Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) was founded in 1977 by Ron Phillips, a civil rights activist and recent seminary graduate, to help create income, employment, and ownership opportunities, especially for people left out of the economic mainstream. CEI made its first investment in 1978 in Boothbay Region Fish and Cold Storage, Inc., which had been recently destroyed by a fire. The facility represented the future of Maine’s working waterfront, and was an economic anchor for employees, fishermen, and the community.
Backed by the governor’s office and with grants and investments from local banks, charitable and religions organizations, and the federal government, Phillips modeled CEI on grassroots economic development models from developing countries. His vision holds true today: for 40 years, CEI has aggregated capital from a private, public, and community sources to promote value-added production capacity and local economic growth. In the meantime, CEI expanded its expertise in business and project financing, and developed complementary services in workforce development, business advising, housing counseling, and policy advocacy.
CEI has provided $1.27 billion in loans and investments for 2,649 businesses, helped to create or preserve 35,707 jobs, advised and counseled 53,143 people and businesses, and created or preserved 2,001 affordable housing units, and 5,806 child care slots. Both a Community Development Corporation (CDC) and Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI), CEI has grown to include several subsidiaries including CEI Ventures and CEI Capital Management.
In 2016, Betsy Biemann, CEO, and Keith Bisson, President took over the leadership of CEI upon Ron Phillips’ retirement. Together with CEI’s 80 staff members, they are working to ensure an even greater level of impact over the next 40 years.
Click to read! CEI History: 25th Anniversary Report
Click to read! History of CEI: A Rural Community Development Corporation