Meet Our Summer 2016 Interns!

ThomasThomas Farrin Freeman, Bowdoin College (2017), Government Major/ Sociology Minor

“This summer I have been conducting research with Carla Dickstein on the feasibility of rural immigration in Maine.  As part of my research, I have analyzed Maine’s rural economies by looking at unemployment rates, number of job vacancies, prominent industries, and regional housing data.  I am proud to have worked at CEI because I respect their commitment to encouraging rural economic development by embracing forward-thinking solutions and ideas.”

LyseLyse Henshaw, Bates College (2018), Economics Major

“I’m working with Sarah Matel and Bethany Richards in the lending department. I’m learning how CEI evaluates loan applications by examining their credit history, and evaluating their risk rating and mission rating. CEI is making a huge impact in the community by considering social impact when evaluating a potential loan. CEI is not only financing business pursuits but also considering the job creation, environmental impact, and household impact of their loans. CEI is truly focused on making the community a better place.”

Tom MastersTom Masters, University of Maine at Orono (2017), Economics Major

“I am interning under Nat Henshaw and Chandler Jones at Coastal Venture, where I am analyzing companies and corporations that could be socially, economically, and environmentally beneficial. I am learning so many different aspects of the business world that I did not know before. I feel very grateful to be a part of CEI and its impact on society in Maine and beyond.”

Seward MatelJames Seward Matel, Washington & Lee University (2019), Economics Major

“I’ve been interning with Nat Henshaw, Chandler Jones and Thao Duong at CVI since March. I am analyzing potential investments, performing due diligence and market research, crafting investment memorandums, and assisting on quarterly reports. I have enjoyed learning about the intricacies of the valuation process and term sheets, and have benefited from listening in on and participating in the different stages of negotiating a deal. In addition to my responsibilities with CVI, I am working for Ron Phillips creating a library for his books and archiving old files.”

JesseJesse Newton, Bowdoin College (2018), Math and Environmental Studies Major

“I’m working under Daniel Wallace and Gray Harris in the Food and Agriculture sector of CEI. I’m primarily involved in developing and accumulating data on a pilot ethnic food project which is assessing both the feasibility of growing new crops on local farms and the market demand for these products among Maine’s growing ethnic communities. In the brief time I’ve been at CEI, I continue to be impressed by CEI’s involvement in a multiplicity of projects, working with different clients and providing them with carefully tailored support. In this way, CEI seems to be providing a desperately needed service to otherwise struggling industries.”

LinneaLinnea Rose Patterson, Bowdoin College (2018), Biology and Environmental Studies Major/Hispanic Studies Minor

“Under the guidance of Daniel Wallace and Gray Harris, Jesse Newton and I have been splitting our time on two projects this summer. We are currently creating a marketing plan for the ethnic produce project to explore the profitability and feasibility of growing specialty produce in Maine. We are also conducting a literature review for the climate curriculum project, which aims to create a “train the trainers” program that will allow business counselors to advise their farmer clientele on climate adaptation strategies. In the four short weeks that have already flown by at CEI, I have been floored by the passionate and talented people that I get to work alongside. It is something special to be able to work on impactful projects with people who truly care about them. I am proud to be a part of the CEI team (if only for a short time).”


CEI Employee Receives Maine Development Foundation Scholarship

June 27, 2016 — As a Next Step Maine Employer engaged in Maine Development Foundation’s (MDF’s) statewide Employers’ Initiative, CEI participated in the fourth annual Next Step Maine Employees of Promise Scholarship Program by nominating an employee for a scholarship award to support the completion of a degree or certificate.

Beth Raburn, Debra Gibb, Jessica Stover, and Ron Phillips

CEI accounting staff members Beth Raburn, Debra Gibb, Jessica Stover, and founder Ron Phillips

Jessica Stover, an accounting administrator, received a 2016 Next Step Maine Employee of Promise Scholarship to support her pursuit of an associate’s degree in Accounting at Southern New Hampshire University.

Jessica was honored during MDF’s Annual Next Step Maine Scholarship Recognition event on June 10 in Augusta.

Next Step Maine Employees of Promise Scholarship is part of MDF, a private, non-partisan membership organization that drives sustainable, long-term economic growth for the state of Maine. MDF’s strategic focus is a productive workforce.

The program is a free statewide initiative that awards funds to Maine employees who are currently pursuing a bachelor’s degree, associate’s degree or certificate program. This year’s recipients were selected from 40 employer nominations from a variety of Maine companies and many educational institutions.

“We are extremely pleased with the progress the Next Step Maine program is making to help Maine’s workforce continue with their education and training,” said Yellow Breen, president of MDF. “There were double the number of applicants compared to last year and we raised $35,600 for scholarship funds, which is double from last year, as well.”

Next Step Maine received donations and grant support from the Bangor Savings Bank, Cianbro, Maine Chapter Association for Talent Development, Maine Community Foundation, Nellie Mae Education Foundation, Pratt & Whitney, Renys, Saint Joseph’s College, and SHRM Maine State Council.

To learn more about Next Step Maine and how to become a Next Step Maine employer, please visit

CEI Housing Counseling Clients Honored at White House Event

June 21, 2016 — For National Homeownership Month, the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) is honoring families who “Beat the Odds” by purchasing a home with the20160621_100446 assistance of a HUD-approved Housing Counseling Agency. The five families, which included CEI homebuyer education/pre-purchase clients Shaun and Nicole Avery, were chosen to tell their stories at a “Dare to Own the Dream” Homeownership Month ceremony at the White House on June 21 with HUD Secretary Julián Castro. They attended the event with their CEI housing counselor, Linda Lajoie, and CEI’s board Chair Ellen Seidman.

Shaun is an active member of the military, and now a 23-year-old first-time homeowner in a rural Maine community identified as an “area of greatest need” by Neighborworks America. Shaun and Nicole participated in homebuyer education and pre-purchase counseling programs, and qualified for both a VA Guarantee loan and Maine Housing loan with down-payment assistance. CEI’s Linda Lajoie, who lost her son after he served in Afghanistan, is passionate about helping military families achieve their dreams. “Shaun and Nicole have worked so hard to become homeowners,” said Linda. “I’m so thrilled that they are receiving this recognition.”


Pictured above (l-r): CEI Housing Counselor Mechelle Nash, Shaun and Nicole Avery, CEI Housing Counselor Linda Lajoe, and Jason Thomas, Director of CEI’s Housing Counseling and Education Program

All Boats Rise with Ocean Approved’s Innovative Model for Kelp Farming

June 20, 2016 – Ocean Approved, which farms, processes and sells kelp and kelp products, recently closed on a $500,000 capital raise in partnership with Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI), Maine Venture Fund, the Island Institute and two angel investors. The capital will be used to upgrade and vastly increase Ocean Approved’s processing capacity, which has not been able to keep up with supply or demand. With increased processing capacity, years of research and development studying the optimal way to farm kelp in Maine, and an open source approach to kelp farming, the expanded processing capacity will spur sales and allow Ocean Approved to enter into buying contracts with kelp farmers around the state. “We have built our business model on an all-boats-rise philosophy,” said Paul Dobbins, one of the owners of Ocean Approved. “We want to expand our business but we also want to encourage others to begin farming kelp. More volume will help support the infrastructure to grow the industry.”

A sternman during the lobstering season, Lisa Moore has been harvesting wild kelp and selling it to Ocean Approved for the past four years.

A sternman during the lobstering season, Lisa Moore has been harvesting wild kelp and selling it to Ocean Approved for the past four years.

One of Ocean Approved’s strategies is to decrease the barriers to entry for potential kelp farmers. Lisa Moore is a budding entrepreneur who has taken advantage of Ocean Approved’s open source approach. A sternman during the lobstering season, Lisa has been harvesting wild kelp and selling it to Ocean Approved for the past four years. “Up until now, we could only bring kelp to Ocean Approved every other day because they couldn’t process everything. Now, we’ll able to bring them everything we harvest.” Moore is applying for a permit from Maine’s Department of Marine Resources (DMR) to farm kelp. “The time is right for me to start farming, I’ve read through Ocean Approved’s manual and I know the steps involved.  Without that manual and the information it provides, such as the model plans you have to submit with your DMR application, I would never be doing this. Ocean Approved has made getting started very easy,” said Moore.

“Kelp farming occurs in the off-season for most lobstermen, from about November to April,” notes Dick Clime, a project Developer for CEI’s Fisheries Program who, in partnership with Island Institute, has created a curriculum for lobstermen interested in aquaculture. “Fishermen know the water, they have boats, and they are business minded,” said Clime. “Those qualities make them the perfect fit to start kelp farming, and with Ocean Approved’s manual and our educational resources, the barriers to entry are low.”

Kelp farming can provide Maine’s lobstermen with a diverse revenue stream, so they are not relying exclusively on lobstering. Historically, fishermen have fished a variety of species so they were not dependent on one species for their livelihood. With the wintertime shrimp fishery closed, the scallop fishery limited and ground fishing closed to all but the largest operations due to the cost of federal permits, the only income many fishermen have today is from lobstering, an industry notorious for price fluctuations and unpredictable costs.

Ocean Approved will process all its kelp at the Curran Company in Saco, Maine. Kelp is a $5 billion-a-year industry internationally, virtually all of it harvested and dried in Asia. In addition to providing a viable economic alternative to lobster fishermen, kelp has significant positive environmental impacts, including reduction of ocean acidification and inshore eutrophication, which is occurring at accelerating levels in the Gulf of Maine.

Local Food Cooperatives as a Cornerstone for Rural Community Development


June 6, 2016 — The following is an article written by Leah Thibault, Director of Executive Administration and Special Projects at CEI Capital Management. It was originally published on in February 2016. 

By Leah Thibault

There is a trickle-down theory inherent in a lot of economic development activity – programs are primarily designed to help communities, particularly low income ones, attract and grow businesses. The thinking is that those new or expanded businesses will, in turn, improve the lives of community members by giving them employment or by providing additional goods and services, and further spur other business needs that can be answered locally.

But what if you could directly help a businesses and community members at the same time? You can, if that business is a co-op.

A co-operative, or co-op, is an entity owned and democratically controlled by its members, who often have a close association with the business, either as producers or consumers of its products (such as farmers or shoppers for a grocery store), or as its employees.

CCML CooperativeCo-ops have been around as long as people have found benefit in working together, but today’s modern co-ops generally work on the seven cooperative principles as outlined byThe International Co-operative Alliance: voluntary and open membership; democratic member control; economic participation by members; autonomy and independence; education, training and information; cooperation among cooperatives; and concern for community.

While co-ops have a greater chance of surviving their first five years of business (80 percent versus 41 percent, according to 2015 report by Co-operatives UK), getting one off the ground is a tremendous effort of coordination, and finding financing for infrastructure and capital projects can be difficult.

Back in 1997, some community members in the western Massachusetts town of Northampton met at the local library and decided the area would benefit from a consumer-owned store. As the effort to acquire membership moved forward, the question of where to site said store persisted for years, until a site was selected in 2004. That ushered the next challenge – how to pay for the real estate and construction of the store when membership was about 1,500.

In a way the financing modeled the cooperative ideal – multiple sources contributed, from member fundraising to three different bank loans, several economic development grants and even federal New Markets Tax Credits, as the co-op was sited in a low income census track.

In 2008, the River Valley Co-Op opened its new LEED-certified facility with a mission to provide fresh, local and organically grown groceries to this Western Massachusetts community. Today, nearly 20 years since that first meeting in the library, the vision is even greater than the founders imagined. The business is thriving, with nearly 1,500 daily customers, $23 million in annual sales, and plans for a second store underway.

A true cornerstone of community development, the store employs almost 150 employees (over 89 percent of which are full time with benefits), and the average hourly wage for a non-supervisory position is $13.68, exceeding the local living wage of $13.18. River Valley Co-Op is also a significant buyer of local produce and goods, with $4.2 million going to local vendors, 30 percent of the store’s total purchases.

This kind of robust employment and economic activity is impressive and admirable, but the success and profits of River Valley Co-Op don’t just go to anonymous stockholders, or a few select owners, but flows directly to the 7,480 member-owners who shop at and work for and supply its store. In 2015, River Valley distributed its third annual Patronage Dividend Rebate, which totaled over $100,000. Of that amount, the owners donated $30,000 to the River Valley Co-op Community Fund and The Food Co-op Initiative—two nonprofits River Valley’s Board selected to support to fund other new food co-op start-ups and cooperative development.

Though not a formal co-op, Premium Peanut, a shelling and distribution facility under construction in Douglas, Georgia uses a cooperative-like arrangement that exchanges investment in Premium Peanut by local peanut growers with guaranteed multi-year contracts that include a pricing premium over the government standard, as well as a proportional distributions of Premium Peanut profits.

This structure helps the company achieve its goal of bringing greater stability to its 225 member farmers by helping them gain better access to the market, improve their profitability, and help smooth out the common boom or bust cycles through vertical integration.

Shelling at the $50 million, state-of-the-art facility will start with 110,000 tons for the 2015 peanut crop and is expected to grow to 140,000 tons within the first three years. Financing the effort was not simple for the startup. Because it preserves jobs in a region of Georgia that suffers from high unemployment and poverty rates, the construction qualified for federal New Markets Tax Credits in its overall capital stack of other loans and grants.

In addition to supporting 225 small to medium-sized farms, the shelling facility will create approximately 100 direct jobs, the majority of which will be unskilled positions available to low-income individuals and all will pay a living wage for single adult in the county and include benefits such as paid time off, a 401(k), and subsidized health insurance.

River Valley and Premium Peanut both show how the co-operative model can directly benefit its members and the rural communities that surround them, making investment in local farming and grocery co-ops a win-win for economic and community development.

Image courtesy of River Valley Co-op

In Maine Policy Review, Ron Phillips Makes the Case for Impact Investing and Community Development

June 6, 2016 — The growing and worldwide practice called “impact investing”—investing capital for a social as well as financial return – is increasingly challenging private investors and managers of wealth, university endowments, mutual funds, foundations, pension funds, and individuals to direct capital in ways that contributes to the good of society. With roots in the 1960s civil rights era, the multi-billion dollar U.S. Community Development Corporation (CDC) and Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) industry can serve as a major vehicle for impact investors. CDCs/CDFIs raise and deploy private and public capital to benefit marginalized populations and regions of the country aspiring for economic opportunity. These entities create jobs in small businesses, produce affordable housing and facilities like child care, and help to build sustainable enterprises. In the June issue of Maine Policy Review, CEI Founder Ron Phillips presents the case that investing in CDCs/CDFIs ensures this new, untapped source of capital makes a difference for those in need.

Click here to read the article.

Truemark Metals Acquires Howell Steel with C7a Financing

JUNE 1, 2016  (Alabaster, AL) – Since Truemark Metals LLC acquired Howell Steel, a local supplier to residential contractors in Alabaster, AL, its twelve employees have new clarity about their futures on the job and the region’s building industry has had continuous service.

Howell Steel has been fabricating and installing steel products for home construction since 1987. Its reputation for quality and value manufacturing of products as diverse as I-beams and hand rails was hard earned among greater Birmingham’s biggest residential contractors. Yet its staff of professionals – a quarter of whom have been employed there for over a decade – faced an uncertain future when the company founder retired. Would the business be bought? Would new owners replace the staff?

At the same time Tyler Whitson was pursuing his passion for ownership in the construction field. “I love the building process,” he said. An accountant by training he worked in real estate during the 2000’s and says his passion for the business comes from years of working with contractors and subcontractors in real estate development.

finalCEI7alogoThe transaction wasn’t black and white though. After the economic downturn of 2008 and the collapse of the US housing market Whitson went back to work as a CPA. A serial entrepreneur who says he emerged from the 2008 economic downturn “wounded and limping,” Whitson has spent the last several years rebuilding his own career and balance sheet – and waiting for the right opportunity to re-enter the building industry. Then he learned the founder of Howell Steel was selling.

Whitson, like many other small business owners who were challenged in the 2008 recession, could not secure a bank loan, despite being on solid financial footing today. He was however able to use a federal program designed for exactly this scenario: The Small Business Administration 7(a) loan.

Whitson established a new company, Truemark Metals, and secured a $250,000 SBA 7(a) loan to enable the acquisition of Howell Steel. The SBA 7(a) program provides the flexibility to finance business transactions that traditional bank lenders might have a hard time underwriting due to a variety of reasons ranging from insufficient collateral to a limited business track record or the need for longer than conventional terms. The loan was provided by Maine-based CEI 7(a) Financing LLC (“C7a”) which specializes in the loans. It partners with mission based lenders and organizations across the U.S. to identify lending opportunities.

Colette Twigg-Rowse of C7a who is responsible for credit and portfolio management says plenty of small business owners are ready to invest in following their passions, growing their enterprises and moving forward but have challenges on their balance sheets stemming from the recession of 2008 that they fear hold them back. That doesn’t have to be the case. “Congress created the SBA 7(a) program to make monies available to businesses that can’t secure financing under reasonable terms from traditional commercial lenders. We are using this valuable tool to help communities rebuild through job creation and security whose benefits domino throughout the region,” she says.

Just a few months into new ownership Whitson reports a successful transition to working with Howell Steel’s legacy customers. He is preparing to add an additional position to his staff and has his sights set on how to grow the business.

CEI Ventures Named Maine’s Most Active Tech Firm by VC Nation

May 23, 2016–CEI Ventures is Maine’s most active tech venture capital firm, according to venture capital trade VC Nation. The following post from the VC Nation website highlights tech venture capital activity in all 50 states:

VC Nation: The Most Active Tech Venture Capital Firm Into Each US State

Our map infographic shows the top VC in each US state, as determined by the number of tech companies they’ve funded there. Among the VCs on the map are NEA, Foundry Group, and Bessemer Venture Partners.

US Venture Captial

Startups based in California, New York, and Massachusetts account for most of the VC tech funding in the United States. However, hotbeds of innovation are being spurred by VCs across the country.

With that in mind, we used CB Insights data to analyze the most active venture capital firm by the number of investments into tech startups in each US state from 2011 to 2016 year-to-date (through 5/9/16).

We based our selection on investments in unique tech companies based in each state (not counting multiple rounds to the same company). We excluded debt deals, and only considered venture capital, corporate venture capital, and super angel firms. When there was a tie across multiple VCs in a state we used number and recency of deals to select the most active tech startup investor for that state.

There were various top VCs (aka smart money VCs) making their mark on the map. For example, General Catalyst was the most active investor into Massachusetts tech startups, Foundry Group was the most active investor in Colorado, New Enterprise Associates in Maryland, and Bessemer Venture Partners in South Dakota. There was just one investor that was the most active VC into more than one state: New Mexico-based Flywheel Ventures was most active investor in New Mexico and Montana.

Want more US VC data? Visit the CB Insights Venture Capital Database.

MTI Grant Supports Maine Scallop Farming Project & Knowledge Exchange with Japanese Fishermen

May 20, 2016–Coastal Enterprises, Inc.’s (CEI’s) Fisheries Project was recently awarded a $134,189 MTI Cluster Grant to purchase and test three scallop aquaculture machines from a Japanese company as part of an on-going collaborative effort to develop scallop farming in Maine.  For the past six years, CEI has been working in partnership with Maine Sea Grant and the Friends of Aomori,[Japan], to further the development of a Maine scallop farming industry by leveraging a sister-state relationship Maine has had with Aomori Prefecture since 1994.


Over a two year period CEI will work with the Portland based Maine Scallop Company to demonstrate the financial feasibility of growing sea scallops using the Japanese “ear-hanging” technique. Receipt of this grant will allow CEI to complete one of the most important elements of the project, the purchase of equipment that will reduce labor and increase volume to make scallop farming profitable for Maine shellfish farmers.  In addition, part of the MTI funds will be used to explore the possibility of establishing an equipment sharing agreement with other shellfish farms.

“MTI’s grant and the subsequent purchase of the three machines will allow us to take our scallop farming demonstration project to a commercial level,” said Peter Stocks, co-owner of the Maine Scallop Company. “As with any business, scale is key to generating a solid financial return – this equipment will allow us to mechanize much of the front end labor required to suspend and grow scallops in the water column. Another machine will clean the biofouling off of scallop shells to help increase growth rates. We anticipate the equipment drastically reducing our labor costs. It’s the equivalent of going from tilling soil by hand to tilling soil with a tractor.”

In Maine, wild scallop seed “spat” is collected in the fall and transferred to trays and bottom cages to confine and protect juveniles from predators as they grow. To date in Maine, the growing of sea scallops to harvest size has primarily been conducted in cages and trays. The ear-hanging method used in Japan is far superior because it allows scallops to benefit from maximum flows of seawater and, subsequently, nourishment from phytoplankton, resulting in faster growth. The ear-hanging method is more labor intensive and without automation is cost prohibitive. Maine Scallop Company currently has a crop of scallops on ear-hung lines in Casco Bay and growth rates have exceeded expectations.

Further up the coast on the Damariscotta River—the heart of Maine’s farmed oyster industry—Maine Sea Grant’s Dana Morse is observing growth rates, biofouling, water temperature and ultimately assessing the yield and market value of ear-hung scallop meats. “Since early March of this year we are already seeing very strong growth rates with scallops that are deeper in the water column. This will probably slow down as the water warms but we’re very optimistic,” said Morse. Additional ear-hung grow out trials are scheduled to begin on other farms this summer.

Sea scallops are among the most lucrative commercial marine species caught in the United States. In 2015, the Maine wild caught scallop season witnessed prices at $12 – $16 per lb. Scallops are a high-value crop, they grow well in Maine’s coastal waters, and a growing market exists for the already half-billion dollars’ worth of scallops harvested from the US wild fishery. Maine’s established shellfish aquaculture industry is primarily made up of oysters, mussels and clams. “We see this as an opportunity to add another species to what Maine growers are already offering. I’m growing oysters now, if the project goes as planned, scallops will offer a way to firm up the economics of my business,” said Dr. Mark Green, co-owner of the Maine Scallop Company and Professor at Saint Joseph’s College.

In October of this year, a twelve member group of shellfish aquaculture professionals from Maine will visit Japan for intensive hands-on learning about Aomori’s well established scallop aquaculture industry.  The intensive one week tech transfer 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.

This international technology transfer will allow Maine to benefit from the well established Japanese method of farming sea scallops. “Japan has been successfully growing and harvesting sea scallops for 85 years,” said Hugh Cowperthwaite, Director of Fisheries Project at CEI and the driving force behind this initiative.  “Trial and error coupled with research and development can be prohibitively expensive, this project will allow us to witness first hand the successful technology used in Japan and with the purchase of the machines, we will then be able to apply what we’ve learned and bring the opportunity back to Maine.” The expected result will be that Maine shellfish aquaculture companies will benefit from a reduction of labor costs, and an increase in the scale and profitability of scallop farming.

The Maine Department of Marine Resources currently lists 110 standard aquaculture lease holders in Maine, 28 of which are permitted to grow scallops. Yet only a handful of the farms are presently working with scallops. “We believe a scallop industry could thrive in Maine if we introduce, refine and adapt the Japanese technology currently in use. Sea farmers and fishermen are looking for ways to diversity their income and continue to work on the water. It’s no secret that some of Maine’s wild caught fisheries continue to decline and as an industry we are very dependent on the lobster fishery. On top of that, about 90% of the seafood consumed in the United States is now imported. We need to be proactive and address the challenges before us” said Cowperthwaite.

About Maine Sea Grant
The Maine Sea Grant College Program and the University of Maine Cooperative Extension are one of 33 NOAA Sea Grant programs throughout the coastal and Great Lakes states. Dana Morse is based at the Darling Marine Center in Walpole on the Damariscotta River. Dana’s expertise includes education, outreach, technology transfer and applied research programs in aquaculture and commercial marine fisheries. For more information visit

About Maine Scallop Company
Maine Scallop Company is a joint business of Dr. Mark Green, a professor of Oceanography at Saint Joseph’s College and the owner of Basket Island Oyster Company. Peter Stocks is the Executive Manager of Calendar Island Mussel Company.  Together Peter and Mark have been growing scallops in Casco Bay using the “ear-hanging” technique over the last two years.

USDA features CEI as a Food Business Financer

May 11, 2016 – A recent USDA blog features CEI and client Farm Fresh R.I., as an example of the benefits of using multiple funders to meet the needs and achieve the goals of Food Business borrowers. Click here to read more.

Farm Fresh RI