices in every state in the nation. The agency annually invests $30 billion, on average, in rural communities.

Since 2009, USDA Rural Development (@USDARD) has funded nearly 9,200 community facilities such as schools, public safety and health care facilities; invested nearly $13 billion to start or expand nearly 112,000 rural businesses; helped 1.1 million rural residents buy homes; and helped bring high-speed Internet access to nearly 6 million rural residents and businesses. USDA also has invested $31.3 billion in 963 electric projects that have financed more than 185,000 miles of transmission and distribution lines serving 4.6 million rural residents. For more information, visit

To read more about USDA’s investments in rural America and its successful turnaround, visit USDA’s entry on, Rural America Is Back in Business.


USDA is an equal opportunity provider, employer and lender.


Oct. 25 Event: Bringing Broadband to Maine’s Rural Communities

Click here to register for the Bringing Broadband to Maine’s Rural Communities: Insights for Maine from National Success Stories event on Tuesday, October 25, 2016, from 8am to 2pm at Maple Hill Farm Inn in Hallowell, sponsored by the Maine Broadband Coalition, Island Institute, and CEI.

Broadband access is a critical driver of economic growth and prosperity, and necessary for rural Maine’s future. Join us to learn about four rural broadband success stories from around the country. Our speakers are leaders in creating and implementing innovative rural broadband models.  They will share their stories and discuss how they engaged stakeholders, providers, funders, businesses, and state, local and county government to bring broadband to their communities and spur economic growth.


CEI Leads Maine Delegation to Aomori, Japan to Learn Scallop Farming Practices

September 28, 2016 – A delegation of Maine-based aquaculture and fisheries professionals will travel to Aomori, Japan October 1 through 10, 2016 to learn best practices for scallop farming with the goal of importing that knowledge and technology to Maine.

Maine has been exchanging information and sharing insights into fisheries, energy practices, art, culture and education with its “sister state’ of Aomori Prefecture since 1994, although the origins of the relationship traces back to 1889. That year the 1,500-ton Cheseborough ship, sailing from Bath, wrecked off the coast of Aomori. Local citizens from the village of Shariki rescued four survivors and buried those who died, including Peter Erickson, the captain.

Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI) is a lead organizer of the current trip, assembling the ten-member delegation based on their backgrounds and expertise. “We want to get key people there to see what’s possible in scallop farming and to believe it can be replicated in Maine, although at a much smaller scale” said Hugh Cowperthwaite, Fisheries Project Director for CEI who made his first delegation visit to Aomori in 2010. “When I first saw what the Japanese are doing to commercialize scallop farming I was blown away. The Japanese have been sustainably growing and harvesting scallops for decades and have nearly perfected their grow out techniques over the past 85 years. Maine has the capacity to grow our shellfish industry by adding farm raised scallops to our offerings. This exchange allows us to make new and deeper connections with the business community. Can this industry find its footing and create jobs in Maine?”

The Japanese have been sharing their processes and techniques Maine’s industry for nearly two decades dating back to 1999 with a focus on wild seed collection and farming techniques to grow scallops from juveniles to adult sizes. The current visit will focus heavily on learning about machinery used to farm scallops, lease site set up, vessels used and interacting directly with fishermen and fishing cooperatives. There will also be exploration of shellfish processing and value added products associated with the scallop industry. Unlike in the United States the Japanese often eat the entire scallop animal whereas the US only eats the abductor muscle.

Cowperthwaite says during his 2010 visit he was introduced to equipment manufacturer Mutsu Kaden Tokki Co. that builds machines to mechanize several labor intensive steps to farming scallops. Their techniques and machines are not currently in use in Maine. With grant support from the Maine Technology Institute, CEI is seeking to purchase three different machines addressing different aspects of scallop farming to put to use in Maine.

In addition to Cowperthwaite the nine delegates for this October’s visit are experienced aquaculture practitioners and fishermen:

  • Don Hudson of Arrowsic, Chair of the Maine Aomori Sister-State Advisory Council, who made his first delegation visit in 2010;
  • Dana Morse, Extension Associate, Maine Sea Grant College Program and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension of Walpole;
  • Sebastian Belle, Executive Director, Maine Aquaculture Association, of Hallowell;
  • Chris Davis, Executive Director, Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center, of Orono;
  • Nate Perry, Pine Point Oyster Company, LLC of Cape Elizabeth;
  • Gordon Connell, F/V Zephyr, Commercial Fishermen, Spruce Head Island;
  • Marsden Brewer, F/V Lindsay Marie, Commercial Fishermen and Aquaculturists, Stonington;
  • Robert Brewer, Commercial Fishermen and Aquaculturists of Deer Isle;
  • Matthew Moretti is the President of Wild Ocean Aquaculture, LLC (WOA) of Portland.

The delegation’s intensive one-week itinerary was funded by the United States Japan Foundation and will include visits with a series of marine scientists, private business, fishing cooperatives and government officials, as well as the company from which CEI will purchase the three automated machines.


Read more in Mainebiz’s recent article: Maine Fisheries Experts Head to Japan to Learn Scallop Practices, Buy Machinery

CEI Receives $1.75 Million Financial Assistance Award from U. S. Treasury

September 28, 2016 — The U.S. Department of the Treasury’s Community Development Financial Institutions Fund (CDFI Fund) today announced a $1.75 million Financial Assistance Award to Maine-based Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) to expand its mission-driven community lending and economic development work.

“I am so glad that this federal funding will allow CEI to make critical investments in Maine communities,” said Congresswoman Chellie Pingree. “This funding means opportunity—for the entrepreneur who wants to start a business, the family in need of affordable housing, and many low-income Mainers hoping to make better lives for themselves. I appreciate the committed work of CEI in making that all happen.”

Over 80 percent of CEI’s lending activity targets low-income people and communities, through loans to low-income entrepreneurs and business owners as well as companies that create jobs, affordable housing units, childcare slots, and health care for people and regions that qualify as low-income. Since 1997, CEI has received a total of 14 awards from the CDFI Fund.

“On behalf of CEI, I’d like to thank our federal delegation – Senators Susan Collins and Angus King and Representatives Chellie Pingree and Bruce Poliquin – for their unified support for our application and for our work in Maine,” said Betsy Biemann, CEI’s Chief Executive Officer. “Our Congressional leaders are doing everything they can to promote a vision for Maine’s future that includes quality jobs and economic prosperity for all.”

“We are grateful to be helping to make that vision a reality, along with our Maine colleagues at Four Directions Development Corporation, Genesis Fund, Inc., MaineStream Finance, and Northern Maine Development Commission, who also received awards,” noted Keith Bisson, CEI’s President.

CEI was one of 196 Community Development Financial Institutions (CDFIs) across the country that received $185.7 million in grants and loans. The awards, based on a competitive application process, have enabled CDFIs to increase lending and investment activity in low-income and economically distressed communities across the nation since the program was established in 1994.

With today’s announcement, the CDFI Fund crossed the $2 billion threshold in collective investments to CDFIs through the CDFI and Native American CDFI Assistance programs bringing capital to low-income, distressed, and underserved communities and areas of persistent poverty. A total of 457 applications were received requesting more than $675 million under this round of the CDFI program.

About CEI
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) is a mission-driven lender and investor specializing in rural economic development in Maine and throughout the U.S. CEI combines financing, advising services and policy leadership to help create economically and environmentally healthy communities in which all people, especially those with low incomes, can reach their full potential.

CEI works closely with small and medium-sized businesses that strengthen local economies and support quality jobs, including natural resource-based industries in the farm, fishery, aquaculture, forestry, renewable energy, and nature-based tourism sectors. We also finance community facilities and affordable housing development. For more information, visit

Acadia Harvest Closes $700,000 Financing Round for Inland Aquafarm

September 20, 2016 — Aquaculture firm Acadia Harvest Inc. has completed a new round of financing to support its growth strategy.  With the participation of private and institutional investors and lenders, the Company has secured $700,000 of debt and equity investment.  This capital will fund pre-development activities for the Company’s aquafarm in Corea, ME, including land acquisition, and obtaining all development and operating permits, to achieve “shovel-ready” status.

Chief Executive Officer Ed Robinson stated “This is an exciting time for Acadia Harvest, as we move from pilot scale production to large commercial scale.  We are gratified to have new investors who share our vision of a land-based, indoor aquafarm for marine species.  We see a significant opportunity to provide more customers with fresh, high quality products from Maine while bolstering the regional seafood economy with investment, jobs and shipments from our state.”

The Company has been developing its R&D and production expertise for 5 years, and began selling fresh Maine fish in 2013, with weekly shipments to several distributors since July 2015.  The Company’s focus is on a Pacific Ocean fish – California yellowtail (Seriola lalandi) – sold under the brand name “Maine Hiramasa.”  Feedback from customers has been very encouraging and the Company will expand its presence in additional markets.  The Company’s R&D focus is in using fish wastes as nutrients for other commercial species, and in developing sustainable aquafeeds.  More information is available on the Company website,

Participants in the round included two well-known investment groups, the Maine Angels and the Bangor Angels.  Maine Angels Chairman Sam Fratoni commented, “We are pleased with the opportunity to invest with Acadia Harvest, one of the exciting companies developing new forms of aquaculture in our state.  We expect to see this company flourish in the coming years.”

Representing the Bangor Angels, Fritz Oldenburg said “We’ve had our eye on Acadia Harvest for a couple years and welcome their expansion in the Downeast region.  The company has a solid management team and a sound business plan to move forward in coming years. “

In addition to multiple private individual investors from New England, the round also included debt from Coastal Enterprises Inc. of Brunswick.  Coastal Enterprises was an early debt and equity provider to the Company.  Acadia Harvest was assisted in this financing by John Pavan of Altezza Advisors, Brunswick, ME.   Acadia Harvest is moving forward on securing debt and equity financing for development of Phase 1 of the million pound capacity Corea, ME facility.  The Company plans to open its plant in late 2017.


For more information please contact:

Ed Robinson, CEO

Phone: 207-522-9342


CEI Receives Independent AAA Rating for Impact Performance from Aeris


Brunswick, ME – August 15, 2016— Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) announced today that it has received a rating of AAA for Impact Performance from Aeris, the information service for community investors. The AAA is the highest rating given by the agency. Aeris (formerly known as CARS®) provides comprehensive, third-party assessments of community development financial institution (CDFI) loan fund financial strength and performance and impact.

In addition, CEI scored a two (on a scale of one to five where one is the highest) for financial strength and performance. CEI was also assigned a Policy Plus score for its public policy engagement.

“These scores affirm that we are making progress towards helping to create economically and environmentally healthy communities in which all people, especially those with low incomes, can reach their full potential,” said CEI CEO Betsy Biemann. “The ability to maintain such exemplary scores since the last rating three years ago is due to our professional, mission-driven team of lenders, investors, business advisors, and resource and policy development staff.”

Banks, foundations, fund managers, and others rely on Aeris ratings to identify and evaluate community investment opportunities that meet their impact goals and risk parameters. Aeris has issued more than 600 ratings opinions since 2004.

The Aeris ratings measures a community investor’s commitment to rigor with regard to its financial performance and impact. The rating consist of two main components: (1) an Impact Performance Rating, which measures how well a CDFI does what it says it’s trying to do; (2) a Financial Strength and Performance Rating, which assesses overall creditworthiness.

More information about Aeris ratings is available here:

As an Aeris-rated CDFI, CEI is also included in the Aeris Cloud, the only source of real-time financial and impact performance data on CDFI loan funds. The Aeris Cloud was created to give investors access to Wall Street-quality data on CDFI loan funds like CEI.

The Women’s Business Center Launches Entrepreneur in Residence Program

August 4, 2016 (Portland, ME)— The Women’s Business Center at CEI today announced the launch of an Entrepreneur in Residence Program (EIR) designed to connect Maine’s women business owners who have a specific challenge or question with local entrepreneurs that have the industry or area-specific  knowledge needed to identify solutions.

Kerry Hanney EIR Photo

Kerry Hanney, Owner, Night Moves Bread and Pie

“For me this was an ideal match. My EIR started out the way I am – one person with very little funding but a strong work ethic and lot of passion for their idea. She identified helpful connections for me to make in the community, and shared what her startup timeline was like as well as helpful steps to take along the way.”

–Kerry Hanney, Owner, Night Moves Bread and Pie, located in Portland and Yarmouth

The EIR Program was created to fill a need the Women’s Business Center identified among clients for industry and area-specific guidance. EIRs can function as sounding boards for ideas, share personal experiences and lessons learned, and help other business owners navigate the frustrations, challenges and questions that are specific to an industry or area of expertise.

The connections are made to facilitate very focused one-time meetings, during which a business owner can clearly articulate a specific need, challenge or question that an EIR may be able to assist with.

Approximately twenty entrepreneurs have volunteered to meet with two to four Women’s Business Center clients a year. The EIRs represent a variety of industries, possess a range of experience and share a common interest in giving back to the small business and startup community. EIRs are often recognized for making a significant contribution in their field, working to drive key industry initiatives forward and leading innovative companies in Maine. Susan Corbett, CEO of Machias-based Axiom Technologies and Bill Zolper, owner of b.good in Portland and South Portland have both enthusiastically signed on as EIRs.

Business owners interested in meeting with an EIR should fill out our request form, which can be accessed here. The Women’s Business Center will respond and discuss whether the EIR program is a good fit, then make the match. Information that is shared by the WBC and client with an Entrepreneur in Residence is confidential.

About the Women’s Business Center at CEI
The Women’s Business Center at CEI offers experienced, knowledgeable business specialists who can help you at any stage of your business, from start-up to expansion. We offer free and confidential business advising, workshops and training events, a long-term relationship with a skilled business advisor, opportunities for networking with other business owners, and other resources. These services are offered through two separately grant funded programs, The Women’s Business Center at CEI: Southern Maine, and Rural Maine.