March 8, 2016 – Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) announced today that its board of directors has unanimously chosen Betsy Biemann as the organization’s next Chief Executive Officer and Keith Bisson as its new President. Ms. Biemann currently serves as a consultant to FocusMaine and recently completed serving as a project director at the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard University’s John F. Kennedy School of Government. Mr. Bisson is CEI’s Senior Vice President of Program Management and Development. They will succeed founder, President and CEO Ron Phillips who will retire later this spring after 38 years of leading one of the most successful rural development organizations in the United States.
“With Betsy and Keith, CEI will have the leadership strength to continue and grow CEI’s impact in communities in Maine and across the rural United States,” said Ellen Seidman, Chair of CEI’s Board of Directors. “Both Betsy and Keith share a deep commitment to rural community and economic development and to social justice, and they have the talent, imagination and networks—in Maine and nationally—as well as the management and financial skills that are needed to lead this dynamic organization in an increasingly challenging world. Betsy and Keith will be worthy successors to Ron’s strong and effective leadership.”
The selections follow a year-long transition and search process, led by Board member Karin Gregory, a Biddeford, Maine, attorney, and assisted by the internationally-recognized firm Isaacson, Miller.
Ron Phillips, who will be stepping down later this spring, applauded the selections. “CEI is a mix of nonprofit and for profit economic development financing. Our work depends on relationships with financial and banking institutions, foundations, government agencies at all levels, and, increasingly, social and impact investors looking to make a difference in the lives of people and communities aspiring to greater economic opportunity.” Phillips said. “Betsy’s track record of strong leadership and extensive connections to regional and national foundation networks are vital to CEI’s growth and impact. Keith’s years of experience at CEI and in community development locally and nationally make him the perfect choice to take operational responsibility for CEI’s activities.”
“It is an honor to be selected to lead this entrepreneurial organization of dedicated and talented people working to create economically and environmentally healthy communities, a mission that is as critical today as when CEI was founded in 1977,” said Ms. Biemann. “I am excited to build on Ron Phillips’ path-breaking legacy and support CEI’s next era of innovation and impact, ensuring that needed resources and capital will continue to flow to the people and places in Maine and rural regions throughout the U.S.”
“I believe in the opportunities CEI has to create real change in the communities we serve,” said Mr. Bisson. “I am deeply committed to supporting and leading my passionate and motivated colleagues in this time of exciting change and growth. I look forward to working with Betsy and senior management in providing leadership that honors Ron’s accomplishments and recognizes a vibrant future for our regional, national, and global community development movement.”
During the last two years, Betsy Biemann led the Maine Food Cluster Project of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard University. From 2005 to 2012 she served as president of the Maine Technology Institute, after serving as an associate director at The Rockefeller Foundation in New York City, where she managed a national grant and investment program aiming to increase employment in low-income communities. She joined Rockefeller’s staff in 1996, after working in international development, principally in Africa. Betsy holds a B.A. in the History of Science and Biology from Harvard University and an M.P.A. from the Woodrow Wilson School of Public and International Affairs, Princeton University. Betsy has served in various capacities on CEI’s Board of Directors including Vice Chair since 2012, prior to stepping down from the Board at the end of 2015.
Keith Bisson manages CEI’s small business counseling, natural resources, and workforce development programs. He is also responsible for development and management of the $26 million Northern Heritage Development Fund; monitoring and participating in Federal rural development policy; and managing and developing foundation and investor relations. He holds a B.A. in Geography from McGill University in Montreal, and a master’s degree in Environmental Management from the Yale School of Forestry & Environmental Studies. Keith has been with CEI for 12 years. In November he was reelected to a second term on the board of Opportunity Finance Network, the national trade association for Community Development Finance Institutions.
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) is a mission-driven lender and investor specializing in rural economic development in Maine and throughout the U.S. With over $770 million in assets under management or committed, CEI combines financing, advising services and policy leadership to help create economically and environmentally healthy communities in which all people, especially those with low incomes, can reach their full potential. CEI supports small and medium-sized businesses; natural resource-based industries from the farm, fishery, aquaculture, forestry, renewable energy, and nature-based tourism sectors; and community facility, commercial real estate, and affordable housing development. Find out more at www.ceimaine.org.