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November 21, 2019

CEI combines rural business knowledge with mission driven investments to build an economy that works for all

(Brunswick, Maine – November 21, 2019) – Coastal Enterprises (CEI) today released its annual impact data for 2019, showing how its unique combination of impact investments, small business advisory services and policy advocacy is contributing to more economically inclusive and resilient communities in Maine and across the country.

In all, the CEI family of organizations deployed over $24.1 million to 120 businesses, mostly in Maine, in the form of loans, microloans, equity and tax credit-motivated financing. This lending and investment activity contributed to the creation and preservation of 1,900 jobs across industries that spanned sustainable agriculture and food systems, aquaculture and fisheries, renewable energy, manufacturing, downtown revitalization and the arts.

CEI staff members provided business advice to 1,461 individuals in Maine, including 495 entrepreneurs through the CEI Women’s Business Centers, 108 immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs who received advice from CEI’s StartSmart team; and 175 food industry entrepreneurs who received business development resources to help scale their fisheries, aquaculture, agriculture and food systems businesses. Business advisors at Maine Small Business Development Centers hosted by CEI in Augusta, Bangor, Brunswick, Ellsworth, Waterville and Wiscasset worked with 683 entrepreneurs.

An additional 807 people received homebuying counseling and financial education that helped them purchase homes and avoid foreclosures.

The CEI team also advocated for pragmatic national and state policies on a range of issues, including workforce training, expansion of access to broadband services, renewable energy, childcare and seed capital for small businesses, sustainable agriculture practices, community reinvestment and consumer financial protection.

As part of a long-term effort to help communities and industries adapt to a changing climate, CEI issued a report with the Vermont Energy Investment Corporation and the Maine, New Hampshire and Vermont chapters of The Nature Conservancy, identifying regional investments needed to transition to a clean energy and more equitable economy. The report coincided with $2.86 million in new CEI financing in Maine for municipal solar projects in Waterville, Limestone, Tremont, Mount Desert Island (High School), and solar arrays for family farms in Monmouth and Brunswick. CEI also helped to finance an array for Dartmouth College in Hanover, NH. CEI is one of only two U.S. community development-focused financial institutions committed to using the Partnership for Carbon Accounting Financials (PCAF) standards to assess the GHG emissions of its portfolio and to disclose those results in three years.

Of note, during this last fiscal year, CEI:

  • Made 100 new loans to small businesses for a total of $17.4 million, bringing its loan portfolio to $48 million, the largest loan portfolio by dollars in CEI’s 41-year history.
  • Coached 100 portfolio companies on how good jobs strategies—including paying a living wage, providing basic employee benefits and a fair and engaging workplace—can boost company profitability.
  • Launched new products to encourage small business growth, including the Sea Farm Loan for aquaculturists.
  • Scaled deployment of Wicked Fast loans, closing 36 loans totaling $555,000 for small business owners, earning CEI the Small Business Administration’s Maine Microlender of the Year Award.

CEI subsidiary CEI Ventures closed 13 venture capital investments totaling over $2.5 million, including early and growth stage financing in Culture Fresh, Constant Energy and Dream Local Digital. CEI Capital Management placed all of its available New Markets Tax Credit allocation in 2018 and is currently managing a portfolio of 20 projects totaling $294.48 million. CEI’s subsidiary, Bright Community Capital, made its first investment of $300,000 in Vermont-based Encore Renewable Energy, and 30 Federal Street Investments deployed nearly $4 million in State Historic Tax Credit financing into the rehabilitation and reuse of 12 historic buildings that are revitalizing Maine’s downtowns.  

“Although the stock market is booming and the unemployment rate is low, there is a drumbeat of evidence that these figures mask the fact that many people and many regions are being left behind, and that increasingly who you are and where you are born shapes the opportunities that you face more than your ingenuity and hard work,” said CEI CEO Betsy Biemann. “We believe that when the economy is not working for everyone, it is not working for Maine or for our nation. That’s why our work is more important than ever.”

Since 1977, CEI has designed financial products, business development services and pragmatic policy solutions to realize its vision of a world in which communities are economically and environmentally healthy, enabling all people, especially those with low incomes, to reach their full potential. CEI’s subsidiaries attract additional investment dollars and add financing capacity through venture capital, historic tax credits, solar financing and New Markets Tax Credits. Together, over time, the CEI family of organizations has invested $1.4 billion in 2,951 businesses and projects that are changing Maine’s employment landscape and creating positive economic ripple effects in rural regions throughout the U.S.

“I am extremely grateful to the many people and organizations that are helping us advance our mission  and build resilient communities, especially through our investments in clean energy and child care,” said CEI president Keith Bisson. “Community-based climate change solutions create opportunities to link environmental sustainability and economic opportunity in rural America. Investing in early childhood education and the quality of jobs for early childhood education workers not only gives our children a strong start in life but also addresses our multifaceted workforce challenges.”

About CEI
Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) helps to grow good jobs, environmentally-sustainable enterprises, and shared prosperity in Maine and in rural regions across the country by integrating financing, business and industry expertise, and policy solutions. For more information, visit

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