Growing Maine’s Rural Economy: Understanding the Coastal Enterprises Model

Founded by a seminary school graduate in 1977, Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) has become nationally known as a leader in community economic development and community finance. The story of its work over 41 years in Maine may hold lessons for community development in rural communities far beyond the state’s borders.

Growing Maine’s Rural Economy: Understanding the Coastal Enterprises Model

CEI founder Ron Phillips, surrounded by early employees and program partners.

Maine’s 3,500 miles of coastline, with craggy peninsulas, islands and diverse geography, is considered by many to be its most valuable, unique natural resource. A visitor traversing the state via Coastal Route 1 might describe all the communities along the Gulf of Maine and its islands as quaint. But that belies the diversity of the communities, culturally and economically. Maine’s fishing and marine heritage is evident at nearly every turn.

Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) was incorporated in 1977 along this route in Bath, Maine, a small city that today has about 8,300 residents.

Then, a startup nonprofit with no money in the bank, its founders had an audacious vision to expand economic opportunity for people living along the mid-coast of Maine. Its first project was to create a fisherman’s co-op in Boothbay Harbor and make a startup loan. This sparked a model that CEI has used for 40 years to help build an economy that works for everyone in its home state and, through its subsidiaries, in rural regions across the U.S.

One of the nation’s first community development financial institutions (CDFIs), CEI has financed more than 2,700 businesses, providing $1.3 billion of capital, with another $2.8 billion leveraged on top of that. This lending and investment activity has helped create and sustain close to 40,000 jobs and create and preserve more than 2,000 affordable housing units. Now headquartered in Brunswick, Maine, CEI employs 81 people.

CEI’s 41-year history holds lessons for community development in rural communities far beyond Maine’s borders. To get a better picture of the model that has made CEI successful, let’s take a closer look at a critical industry in which it has played a catalytic role—namely, Maine’s fisheries.

The ongoing challenges faced by fishermen are common to rural, natural resource-based economies prone to boom-and-bust cycles.On paper, Maine’s fishing industry may look like big business, with over $560 million in landings—that is, fish hauled in from the sea—recorded last year. In reality, it is mostly made up of a string of small businesses, often family-owned and operated.

Over the years, this ecosystem of small businesses has been buffeted by global factors mostly out of its control – from climate change to overfishing to the vagaries of consumer demand.

While Maine’s landings of seafood are the third-highest in the United States, more than 90 percent of the seafood consumed in the nation is imported. Maine’s historic commercial fisheries focused on groundfish, shrimp, lobster and sea urchins. But that business declined dramatically in the Gulf of Maine as species disappeared. Lobster catches are currently holding Maine’s industry together.

That may be about to change. The Gulf of Maine Research Institute recently forecast that fast-warming waters could cut the lobster population in the Gulf some 62 percent by 2050. Maine’s waters have already warmed faster than 99 percent of the world’s oceans, as natural variations in the Gulf Stream and the Atlantic Ocean exacerbate warming trends.

Adjusting to change is anything but automatic. Many small, incremental shifts gradually move a community from one economic environment to another—a slow, grassroots evolution. The resilience of this industry is due in large part to the fishermen themselves. The field remains overwhelmingly male-dominated, although women’s presence in the industry is growing: close to one-in-ten fishery license holders is female. We use the term “fishermen” (or “lobstermen”—a dominant fishing industry in Maine)—because the term is used in practice by both male and female “fishermen.” Maine’s fishermen are valued for their commitment to what they know how to do best, a way of life, and an obligation to steward the environment that provides a livelihood.

Like other natural resource industries, the health of a fisheries economy is interdependent and relies on more than a biological ecosystem to survive and thrive; it depends on a community ecosystem too. CEI supports the entire ecosystem with financing and also, much more.

Community building

A central element of CEI’s approach involves listening and outreach. Throughout coastal Maine, the work to transition the fisheries economy is dependent on innumerable encounters, some planned, others spontaneous.

Community organizing at its most granular level often starts with just a handful of people listening, then convening, then developing resources and information. CEI uses its mission lens to assure basic rights and tenets of social equity through policy and practice. Follow-through over the course of years builds trust and encourages leaps of faith into the future. It’s this aggregation of social capital that is vital to economic growth in rural places like Maine.


Access to capital with reasonable terms and cost is a critical factor in supporting a transitioning economy. CEI made loans for groundfish boats back when that was still a viable industry. As market conditions shifted, so did financial support. CEI began making more loans for lobster boats and—through its subsidiary CEI Ventures—has found opportunities to inject equity into innovative growth businesses.

CEI has been able to tide many small operators over with financing that banks or other lenders are not willing to provide. Its deep vertical industry knowledge makes CEI equipped to gauge the risk involved, and the confidence to take a chance on small entrepreneurs.

Starting in 1994, CEI’s Fisheries Project began supporting the state’s fisheries adjustment strategy to support Maine’s commercial fishing fleet and exclude foreign vessels from fishing in Maine waters. Revolving loan funds from the state were matched by CEI’s funds and foundation grants to offer fixed-rate financing from $5,000 to $150,000. Venture capital and other types of financing were added to the mix to help seafaring businesses achieve greater scale. These loans and equity infusions have helped finance harvesters, processors, shoreside suppliers, new marine-related enterprises, and diversification projects for displaced fishermen.

Technical assistance

Resilience requires more than money. Small business owners benefit from technical assistance as they look to the future and recognize a need to diversify their catch. CEI is host to Small Business Development Centers up and down the coast, available to help entrepreneurs master cash flows, marketing, and food safety requirements as they start and scale their businesses.

With the strong belief that diversification protects Maine’s fisheries economy from climate change impact, CEI was at the table for the creation of the Maine Aquaculture Association. That led CEI to partner with other experts to literally write the book on how to farm crops like mussels, oysters, sea vegetables (kelp and seaweed) and most recently scallops.

Workforce development is a core service too. CEI helped establish the “Aquaculture in Shared Waters” program to prepare today’s commercial fishermen to succeed in an aquaculture career and to start a sustainable shellfish (e.g., mussel or oyster farms) or sea vegetable business. The 10-week program combines classroom training with hands-on workshops and field trips to introduce participants to all aspects of an aquaculture business, including the mindset shift from hunter/gatherer to farmer. The program is an ongoing collaborative venture involving CEI, the Maine Aquaculture Association, the Maine Aquaculture Innovation Center and staff from the Maine Sea Grant program.


From the beginning CEI has functioned as a thought leader and advocate for policies to support fisheries. In the late 1970’s CEI’s young staff recognized how federal fisheries laws created new commercial opportunities for smaller boats and brought knowledge and loans to Maine’s fishermen.

CEI has had a hand in creating policy over the years too. A prime example is the Working Waterfront Access Protection Program, designed to maintain the critical land/sea marketplace in the state.

When landings come into a wharf, fishermen need to have infrastructure to welcome the catch. A wharf is a micro community in itself, and waterfront accessibility is critical. It’s where the fishermen park and support other small business when they fuel up, buy bait, land and store their catch, conduct transactions, and load product for ground transport. Commercial fishing success relies on waterfront accessibility along the entire coast, an increasing challenge as coastal property is bought by private developers and second homeowners.

The genesis of the waterfront program was an outcome of countless conversations over the years. Those talks eventually became more formal when, in 2002, CEI researched the problems regarding access to and maintenance of fishery properties. Recurring complaints they heard from borrowers and neighbors included factors such as rising property taxes and ongoing investment needs.

Taking a policy approach, a coalition including CEI advocated for catalytic capital in the form of Maine state bond funds. Eventually, the legislature created two programs that protected 25 commercial fishing waterfront properties in diverse locations along the Coast, and another 100-plus properties were registered for a tax break to maintain access for fishing.

From this work and the relationships it forged, the Maine Working Waterfront Coalition emerged. Building on its study of 25 coastal towns in 2002, CEI reached out to other groups like the Maine Lobstermen’s Association, Maine Aquaculture Association, Maine Marine Trades Association, and Island Institute to pull together a core group of entities and individuals. The coalition convened monthly in the state capital for the sole purpose of assuring waterfront access.

Co-development of new products and industries

CEI fisheries director Hugh Cowperthwaite stands atop a fishing boat to watch the crew from Bangs Island Mussel work on their scallop harvest using specialty Japanese equipment obtained by CEI.

Entrepreneurs rely on technical help and early stage capital, typically provided by CDFIs, to make their dreams become reality. Innovation is required to drive demand and build new markets. The growth of the aquaculture industry is a prime example.

Chinese appetite for lobster and the Japanese demand for unagi (eel) help build markets for Maine’s fisheries products. A decade-long relationship with Aomori, a sister state in Japan, led CEI, with local business and research partners, to import technology for developing scallop farms in the Gulf of Maine. Meanwhile, nutritious kelp smoothies and kelpcicles are examples of new products connecting consumers and out-of-state buyers with Maine enterprises. Expanding connections to U.S. and global markets requires capital and capacity, as well as innovation in the supply chain, to ensure that Maine businesses meet new—and sometimes different—customer needs and expectations. Catering to foodies aligns with Maine’s history as a tourism and recreation destination.

A Rural Economy

Rural regions represent two-thirds of the U.S. land mass, yet only 14 percent of the population, or 46 million people. Recent studies show that rural economies and demographics are highly diverse but experience an outmigration of young people seeking opportunities elsewhere, perpetuating an economic struggle.

Since 2000, Maine has lost a net of 37,000 middle-class jobs, mostly in manufacturing. Approximately 5,000 of these were due to paper mill closures and related forest industry businesses. They are being replaced in great part by lower-wage jobs in the retail, tourism, and service industries.

Some rural areas are successfully combating this trend by transitioning to a post-industrial economy with thriving small businesses and associated ecosystems. Others are leveraging abundant natural resources for their economic sustainability.

Maine, interestingly, is a mix of realities. Long the poorest and most rural state in New England, Maine ranked 33rd nationally in personal income per capita in 2016. Maine’s economy has lagged the nation in recovering from the Great Recession. The average wage in the state was 89 percent of the national average. Maine’s economic challenges are exacerbated by income disparity, with most of its economic growth taking place in the greater Portland region.

Community economic development demands a commitment to place, people, and sectors. Economic development in Maine requires traveling distances across geographies and cultures, sometimes by water. Persistence, flexibility, and tenacity are hallmarks of CEI’s work helping to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises, and shared prosperity in Maine and other rural regions.

Listening to communities, identifying problems and vulnerabilities, and then advocating on behalf of industries and sectors are central elements of CEI’s approach. The larger success is measured by the sum of impacts, boat by boat, wharf by wharf.

About the Authors

Betsy Biemann serves as Chief Executive Officer of CEI. Previously, she led the Maine Food Cluster Project of the Mossavar-Rahmani Center for Business and Government at Harvard University. From 2005 to 2012 she was President of the Maine Technology Institute, investing in Maine companies and initiatives seeking to grow high-potential sectors of Maine’s economy. Prior to her move to Maine, Betsy served as Associate Director at The Rockefeller Foundation, 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.

Keith Bisson is President of CEI. Prior to assuming leadership of the organization, Keith managed CEI’s small business counseling, natural resources, and workforce development programs. He was also responsible for development and management of the $11 million Northern Heritage Development Fund; monitoring and participating in Federal rural development policy; and managing and developing foundation and investor relations.

Mobile Price Card closes its Series A financing round

October 15, 2018 – Bangor, Maine –   Mobile Price Card, Inc (MPC) is revolutionizing the way cellular retailers price and merchandize their products. CEO Chad O’Leary announced today that it closed its Series A round of financing led by Maine Venture Fund (MVF) with participation by CEI Ventures, Inc. (CVI).

“We are humbled to have such amazing investors.” O’Leary continued, “Our values and missions align, and the expertise they bring to the table is amazing. The investment community in Maine has been incredibly supportive. I cannot thank MVF, our lead investor, and the team from CVI enough for their contributions. Even more than the capital they bring, I appreciate their culture and commitment to good corporate citizenship.”

“We are excited to invest in developing innovation in Maine,” said CEI Ventures Principal Chandler Jones. “We expect the company to meet CEI’s mission by creating quality jobs with strong benefits while also providing a suitable return on our investment.”

“Our technology is unique and invents an entirely new way to market mobile devices to consumers,” O’Leary said. “We chose Maine as our headquarters because of the talent, warmth, character and industrious spirit of Mainers. This funding will help us ramp up our technology development and grow our team to accelerate growth.”

In addition to MVF and CVI, several angel groups invested, including the Maine Angels, Bangor Angels, and Beacon Angels.

About Mobile Price Card

Mobile Price Card (MPC) is a patent-pending mobile application that uses the screen of devices on display in retail showrooms to show the price and specifications about the device, eliminating the expense, waste, and inaccuracies of traditional paper price cards. MPC helps retailers improve sales using the display devices with targeted consumer advertising at the point of purchase more effectively than other advertising mediums. Just as smartphones changed the way people communicate, Mobile Price Card is poised to change the way consumer electronics retail is conducted.

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. CEI envisions a world in which communities are economically and environmentally healthy, enabling all people, especially those with low incomes, to reach their full potential. Learn more about how CEI is helping to build an economy that works for everyone here:


Energy Pathway for Maine: Guiding principles to move us forward

CEI is joining a diverse array of partners that believe that there is an opportunity for Maine to lead in the clean energy economy. Because we are so close to our environment, Mainers see the impacts of a changing climate in their everyday lives. Committing to a clean energy future not only gives us something we can do in our communities to benefit the environment, it also opens the door to new jobs and investment at a time when many rural communities are undergoing tough economic transitions.

In order to tap this opportunity, we need to work together to support policies that allow businesses and communities to plan for and access clean energy technologies, workforce training, and infrastructure development. These policies must benefit our more rural communities, and people and families who are struggling in our economy.

Clean energy projects and businesses are one of the fastest growing sectors in CEI’s loan portfolio, with over $11 million invested in 29 deals since 2013 (about 14% of our portfolio, representing over 270 jobs created and retained).

CEI is proud to work with and help finance companies like Pika Energy, Revision Energy, Ocean Renewable Power Company, SunDog Solar, Maine Solar Solutions, Maine Energy Performance Solutions and SunRaise. All are doing business here in Maine and creating good jobs.

We provide loans that help redevelopment projects like the Mayo Mill in Dover-Foxcroft, family businesses like Goranson Farm in Dresden, and communities like Waldoboro and Stockton Springs become energy independent and financially sustainable.

We see the potential for so much more. What’s missing are policies that can help get people to work, and scale renewable energy solutions.

The guiding principles outlined in Energy Pathway for Maine: Guiding principles to move us forward give us a place to start.

CEI Receives Positive Independent Rating from Aeris

Brunswick, Maine, August 14, 2018—Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) announced today that it has received strong ratings for its fund management from Aeris, the independent rating and information service for community investment funds. CEI received a four-star impact management rating with Policy Plus and AA- financial strength and performance rating. Aeris provides comprehensive assessments of a community investment fund’s financial strength, performance and impact management.

“Our four-star, policy plus, AA- Aeris rating confirms that CEI is a high quality channel for mission-driven investing that makes a difference in communities,” said Betsy Biemann, CEI’s CEO. “As a fund manager, we target our investments to balance risk, return, and liquidity while growing good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises, and more broadly shared prosperity.”

A wide range of investors—including banks, foundations, fund managers, and others—rely on Aeris ratings to identify and evaluate community investment opportunities that meet their impact goals and risk parameters. Aeris has issued more than 600 ratings opinions since 2004.

The rigorous Aeris rating process is a demonstration of a fund’s commitment to transparency and accountability, with regard to its financial performance and impact in the community. The rating encompasses two main components: (1) an Impact Management Rating, which measures the commitment of the fund’s management to achieving impact; (2) a Financial Strength and Performance Rating, which assesses overall creditworthiness.

Rating Definitions

Four-star: clear alignment of mission, strategies, activities, and data that guide programs and planning, and effective use of resources to benefit people and communities with low incomes and achieve positive impacts related to its mission.

Policy plus: leadership role in initiatives to change government policy to benefit the community development finance industry or disadvantaged people and communities.

AA-: very strong financial strength, performance and risk management practices relative to its size, complexity, and risk profile.

More information is available at:

As an Aeris-rated institution, CEI is also included in the Aeris Cloud, the only source of real-time financial and impact performance data on community investment funds. The Aeris Cloud was created to give investors access to Wall Street-quality data on community investment funds such as CEI.

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. CEI envisions a world in which communities are economically and environmentally healthy, enabling all people, especially those with low incomes, to reach their full potential. More at

About Aeris

Aeris guides capital to good. Since 2004, the nation’s leading community investors have used Aeris’ data and ratings to support their community investing. Aeris’ clients range from large financial institutions with Community Reinvestment Act (CRA) obligations, mission-driven charitable foundations, government, private wealth managers, and more. Its proprietary ratings help investors evaluate opportunities that meet their impact goals and risk parameters. Learn more at


The Lyme Timber Company LP Closes $20 Million of New Markets Tax Credit Capacity from CCML to Sustainably Steward West Virginia Forestland

Financing supports timberland purchase; introduction of new safe-logging technology

August 6, 2018 – An investment fund managed by The Lyme Timber Company LP (“Lyme”), a private timberland investment manager, has received $20 million in New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) financing from CEI Capital Management LLC (“CCML”) to help it acquire 118,300 acres of timberlands in the Wyoming, McDowell, Mingo and Logan Counties of West Virginia.

This addition to Lyme’s portfolio is in keeping with the company’s approach to partnering with rural communities and landowners to sustainably manage working forestland with living wages paid to employees, and strategies including recreational leasing, the sale of carbon-offset credits, and restrictions on future commercial or residential development through the sale of working forest conservation easements.

Lyme’s West Virginia forestland purchase qualified for the NMTC program, which was designed by Congress to stimulate private investment and economic growth in low income communities that lack access to capital needed to grow businesses, create jobs, and sustain healthy local economies. The tracts are located in a highly economically distressed area of coal country that cites poverty rates as high as 37.9 percent, and unemployment as high as 14.8 percent.

Importantly, Lyme will work to introduce new worker safety and job quality standards to the local logging industry. Due to its steep and mountainous terrain, West Virginia woodlands are particularly difficult to safely harvest, with loggers using chainsaws on steep slopes, making them susceptible to injury when trees fall or are moved. To address these safety issues, Lyme will focus on bringing “winch-assist” harvesting technology to the region. The technology allows logging crews to operate harvesting machines on slopes that were previously logged by hand.  Harvesting machines are tethered by cables to an anchor machine at the top of the slope supporting the harvesting machine to remain upright on the hill and protects workers by moving them inside a safety cab.  Harvesting with machines also increases productivity and can create higher paying jobs with better benefits.

Though used in Canada, New Zealand, and the Pacific Northwest, tethered harvesting systems has yet to be used in the eastern US. The flexible financing from CCML via the New Markets Tax Credit (NMTC) program helps make the cost of testing its implementation possible.

With the new ownership and the skills needed to operate this new technology, this project will preserve two dozen current contracting jobs, create five new direct jobs and 18.5 new contractor jobs. All direct Lyme employees will receive pay substantially above the living wage for the area and include health, life and disability insurance and an employer-matched 401(k) retirement plan.

“This transaction squares with our mission to provide good jobs, grow environmentally sustainable enterprises and seed shared prosperity in rural places,” said CEI Capital Management CEO Charlie Spies. “We are glad to partner with Lyme to help diversify West Virginia’s coal economy with a next generation model of sustainable forestry and develop a skilled workforce.”

Also participating in the transaction, Capital One, N.A. provided the NMTC equity, while a Lyme affiliate provided the debt financing for the transaction.

About CEI Capital Management

CEI Capital Management creates and preserves jobs and improves quality of life in rural, low income communities by providing access to project capital through New Markets Tax Credits. Over 12 years CEI Capital Management has placed nearly $1 billion in 95 different projects across the U.S. In addition to fiscal soundness, CEI Capital Management evaluates each project according to its benefit to the local community, economic gain and positive impact on the environment. It is a wholly owned subsidiary of CEI, the Maine-based nonprofit community development financial institution which was among the founders of this important federal economic development program. For more information, visit us online at

About The Lyme Timber Company LP

The Lyme Timber Company LP is a private timberland investment manager that focuses on the acquisition and sustainable management of lands with unique conservation values. Since its founding in 1976, the Company has follow a disciplined and value-oriented approach to investing in forestland and rural real estate in the US and Canada.

Meet our Summer 2018 Interns!

Anna Barnes, Bowdoin College (2020)

“I am working with Keith Bisson, President of CEI, on an assessment of CEI’s internal environmental impact. I’m researching best practices and creating a baseline of CEI’s environmental footprint, looking at metrics such as greenhouse gas emissions, water use and waste production. I will also be developing a tracking tool that allows CEI to visualize its environmental impact, set goals for improvement and benchmark its future performance against the base year. This work will help CEI reaffirm its commitment to promoting a green economy and set an example by documenting its status as an environmentally responsible organization.”


Hilary Gove, Maine Law (2019)

“I am working with Carla Dickstein, Senior Vice President of  Research and Policy Development for the summer. I am researching barriers to employment for key demographics in the state. With Maine’s aging population, making sure every Mainer has an opportunity to find meaningful work is important for Maine’s future. I am excited to learn more about labor force participation and from CEI’s dedicated staff.”




Ben McLaughlin, UMaine Orono (2019)

“I am working as a finance and accounting intern under our treasurer, Ellen Rodgers. My first major project has been to organize our notes payable information into a comprehensive database that will ultimately be much more user friendly. I have made a lot of progress this first month and have learned a lot about CEI’s operations through analyzing these legal contracts. CEI is a great place to work and I can’t wait to see what the rest of the summer has in store!”


Jacob Small, Boston College, Carroll School of Management (2020)

“This summer, I am working with Laura Buxbaum, SVP of Public Policy and Resource Development, to study employer-based financial wellness programs in the State of Maine. I’ve been researching practices both within the state and nationally, and I will be interviewing a variety of companies in Maine to develop a report for CEI. I have learned a lot about CEI’s role of bringing together shared prosperity and quality jobs and look forward to building upon that for the rest of this summer!”

CEI Welcomes 4 New Board Members

June 25, 2018 – Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), which helps to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises, and shared prosperity in Maine and rural regions across the country, announced that Catherine Godschalk, Beth Mattingly, Justin Maxson, and Stewart Smith have been named to its board of directors. In addition, Christa Velasquez has been elected to serve as chair, and Susan Hammond has been elected to serve as vice chair of the board of directors. Erin Cooperrider, who has served as Chair for the past year, is stepping down from the Board. Erin joined CEI’s board in 2010.

Catherine Godschalk manages Bethesda, MD-based Calvert Impact Capital’s investments team and the more than $375 million global portfolio of impact investments aimed at building, scaling, and strengthening intermediaries and structured funds tackling social and/or environmental challenges. She has spent 25 years working at the intersection of private capital and social impact, with program and product development, policy, and financing roles across a variety of institutions, including S. H. Cowell Foundation, the White House Office of Management and Budget, Fannie Mae Corporation, and Self-Help Ventures Fund. She serves on the loan committees for ROC USA Capital and Appalachian Community Capital, and she is a member of the Conservation Finance Network’s Advisory Board.  She has a master’s degree in public policy from Harvard’s Kennedy School of Government and received her BA from Columbia University.

Susan Hammond is a Penobscot Nation tribal member, and the long-standing executive director of Four Directions Development Corporation (FDDC), a Native-governed Community Development Financial Institution (CDFI) in Orono, ME, serving the four tribes of Maine. As one of the founders, Susan has been involved with FDDC since the earliest planning stages which began in the fall of 2000. Susan graduated from the University of Maine at Orono with a BS in Business Administration. Prior to Four Directions, she worked for the Penobscot tribe for ten years in various positions including the financial manager for the Health Department and the director of the Tribal Housing Authority. She served on the Penobscot Nation Tribal Council from 1996 to 2004. In 2003, Susan was awarded the Maine SBA Minority Small Business Advocate of the Year Award. She is the first-ever recipient of the Visionary Leader Award from the Opportunity Finance Network/Oweesta Corporation in 2006 and in 2010 received the Circle of Honor Award from the Opportunity Finance Network/Oweesta Corporation. Susan joined the CEI board in 2015.

Beth Mattingly is director of research on vulnerable families at the Carsey School of Public Policy at the University of New Hampshire. She manages all of Carsey’s policy work relating to family well-being. Her work at Carsey examines child poverty and how different family policies affect rural, suburban, and urban families and how growing up in poverty influences life outcomes. Beth has published in several academic journals, including Social Forces and Journal of Marriage and Family, and in edited volumes. Her work has been featured in Time magazine, Real Simple magazine, USA Today, and other media outlets. In addition, she has appeared on National Public Radio, New Hampshire Public Radio, and other media outlets to discuss her research. Beth completed a postdoctoral research fellowship at the Family Research Lab at the University of New Hampshire and received her master’s and doctorate degrees in sociology from the University of Maryland. She has an undergraduate degree in geography from Dartmouth College.

Justin Maxson manages the overall operations of the Mary Reynolds Babcock Foundation (MRBF) in Winston-Salem, NC and leads staff in developing strategy and initiatives to accomplish its mission and makes recommendations to the board of directors. Before joining MRBF, Justin served for 13 years as President of the Mountain Association for Community Economic Development (MACED), a multi-strategy community economic development organization based in Berea, Kentucky. Justin has been a year-long fellow at the Sustainability Institute and the Rockwood Leadership Institute. He served at the Kentucky Governor’s request on the Kentucky Climate Action Planning Committee and the planning committee for Shaping Our Appalachian Region, a regional development planning process. He has a master’s degree from Boston University and a bachelor’s degree from the University of Kentucky, both in anthropology.

Stewart Smith is Professor Emeritus of Sustainable Agriculture Policy at the University of Maine, where his teaching and research focused on sustainable agriculture and sustainable development. In addition to teaching, his career has ranged from farming to government work to owning his own business. Stewart worked in the Carter administration as Associate Administrator of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service at USDA (now the Farm Service Agency). He later returned to Maine as Commissioner of Agriculture in 1979 in the Brennan administration, where he developed the foundation for an alternative farming system which is now recognized as local agriculture. In addition to his own work, he has served on numerous boards including the Maine Sustainable Agricultural Society, Maine Agricultural Loan Fund Advisory Committee, Farms for the Future Advisory Council, the Consortium for Sustainable Agriculture Research and Education, The Land Institute’s Sunshine Farm Advisory Committee, and Wolfes Neck Farm Foundation Board. In 2006, he and his wife, Sarah Redfield, started Lakeside Family Farm in Newport, producing and distributing mixed vegetables to wholesale markets in Maine. Stewart has a PhD in agricultural economics from the University of Connecticut, and a bachelor’s degree in economics from Yale University.

Christa Velasquez is a recognized leader in the impact investing field. Currently an independent consultant in Chicago, she advises foundations on impact investing strategies and program design, product development and transactions. In addition to her independent work, Christa is a senior advisor at The Giving Practice, the consulting arm of Philanthropy Northwest. She also lectures at the University of Chicago on the business of nonprofits and the evolving social sector. Christa was director of social investments for nine years at the Annie E. Casey Foundation where she created and managed its $125 million social investment fund. She was also a senior fellow at the Initiative for Responsible Investment at the Hauser Center for Nonprofit Organizations at Harvard University. Christa holds a BA in Latin American Studies from the University of Chicago and an MBA from the Yale School of Management. Christa joined CEI’s board in 2013.

CEI Welcomes New Team Members

CYNTHIA MURPHY – Senior Program Director, Workforce Solutions

Cynthia leads workforce solutions strategy and program delivery at CEI, helping employers create a people strategy that delivers competitive advantage and expanding opportunities for marginalized job seekers. She identifies opportunities to advocate for public policies that encourage quality jobs and amplify the public narrative about how quality jobs strengthen families, businesses and communities. Prior to joining CEI, Cynthia had a 25+ year career in the for-profit sector leading commercial operations for subsidiaries of Thomson Reuters, a global information business. She holds a BA from the University of Maine, an MS from Simmons College and a certificate in nonprofit management from Georgetown University. She volunteers as a certified SCORE mentor and a Top Gun Mentor.

SHERRY VACHON – Loan Services Administrator

Prior to joining CEI, Sherry worked for 10 years in mortgage servicing and adjustable rate mortgages, and in the accounting department at TD Bank. Prior to working in banking, she worked in the insurance industry for 12 years. Sherry has an Associate’s Degree in Accounting from Kaplan University.


ALLISON WATSON – Business Advisor, Waterville Office

Allison is a business advisor at CEI, providing one-on-one counseling and support to start-ups and existing businesses in northern Kennebec and Somerset counties. She comes to CEI with a depth and breadth of experience in economic development, education, energy and health care.  She spent several years in the energy industry working with industrial and commercial businesses,teaching business and technology courses. Most recently she was CFO and Senior Director of Operations at a healthcare non-profit. Allison earned her B.S. in Business Administration from Thomas College in Waterville, Maine, and continued at Thomas to earn both a Master’s in Computer Technology in Education and an MBA.

CEI Solar Subsidiary Receives $1.5 million Preferred Equity Investment from the 2018 NEXT Fund for Innovation Sponsored by Wells Fargo

CEI also recipient of $1.75 million in grant and loan capital from Wells Fargo to empower diverse small business owners

(BRUNSWICK– May 23, 2018) – Coastal Enterprises Inc. (CEI), which helps to grow good jobs, environmentally sustainable enterprises, and shared prosperity in Maine and in rural regions across the country, is the recipient of a NEXT Fund for Innovation (NEXT Fund) award.

The NEXT Fund, which is funded by Wells Fargo and others, and managed by the Opportunity Finance Network, supports business models that drive transformational change in the community development financial institution (CDFI) industry. The $1.5 million preferred equity investment in the newly formed solar energy financing subsidiary will focus on providing capital to mid-sized commercial solar power projects that have a positive impact on low-income people and communities.

CEI also received $1.5 million in lending capital and $250,000 in grant funds from Wells Fargo to provide diverse small business owners in Maine with access to capital and business advice. Wells Fargo’s funds will help CEI provide existing business advising and expand lending services statewide for New American and women-owned businesses.

One women-owned business that CEI worked with, Dog Not Gone in Skowhegan, has grown to become a national brand producing a variety of insect-repellant and high-visibility clothes for dogs and people. Started in her home, business owner Julie Swain has expanded the company into an apparel enterprise with products sold nationwide at retailers including LLBean, Wal Mart, and Tractor Supply Co. With business advising and a loan from CEI, Swain purchased an old textile mill in downtown Skowhegan to meet the increased production demand, which now includes insect repelling clothes for kids, United States and Maine flags, and a growing e-commerce website.

Another business, Mariama’s Beauty Supply in Portland, was founded by Mariama Jallow, a New American from The Gambia who came to CEI’s Start Smart business advisor with the idea of starting a hair braiding business in a community where no such service existed. Jallow quickly learned about taxes, paperwork, insurance and other business startup considerations from her CEI advisor. The retail store now employs two hair braiders and Jallow proud that her company offers these skilled immigrants an opportunity to obtain meaningful employment. Today, the store remains the only space in the Portland area solely dedicated to African hair sales.

“CEI helps entrepreneurs of all backgrounds and experience levels start and grow businesses, create good jobs, and earn livelihoods for themselves and their families,” said Betsy Biemann, CEI’s chief executive officer. “Access to capital, combined with one-on-one consulting, can be a game changer for people in rural regions who have a vision for a product or service that can add value to local economies. The combination of loan capital and grant funding from Wells Fargo is helping us to expand our small business financing and advising specifically for women and people from a diversity of backgrounds.”

“Small businesses thrive when they receive critical support like technical assistance, marketing and increased access to capital,” said Megan Teare, senior vice president and manager for CDFI investing at Wells Fargo. “Over the past 40 years, CEI has provided in-depth support to thousands of diverse-owned small businesses and Wells Fargo is proud to support this important work.”

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. CEI envisions a world in which communities are economically and environmentally healthy, enabling all people, especially those with low incomes, to reach their full potential. More at

About Wells Fargo
Wells Fargo & Company (NYSE: WFC) is a diversified, community-based financial services company with $1.9 trillion in assets. Wells Fargo’s vision is to satisfy our customers’ financial needs and help them succeed financially. Founded in 1852 and headquartered in San Francisco, Wells Fargo provides banking, investments, mortgage, and consumer and commercial finance through 8,200 locations, 13,000 ATMs, the internet ( and mobile banking, and has offices in 42 countries and territories to support customers who conduct business in the global economy. With approximately 265,000 team members, Wells Fargo serves one in three households in the United States. Wells Fargo & Company was ranked No. 25 on Fortune’s 2017 rankings of America’s largest corporations. News, insights and perspectives from Wells Fargo are also available at Wells Fargo Stories.