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December 03, 2020

CEI's 2020 Impact: Supporting Businesses in their Efforts to Stay Open during the Pandemic, Creating or Saving 600+ Jobs

December 2, 2020 – Brunswick, Maine — Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) today reported its 2020 impact, a look at how its combined economic development tools—financing, business advice, financial coaching, and policy advocacy—helped to keep small businesses, families and local communities strong in the face of unprecedented challenges due to the pandemic and economic downturn.

From October 1, 2019 to September 30, 2020, the CEI family of organizations deployed over $38.5 million to 78 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 at least 632 jobs across industries that spanned sustainable agriculture and food systems, aquaculture and fisheries, renewable energy, manufacturing, community revitalization, technology solutions, and health and child care.

In rural Washington County, Little Bird Child Care opened its doors, allowing parents to go to work with the confidence their children were safe. Portland-based Constant launched a new software platform to financial service providers to accelerate hardship relief support. Glidden Point Oyster Co., in Edgecomb, shifted its focus to direct-to-consumer e-commerce sales. The Sharswood Ridge project is revitalizing the Sharswood neighborhood in Philadelphia, bringing much-needed affordable and workforce housing, a grocery store, bank branch and urgent care clinic to its residents.

“By investing in small business owners and entrepreneurs who are on the front lines, we are helping them adjust, stabilize and grow in a rapidly changing market environment,” said Betsy Biemann, CEO, CEI. “These are the businesses that keep our Main Streets humming. Dedicating time, energy and resources to them now is key to make sure that they survive and keep their neighbors at work in good jobs during this pandemic and economic crisis.”

CEI staff members provided one-on-one business advice to 2,315 individuals in Maine, including 761 entrepreneurs through the CEI Women’s Business Centers, 89 immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs who received advice from CEI’s StartSmart team, and 128 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 1,404 entrepreneurs.

An additional 642 people received homeownership counseling and financial education that helped them purchase homes, avoid foreclosures, and build their savings.

The CEI team continued to provide sector and community expertise to state and federal policymakers on pragmatic policies that can expand access to broadband services, renewable energy, child care and seed capital for small businesses. Betsy Biemann served on the Governor’s Economic Recovery Committee, which issued its report on November 24; CEI’s president, Keith Bisson, serves on the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Maine Tribal Populations, which released recommendations encouraging the Maine legislature to continue critical racial equity work. Maine Preservation, in partnership with CEI, Greater Portland Landmarks, GrowSmart Maine, and Maine Real Estate & Development Association (MEREDA), commissioned “Maine Historic Tax Credit Economic Impacts Report,” showing that Maine’s historic rehabilitation tax credit generated far-reaching economic and community impacts while more than paying for itself.

“As a mission-driven Community Development Financial Institution, CEI is channeling financing, technical assistance and policy advocacy towards the urgent challenges of an increasingly inequitable economy and a changing climate,” said CEI’s president, Keith Bisson. “Impact investing is a powerful tool for creating good jobs, community resilience and energy affordability.”

Of note, during this last fiscal year, CEI’s lending, investment, and advisory teams:

  • Made 69 new loans and four equity investments totaling over $17 million to 71 small businesses and projects in rural communities.
  • Grew its loan portfolio to $51 million, the largest loan portfolio by dollars in CEI’s 43-year history.
  • Provided temporary debt relief to  nearly 55% of CEI’s small business loan portfolio, including 21 farm borrowers, 10 borrowers who access CEI’s fee-for-service product, and 73 microloan borrowers.
  • Coached 53 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 while simultaneously lifting up working individuals and families.
  • Scaled deployment of its Wicked Fast loans, closing 36 loans totaling $685,652, providing access to small business owners seeking capital during the pandemic. CEI was recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as the 2020 Maine Microlender of the Year.

CEI’s subsidiaries, which offer additional equity, tax-motivated and debt financing, deepened the organization’s mission impact in Maine and extended it to rural regions across the U.S.  

  • CEI Ventures began raising capital for its fifth venture fund and completed nine equity investments totaling $900,000, helping current portfolio companies like Constant, Tilson Technology, Hyperlite Mountain Gear, CourseStorm and VETRO maintain employment levels and grow despite the pandemic.
  • CEI Capital Management is managing a portfolio of $260 million in New Markets Tax Credit investments and received $1.49 million in state credits from the Maine New Markets Capital Investment Program.
  • Bright Community Capital invested in two projects totaling nearly $3 million, advancing community solar on affordable housing rooftops in Roxbury and in Leicester, MA.
  • CEI’s newest subsidiary, CEI-Boulos Capital Management, placed $14 million in Opportunity Zone equity investments in seven high-impact real estate projects in communities outside of Maine, including Evansville and Indianapolis, Indiana; Pembroke, North Carolina; Philadelphia; Selma, Alabama; Rochester, NY; and Washington, DC.

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 $1.45 billion in 3,029 businesses and projects that are changing Maine’s employment landscape and creating positive economic ripple effects in rural regions throughout the U.S.

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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