“The local food sector in Maine is poised for incredible opportunity. The ‘growing edge’ is our metaphor for this time of change, when farms and food businesses are embracing risk, innovation and entrepreneurship in order to expand and drive the sector forward. At CEI, we listen to our clients and try to provide the advice and financing they need to scale up, effectively pushing that edge further out.”
— Gray Harris, Senior Program Director, Natural Resource Sectors
Fishing, farming, and forestry are the historically dominant sectors of Maine’s natural resource economy, but in more recent years, tourism has been a growing component. Together, these industries contribute 1 out of every 10 dollars in Maine’s economy. CEI provides financing, business advising, and other assistance to natural resource-based businesses with the goal of creating wealth in rural communities and preserving a rural way of life.
Since 2010, the Food Systems program, which includes both Agriculture and Fisheries sector activities, has leveraged CEI investment of $17.9 million with partner capital to facilitate the combined flow of over $66.2 million to the Maine food system, while at the same time providing technical assistance to 284 businesses.
CEI supports the resilience of people, communities, and nature by supporting the preservation of working landscapes and open spaces. Over the last four years, CEI has helped maintain nearly 8,000 acres of farmland in agricultural production and protected coastal fishing properties for permanent fishing access totaling 41 acres, and 7,190 feet of shoreline footage. Since 2013, acres maintained in production with support from CEI have increased by an average of 46% year-over-year. In addition to local food production, working landscapes and waterfronts are a critical asset that conserves wildlife habitat and enables groundwater recharge, while preserving a cultural heritage and connection to the land and sea for local residents.
CEI builds social equity by supporting economic development that creates quality jobs for low-income Maine people in underserved areas. As a result of CEI financing and technical business advising, nearly 600 Maine people have found or maintained employment in agricultural food system businesses with CEI support, and 1,280 fishing families have maintained fisheries-related livelihoods. Since 2013, CEI’s workforce solutions program has sourced employment for an additional 6,693
Extending our interest in sustainable resources, we are building a growing portfolio of renewable energy loans and investments in Maine and nearby states.
Our targeted industry focus helps us understand an industry and develop some level of expertise in the factors influencing it, such as regulations, taxation, supply and demand, and consumer preferences. It also allows us to target financing and business assistance to these sectors based on our growing expertise.