CEI Releases 2021 Impact Report: Helping Entrepreneurs Build Pandemic-Resilient Businesses, Growing 400+ Jobs

November 18, 2021 – Brunswick, Maine — Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) reported its 2021 impact, a look at how its combined economic development tools—business financing and advice, financial coaching and policy advocacy—helped entrepreneurs like Sara Rademaker of American Unagi in Waldoboro, Leslie Clark of Portland Recovery Community Center, Miranda Taylor of Taylor’s Tots in Canton, and Tawnya Clough of Mosher Seafood in Farmington, launch and grow their businesses through the myriad of challenges of the COVID-19 pandemic.

From October 1, 2020 to September 30, 2021, the CEI family of organizations deployed over $35.8 million to 95 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 427 jobs.

In Rangeley, Saddleback Mountain Ski resort reopened after five years, restarting an economic engine for the community. In Lewiston, a cohort of 13 women originally from Angola and Somalia participated in CEI’s Child Care Business Lab, accessing education, business development support and certifications that bring them one step closer to opening culturally attuned child care in their communities. Standard Biocarbon is in the process of purchasing equipment for producing high quality biochar in East Millinocket. Along Maine’s coast, Atlantic Sea Farms worked with two dozen fishermen growing and harvesting kelp to diversify and decarbonize the working waterfront. And in Rochester, NY, the new Mercantile on Main is revitalizing the downtown by supporting food-based entrepreneurship and building a community hub.

“The pandemic is shining a spotlight on barriers in our economic system that prevent people from gaining a foothold, even when they work full time,” said Betsy Biemann, CEI’s CEO. “The disproportionate impact of the pandemic on low-income people, people of color and women has highlighted the important role that community development financial institutions, like CEI, play as capillaries channeling financial resources and small business support to people and enterprises on the edges of our economy.”

In addition to providing loans and investments, CEI reviewed and distributed nearly $19.5 million in 827 CARES Act pandemic relief grants from the State of Maine to small business owners, including 533 farmers and food producers, helping the people who drive Maine’s local food system cover unexpected business costs during the pandemic.  

CEI staff members also provided one-on-one business advice or training to 3,640 individuals in Maine, including 1,679 entrepreneurs through the CEI Women’s Business Centers, 69 immigrant and refugee entrepreneurs who received advice from CEI’s StartSmart program, and 91 fisheries and aquaculture industry entrepreneurs who received business development resources to help scale their enterprises. Business advisors at Maine Small Business Development Centers hosted by CEI in Augusta, Bangor, Brunswick, Ellsworth, Waterville and Wiscasset worked with 2,003 entrepreneurs.

An additional 658 people received homeownership counseling and financial education that helped them purchase homes, avoid foreclosures, build their savings and improve their credit scores, supporting applicants in securing $384,500 in loans.

The CEI team continued to advocate for pragmatic state and federal policies that can expand access to broadband services, renewable energy, child care and seed capital for small businesses. This included testifying on 21 separate bills before the Maine state legislature and serving on the Permanent Commission on the Status of Racial, Indigenous and Tribal Populations.

“Even as business owners struggle to hire and retain workers and manage supply chain disruptions, they are looking for solutions,” said CEI’s president, Keith Bisson. “Maine’s legacy industries are leading the way by innovating for long-term economic and environmental sustainability. We see the future in climate-friendly aquaculture and companies using new technologies that support sustainable forestry practices and expand renewable energy production and distribution.”

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

  • Made 68 new loans and seven equity investments, totaling over $15 million, to 70 small businesses and projects, 45% of which were women-owned.
  • Lending included 25 Wicked Fast microloans totaling $373,500, to small business owners seeking fast capital during the pandemic. CEI was recognized by the U.S. Small Business Administration as the 2021 Maine Microlender of the Year for the third year in a row.
  • Managed a loan portfolio of $46.6 million.
  • Coached 76 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 and contributing to vibrant communities.

 A $10 million grant from philanthropist MacKenzie Scott in December 2020 affirmed CEI’s mission and impact in the communities it serves. CEI is dedicating these funds over the next several years to: responding to effects of the COVID pandemic on our borrowers; investing in CEI’s organizational capacity; advancing CEI’s support for food system and climate change resilience; and ensuring equity and economic opportunity for entrepreneurs of color and others who are not well served by the traditional financial system.

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

  • 30 Federal Street Investments, CEI’s state historic tax financing subsidiary, invested $5.4 million in historic redevelopment projects, including Reed School Residences in Portland and The LeMont Block in Brunswick.
  • Bright Community Capital invested $3.2 million in four projects, leveraging an additional $2.1 million in capital, advancing community solar and storage in Massachusetts, the District of Columbia and Connecticut.  
  • CEI-Boulos Capital Management placed $4.6 million in Opportunity Zone equity investments in affordable housing projects in Greenville, South Carolina and Birmingham, Alabama. The company also celebrated multiple openings of previous investments, including the redevelopment of the historic, long-shuttered St. James Hotel in Selma, Alabama, which supports the city’s growing civil rights tourism industry; and new student housing at the Native American founded University of North Carolina Pembroke, which limits tuition costs to help make college affordable to low-income students. The company manages a portfolio of 10 projects and is planning new investments.
  • CEI Capital Management made a $1.4 million Maine New Markets Capital Investment Program investment into Saddleback Mountain Ski Resort and is managing a portfolio of $180 million in New Markets Tax Credit investments in 11 companies in rural communities across the country and a portfolio of $11.5M in two Maine New Market Capital Investment Program projects within the state.
  • CEI Ventures held a first close on its fifth venture fund, the Good Jobs Fund, raising $14.85 million from 32 accredited investors, and completed two equity investments totaling $1.5 million into Middlebury, Vermont’s AquaViTea and Portland’s MedRhythms. CEI Ventures also made 4 follow-on investments totaling $501,612 in companies in its existing portfolio.

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 $1.49 billion in 3,109 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 www.ceimaine.org.

The CEI offices remain closed to the public, but we're hard at work! Reach out or click here for a list of COVID-19 Business Resources.
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