CEI’s 2014 annual awards, presented at our annual meeting on March 11, go to Maine Community Health Options (Partnership Award), Maine Fair Trade Lobster (Sustaining Community Award), and outgoing and long-time board member Annee Tara (Founders Award).
CEI Partnership Award: Maine Community Health Options
Maine Community Health Options was launched in 2012 as Maine’s new Consumer Oriented and Operated (or CO-OP) non-profit insurance plan. Maine is one of 23 states to secure funding for a CO-OP through the Affordable Care Act. Among its CO-OP peers, MCHO is leading the way as a sustainable model for a health insurance plan that is designed by and for its members.
When MCOH moved into its current offices in Lewiston’s Bates Mill complex in April 2013, its staff included 29 employees. That number has grown to over 70—signaling MCHO’s role as a notable employer in the Lewiston area. Maine is among one third of all states in which CO-OPs are now price leaders on the new health insurance Marketplace.
As Kevin Lewis, CEO of MCHO said in his acceptance speech:
“We identified CEI very early on as a key partner. Our first pitch for financing as a newly established CO-OP was to CEI. This was natural given CEI’s outstanding role as a mission-focused CDFI. Because the Affordable Care Act disallowed federal loan funds to be used for marketing, our request to CEI certainly focused on marketing funds, but more importantly it was based on the understanding that CEI’s partners could very well be our partners too, and that we could also help the very same businesses and economic engines of Maine become more competitive on a national and international landscape.
We hear of people for whom our coverage means that they can pursue their own career aspirations, often times as a sole proprietor or small business enterprise. This is the unleashing of the creative economy that offers so much promise for Maine. We are proud to be a partner in cost savings and economic success.”
For prioritizing partnerships in their business plan, and establishing a network of supportive partnerships to increase awareness of and access to health insurance coverage, Maine Community Health Options received CEI’s Partnership Award.
CEI Sustaining Community Award: Maine Fair Trade Lobster
In recent years, Maine has exported up to 70% of its lobster to Canada for processing, a key step in creating value-add products and steady employment within an industry know for its economic highs and lows. Michael Tourkistas, President of Maine Fair Trade Lobster, founded his company with the idea of keeping valuable jobs and revenue in Maine. With co-lender Machias Savings Bank, CEI financed a combined $2.5 million for renovations, machinery, and operating capital to get a former but now defunct processing plant in Gouldsboro, Maine, up and running as a lobster processing operation.
In June of last year the plant began hiring: 129 new supervisory and production jobs offering fair wages, benefits, and the chance for weekly overtime hours. The list of benefits Maine Fair Trade Lobster has brought this coastal Downeast Maine community is far reaching:
• Paid transportation for workers living in the Bangor-Brewer area who commute daily
•Support for Spanish speaking employees through Mano en Mano
•Substantial bonuses to those who complete a full year of employment
• Rotation of job tasks to eliminate risk of repetitive motion injuries
• In discussions with the Gouldsboro Selectmen to try and provide low income housing on town-owned land for full-time workers and their families.
Congratulations and thanks to Maine Fair Trade Lobster for bringing lobster processing to Maine, and with it, community development opportunities for rural Maine.
Founder’s Award: Annee Tara
Annee Tara ended a many-term appointment to CEI’s Board of Directors on March 11, 2014. Her contributions to our mission include serving as Board Chair and on various committees–helping CEI enormously in its growth and governance. Annee first crossed paths with CEI in the 1980s as part of successful efforts to preserve working waterfront properties along Maine’s coastline. She is a lawyer, former development director at Central Maine Community College, and former deputy director of Maine’s Department of Conservation.
An advocate for free and fair elections, Annee has been a partisan election observer in Maine, and has served her Town of Brunswick as Deputy Registrar of Voters, Election Clerk, and Deputy Warden. Annee is a Red Cross Emergency Volunteer, and was deployed to East Texas in the aftermath of Hurricane Ike. She has also been a Global Volunteer, most recently working with people with disabilities in Crete.
Our sincere thanks to Annee for her commitment to social and economic justice, and her support for CEI.