Ocean Renewable Power Company

Powering-Up Remote Communities

Kvichak River, Igiugig, Alaska

Bringing power to rural, off-grid locations presents formidable challenges. There’s a reason these communities can still lack reliable and affordable power nearly 150 years after the first electric power grid was created. Since 2004, Ocean Renewable Power Company (ORPC) has addressed this challenge with a series of increasingly innovative marine hydrokinetic turbines. ORPC successfully harnessed the powerful tides at the mouth of the Bay of Fundy, generated power from the remote Kvichak River for the community of Igiugig in Alaska’s Bristol Bay region, and is now scaling up to commercialization through a series of marine hydrokinetic tidal and river projects in northern Quebec’s Nunavik region.

For over ten years, ORPC has stayed true to its founding principles: partner with local communities and develop power systems that do not harm the marine environment.

Local contractors and ORPC team members in Igiugig, Alaska.

“By soliciting ideas from local communities, we build trust and our projects are inherently more likely to succeed. It can be a long and sometimes circuitous process, but in the end local partnerships pay huge dividends.”

–Chris Sauer, Co-Founder and CEO of ORPC

Part of the commitment to rural coastal communities is ensuring that fish and other marine life, which provide sustenance and economic activity, are not harmed. For example, Alaska’s Igiugig region produces the world’s largest supply of sockeye salmon. “We’ve had to prove, again and again, that our technologies don’t harm fish,” said Chris. “We’ve now got years of data demonstrating they do not negatively impact fish populations. That’s key for any community where we’re going to locate a project.”

ORPC has been through eleven deployments and five generations of its proprietary technology. “We had to work through a lot of reliability issues,” said Chris. “We have access to super computers through Penn State Applied Research Lab which has allowed us to develop critical analytical tools and 3D models.”

Power system on station in Kvichak River, Igiugig, Alaska.

Financing is another critical element of ORPC’s success. “We’ve gone to CEI twice now for financing and both times secured financing that was absolutely crucial to our survival,” noted Chris. The most recent round is a $750k working capital loan to sustain the company through the final stages of commercializing its marine hydrokinetic power systems and the initial project in northern Quebec.

“This financing addressed a need that was critical and immediate. Without it, I can honestly say we probably wouldn’t be here.”

–Chris Sauer, Co-Founder and CEO of ORPC

 

Goranson Farm

Innovation & Efficiency: A Family-Owned Farm becomes Energy Independent

Jan Goranson and Rob Johanson in front of the solar trackers which were installed in 2016.

Goranson Farm, a certified organic farm in Dresden, Maine, has been in the Goranson family for three generations. Jan Goranson and her husband Rob Johanson began operating the farm in 1986 and purchased it from Jan’s mother in 2000. In the past decade, Jan and Rob have diversified revenue streams by widening product offerings, marketing products directly to consumers, and building community and market share. Today, the farm boasts 275 summer CSA members and 130 winter members, and products ranging from farm raised meats, specialty potatoes, maple syrup and everything in between.

In keeping with their innovative approach, Jan and Rob looked to increase operating efficiencies through reduction of energy costs.

“It’s all about making the farm survive from one generation to the next.”

–Rob Johanson, co-owner, Goranson Farm

Solar arrays at Goranson Farm

Through the combination of a REAP grant and financing from CEI, Goranson Farm installed a solar array of four Allearth ground-mounted solar trackers that will offset nearly 90% of the farm’s considerable electric bill. Once CEI’s loan is paid off, what was once a significant operating expense for the farm will become revenue stream.  In the meantime, the loan payments are comparable to prior electric bills.

“This is the best farmland in the state,” said Rob. “It’s fertile floodplain and productive for farming. This solar array gets us one step closer to ensuring long term sustainability and viability.”

 

The following video was shot and edited by Sam Marjerison, a sophomore at Yarmouth High School, who owns and operates the student-run media company Dirigo Media.

Winterstick Snowboards

Carving Out Jobs in Carrabassett Valley

President Tom Fremont-Smith with a Winterstick Swallowtail Board.

Winterstick Snowboards, a hand-crafted snowboard maker located in Carrabassett Valley, is creating new jobs at the base of Sugarloaf Mountain. With the support of CEI’s Workforce Solutions and Lending teams, Winterstick is dedicated to building a manufacturing business in an economically depressed region of the state.

President Tom Fremont-Smith, Owner and Product Designer Seth Wescott, and the Winterstick Snowboards team hand-crafts each snowboard in a new production facility financed in part by CEI.  Manufacturing research and development also takes place at the facility, and new boards are tested right outside on the mountain.

Established in 1972 in Salt Lake City, Winterstick was one of the first backcountry snowboard manufacturing companies on the snowboarding scene. The Winterstick brand legacy continues to stand out among backcountry snowboard enthusiasts, outliving many of its industry competitors over the past four decades.

With a population of just under 30,000 (2015 Census), and a per capita income at the national poverty level, Franklin County is in dire need of quality jobs. According to the Maine Department of Labor, Franklin County has only seen private employment growth for one quarter since 2013. Every year-round job in this part of the state is valuable. More jobs are anticipated to be created over the next year, as Winterstick establishes its home in the mountains of Maine.

 

Bumbleroot Organic Farm

Establishing Roots in Southern Maine

Jeff, Abby, Ben, and Melissa

Friends Jeff and Abigail Fisher, Ben Whalen and Melissa Law began farming on just two acres of leased land in Buxton, Maine, in 2014. As they gained experience, their dreams grew, and they set out to find a piece of land of their own. “For new farmers, finding land that is affordable with the necessary infrastructure to run a business is challenging. You really have to make do with what you have and make it work,” said Jeff.

Flowers from Bumbleroot Organic Farm

When 88 acres of farmland came on the market at the former Weeks Farm in Windham, the friends jumped at the opportunity, and Bumbleroot Organic Farm was born. When time and money was tight, CEI stepped in to support Bumbleroot Organic Farm through financing and technical assistance.

“CEI was one of the first lenders we contacted and from day one everyone at CEI was supportive of our proposal and helped us to articulate our business plan and vision for the property. As a multi-member LLC made up of two couples, having just finished our first farm season, we might have seemed like less than ideal candidates for a loan. But CEI recognized what we had accomplished in our first year and believed in our potential to deliver on our plans for the future.”–Jeff Fisher, Co-Owner Bumbleroot Organic Farm

at the local farmers market

In order to secure purchase of The Weeks Farm, a business plan involving a Maine Farmland Trust Land Easement which significantly offset costs and protected the farmland, plus technical assistance and a loan from CEI was set in motion.

Establishing roots at the new location in Windham has helped the farmers not only grow their production, but also their clientele. With daily reach into the Greater Portland area, Bumbleroot is already expanding their CSA offerings and membership.

Bumbleroot Organic Farm is a rising leader in the southern Maine community because of its commitment to increasing access to locally-grown farm-fresh food which is distributed to low-income and disadvantaged Mainers through programs including Creative Trails in Portland and My Place Teen Center in Westbrook, as well as accepting SNAP benefits.

Bumbleroot Organic Farm CSA basket

So what’s next for Bumbleroot? Growing from two acres to 88 acres of land will allow the farmers to add livestock, perennial crops, cover crops, and winter greenhouses. “With CEI’s help we will be able to continue to connect people with the land and food that sustains them,” Jeff concluded.

Bumbleroot’s 2017 CSA shares are on sale now!

Fork Food Lab

"Connection" is the Key Ingredient

Inside Fork Food Lab, Portland’s first food incubator, the members representing 27 specialty food companies who rent out the shared kitchen space are building more than food products; they are building businesses and connections. Whether placing orders together to bring down costs, sharing information about experiences with a packaging consultant, or giving tips on increasing production volume, each individual enterprise is part of a larger collective effort.

“We wanted to start Fork to create an environment where lots of food entrepreneurs can work around each other to collaborate, learn, and have fun. At the end of the day, humans want to connect. We do better mentally and business-wise when we’re around other people.” — Fork Food Lab Co-Founder Neil Spillane

Building that human connection was at the core of Fork Food Lab’s philosophy from the beginning.

In order to make the dream a reality, Neil Spillane and Eric Holstein, co-founders, needed to first demonstrate the potential for a food incubator in Portland, and ultimately find the funding necessary. With overwhelming community support and networking prowess, Neil and Eric tapped into every resource they knew. “There wasn’t one person on the radar that I didn’t approach,” said Neil.

They realized early on that assembling a funding package would be the greatest challenge, as Fork fell into a rare area of the investment and financing spectrum. The co-founders worked with CEI loan officer Art Stevens to determine the best possible financing options for Fork Food Lab. Among the various funding sources, they identified an SBA loan, coupled with a gap loan from CEI for equipment financing.

“Art Stevens distinctly had the success of our business as a top priority. CEI was the first one in as a professional financier,” said Neil.

CEI’s Agriculture and Food Sector specialists immediately recognized that Fork presents a unique opportunity for small food producers, many of whom are creating recipes and products out of local ingredients in their home kitchens. “We are so excited about Fork because it offers a proven model for these makers to grow and begin to scale production without taking on a costly facility of their own,” said Daniel Wallace of CEI. “Essentially, Fork provides a safe ‘middle ground’ for these companies, backed up by a host of services and connections to new markets.”

In addition to the gap loan and technical assistance, Fork Food Lab has worked with the Women’s Business Center at CEI who currently has six clients working at the food incubator, the Workforce Development team, and the Start Smart program connecting immigrant-owned startups and businesses to the food incubator. At the Taste the World public event held in November, Fork Food Lab welcomed CEI clients Ameera Bread, Asmara Restaurant, and Babylon Restaurant to showcase ethnic foods, teach about other cultures, and offer a space for food entrepreneurs and the Portland community to connect over a shared love of food. “We hope to continue this type of collaboration with Fork and other community organizations with the ultimate goal of supporting early stage immigrant owned food businesses,” added John Scribner, Director of CEI’s StartSmart program. This is just one of a robust lineup of events promoting the talents and products of the Fork member community and connecting them with businesses and individuals outside the walls of the incubator.

Fork Food Lab has gained a tremendous amount of excitement and momentum, and has quickly become one of Portland’s premier venues of workspace, event space, entrepreneurship, resources, knowledge-sharing, opportunity, and connection.

“We’re convinced that Fork will catalyze significant growth for the small food producers entering Maine’s local food economy,” said Daniel Wallace. “Plus, the principals (Neil and Eric) are awesome and deeply engaged in the local community.”

 

In June, 2017, Fork Food Lab announced a merger with Brooklyn-based Foodworks, a shared kitchen with a similar goal of helping food startups grow. “We are very excited to partner with a company that shares in our vision for a more robust local food system where entrepreneurs with creative recipes can strategically grow,” said Spillane, who will stay on as General Manager of Fork Food Lab. “This merger will allow Fork Food Lab companies to expand distribution into the large New York market and leverage supplier discounts that are available to current Foodworks producers.”

Dove Tail Bats, LLC

Big League Manufacturing in Maine

In the small town of Shirley Mills, in Piscataquis County, a manufacturing business reaches far beyond its rural Maine roots. Dove Tail Bats, LLC, owned by husband and wife Paul and Teresa Lancisi, specializes in manufacturing custom wood baseball bats made from Maine-grown northern white ash, yellow birch, and rock maple at both the retail and wholesale level, providing bats to amateurs and professionals alike throughout the US, Latin America, Canada, Japan as well as Australia.

Paul Lancisi, Owner of Dove Tail Bats

After being turned down by other lenders, Paul and Teresa Lancisi came to CEI with a need for working capital. Their business had been in operation for 11 years, but in order to grow the business while maintaining their high quality custom-made bats, they needed financing.  “The inability to acquire financial backing in a capital-intensive business is a major hurdle to overcome,” said CEI Loan Officer, Cole Palmer. “Paul and Teresa have carefully considered every business decision. In one word, they are resourceful.”

“CEI was willing to go to bat for us when other institutions were not.  This loan enabled us to have the working capital necessary to grow our business by acquiring faster, high tech equipment and at the same time increasing our buying power to drastically lower our material costs.” –Paul Lancisi, Owner

While the majority of their competitors have grown too large to focus on the importance of personalized service both at the professional level and the amateur level of baseball, Dove Tail Bats views themselves as a niche player where quality, value, and a strong focus on customer service wins them new customers over time.

CEI’s loan helped the Lancisi’s purchase a CAD (computer aided design) system which replaced the physical template process, creating the ability to expand template options, improve production, and free some much-needed space in their warehouse. The loan also supported various renovations to their warehouse space, and provided working capital to invest in labor, inventory, and accounts receivable as the business continues to grow.

In the 2015 World Series, 70% of the runs scored were with Dove Tail Bats. Theresa and Paul Lancisi, owners, stand in front of the Dove Tail Bat which is on display in the Hall of Fame.

“CEI worked hard to promote our best interests in the loan application process.  They were extremely professional and caring about our business and I would highly recommend them to other Maine businesses.”

–Theresa Lancisi, Owner

As one of just a handful of bat manufacturing companies under contract with Major and Minor League Baseball, and the only company of its kind in Maine, Dove Tail Bats is growing rapidly. In 2016, the business doubled its production to keep up with production demand. The addition of a split billet mill enables the purchase and use of locally grown wood. New customers include MLB players Eric Hoser, Alex Gordon, and Mike Moustakas from the Kansas City Royals, Bryce Harper from the Nationals, and Yoan Moncada of the White Sox. Dove Tail Bats continues to provide the highest quality bats to its dedicated following among players who put their faith in the strength of Maine-grown trees.

Sleepy Poet, LLC

Dream Comes True for Gastonia, NC Antique Mall

20161006_143654Dickson Shreffler, owner of Sleepy Poet Stuff, Inc., was the perfect candidate for C7a. He started the antique mall business with Sleepy Poet Stuff about 20 years ago in Charlotte. Sleepy Poet provides space for independent antique vendors to sell their wares. Vendors are very loyal, rarely leaving once they join the retail space. In fact, ten of them have been with Sleepy poet for more than 12 years.

Thanks to increased consumer demand, Sleepy Poet sought to expand. After an extensive search and due diligence the owners found the perfect space, the old Kress Five and Dime building in downtown Gastonia, about a half hour drive from Charlotte. While the historic building fit the antique entrepreneur’s brand, the structure had been vacant for nearly two years and required a good deal of work to be ready for business. After renovation the space should accommodate 120 vendors.

Dickson approached two different local banks for a loan to finance the building acquisition and renovation costs without success. Needing a solution, He turned to LINC (which stands for Leveraging Information and Networks to access Capital), an online tool designed by the Small Business Administration (SBA) which allows business owners to complete a basic online questionnaire that is then matched to interested lenders. He was matched with C7a which works with small businesses owners to help them secure financing when turned down by a bank or face challenging loan terms.sp

 “C7a didn’t just offer us a loan; they had the flexibility to structure the loan in a way that worked for us.”

–Dickson Shreffler, Owner, Sleepy Poet

The C7a loan represents more than allow Sleepy Poet’s expansion to Gastonia. It will also be a catalyst for new foot traffic for the western side of Main Street as new small businesses expand the prime downtown shopping district creating new opportunities for local vendors and for the historic downtown area.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Revitalizing Community and Textile Manufacturing in Biddeford

Hyperlite Mountain Gear

Built from the ground up by brothers Mike and Dan St. Pierre, Hyperlite Mountain Gear has created a brand that exemplifies a commitment to American-made, sustainable products.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear was established seven years ago by brothers Mike and Dan St. Pierre, who wanted to create durable, lightweight gear for their own adventures. After about a year of prototyping and testing in a family camp, they officially launched the company  in Biddeford’s Pepperell Mill with aspirations of developing unique products for outdoor enthusiasts and everyday backpack-wearers. Now, after six years and three expansions in the mill, Hyperlite Mountain Gear employs 37 individuals, has multiple job openings, and anticipates a staff numbering 45 by the end of 2017’s first quarter.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear at Biddeford’s Pepperell Mill

Biddeford’s historic Pepperell Mill, established in the 1840’s sprawling along the Saco River, was a primary location for textile manufacturing for over a century. Thousands of people moved to Biddeford to secure jobs at the mill, and many made careers of their textile work in the growing urban community. Though the rich textile history of Pepperell Mill has waned significantly, the St. Pierre’s see growth in Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s future at the mill.

Where many manufacturing startups make the transition from cottage industry production to internationally exported manufacturing, Hyperlite Mountain Gear has held true to its “hand-built in America” motto and keeps production completely in-house. “We can’t use products that have mistakes,” said Mike. “With a small inventory hold, we can make changes in production, when necessary, happen in real-time. Keeping production in-house is a necessity if we want to provide the highest quality for consumers.”

“You hit brick walls all the time and you have to consistently figure out how to jump over them or knock them down. And to be a successful entrepreneur, that drive to push on has to be in your DNA.” -Mike St. Pierre, CEO, Hyperlite Mountain Gear (pictured above)

The recently expanded production floor at Biddeford’s historic Pepperell Mill is buzzing with tattooed millennials and baby boomers alike, moving fluidly among shelves of fabrics and rows of machines. From CAD programming to cutting and stitching, the committed craftspeople of Hyperlite Mountain Gear have all gone through thorough job-specific training. Regardless of experience, all production workers train alongside seasoned employees for anywhere from two to four months. Because of the technical fibers used in the company’s gear, precision sewing, manufacturing, and quality control are paramount in Hyperlite Mountain Gear’s production model.

After several years of approaching CEI for financing, Mike and Dan St. Pierre (CEO and CFO) sealed the deal in 2016 with a $250,000 investment from CEI Ventures.

“Mike and Dan are incredibly committed to building a sustainable business through continuous improvement, employee engagement, and financial control.  I am thoroughly impressed by their understanding of the Hyperlite Mountain Gear core user and their ability to design and create winning, high quality products.” –Chandler Jones, Principal, CEI Ventures

While the St. Pierre’s have faced challenges in every area of business ownership and production, they embody the quality of a true entrepreneur: a motivation to continuously persevere.

Hyperlite Mountain Gear

“Any good entrepreneur needs to have a singular focus or vision, and a willingness to solve any problem that comes your way. You need to have passion in the product and continually push forward.”

–Dan St.Pierre, CFO, Hyperlite Mountain Gear

High performance textile companies like Hyperlite Mountain Gear are mixing innovative technologies with traditional practices to revitalize the local Biddeford community as well as the US-made textile industry.

 

Pika Energy

Clean Energy Manufacturing

26384373004_b4451318cb_hCEI Ventures, Inc., the for-profit venture capital subsidiary of CEI, announces the initial closing of its fourth fund, Coastal Ventures IV, and the fund’s first investment in Pika Energy, Inc. This investment in the clean energy manufacturer advances CEI’s socially responsible fund portfolio.

Coastal Ventures IV held its initial closing of $7.2 million in December 2015 with a targeted capitalization of $25 million. The fund targets job creation for people with low incomes and socially beneficial products and services.

Westbrook, Maine-based Pika Energy, founded in 2010 by MIT-trained engineers, manufactures solar and wind products using a patented bus that acts as an “energy operating system” to automate the flow of clean power. The company, which has won five Department of Energy awards, recently announced its new product line that enables simplified solar-plus-battery configurations for clean backup power and energy arbitrage.

16793511437_ececa30f89_h“Pika Energy uses U.S.-based manufacturing to make environmentally beneficial products, and is an excellent example of a company furthering the values and mission of the Coast Ventures IV LP fund.”

–Nat Henshaw, President of CEI Ventures

Ben Polito, co-founder and CEO of Pika Energy added, “It’s thrilling to be working with Coastal Ventures, a firm that shares our vision for making renewable energy affordable, attractive and mainstream.”

From Foreclosure to Home Recovery

CEI Housing Counseling

“CEI is here to help people like me get back on our feet. My home did not become part of the foreclosure statistics of Maine.”–Karen Griffin, CEI Housing Counseling client

One month after a divorce, Karen Griffin was served foreclosure papers on her Swan’s Island home, a financial burden that seemed too great to overcome. Although filing for bankruptcy looked like the only option, Karen was determined to find another solution.

She first reached out to the State of Maine Consumer Protection Agency, which referred her to CEI. She quickly learned that government programs existed to help save her home from foreclosure.

The process began with a tremendous amount of paperwork, much of which was unfamiliar to Karen. After gathering months of financial statements, payroll stubs, and income status forms, she filed for mediation to help the process move forward. Mediation provided a vehicle for Karen’s voice to be heard, with assistance from a representative of the State of Maine, and CEI Housing Counseling & Education Director Jason Thomas.

“That entire year I stayed in limbo just doing everything I was asked to do, but living in a state of not knowing what the end result would be. Jason not only helped me assemble the paperwork, but he was on the other end of the phone when I gave in to fear and confusion as to why CitiMortgage would not make a decision,” said Karen.

Over a year after being served foreclosure papers, Karen was approved for a temporary plan requiring her to make three mortgage trial payments before final approval. During the payment period, Jason counseled her through legal struggles regarding signatures and ownership. Jason also advised her to return to a full time job as a civil service worker as she continued to make mortgage payments beyond the trial period. After over 17 months, Karen received a letter stating that she was no longer in foreclosure.

“This is not a handout by any stretch,” said Karen. “CEI and Jason Thomas were invaluable in this endeavor. Very little is available to the individual American when dealing with large banks and corporations. The fact I am now making a $1,419 mortgage payment for a home that I did not want to lose through bankruptcy is a testament to the fact I was not looking for handout-just help and guidance to save my home. It took a whole lot more than the [federal] Making Home Affordable program to make this happen. That was the door, and the CEI team that got me through.”

“While each homeowner’s situation and challenge is unique, Karen’s story is one that has been all too familiar in the years since the housing crisis,” said CEI’s Jason Thomas. “Servicers and banks unprepared for the great numbers of people that rightfully seek assistance often had cases ‘fall through the cracks’ and become elongated beyond all reasonable expectation. While many national lenders would try to assuage borrowers’ fears, it’s much easier said than done to simply ‘relax’ when it’s your own home under threat of foreclosure. Our constant hope is that we can assist Maine homeowners in navigating what can be a challenging and confusing process at a very stressful time in their lives.”