Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI), Portland, Maine, is a Community Development Corporation (CDC) and a Community Development Finance Institution (CDFI) that deploys equity, loans and grants to promote value-added production capacity and local economic growth. Since 1977, CEI has financed 2,649 businesses totaling $1.27 billion in financing, with 505 loans and investments currently outstanding and $697 million capital under management.1
Many of these businesses are in the creative economy, especially in the food and textile sectors. While they do not track the number of businesses representing the creative economy explicitly, CEI Loan & Investment Officer Daniel Wallace estimates that 10% of their portfolio would be considered representative of the sector.2 For example, between 2012 and 2015, CEI Ventures invested in Gelato Fiasco, a locally-sourced gelato shop in Brunswick, Maine, through three rounds of equity financing, supporting wholesale expansion and a new production facility. The company has a strong local reputation for creating and sustaining quality jobs with high employee retention, employing 49 full-time employees 25 seasonal staff.3
CEI has also partnered with Old Port Wool and Textile on a training program that builds a skilled workforce for its family-run sister company, American Roots. American Roots is just one example of high-quality textile and apparel companies re-activating historic mills throughout the state. Committed to paying livable wages and providing benefits to their employees, American Roots has attracted immigrant workers re-settled to Maine from Somalia, Vietnam, Honduras, Iraq, Sudan, Afghanistan, Congo, Burma and Ethiopia, many of whom had stitching careers in their home countries.
Small business incubators and shared workspaces are another trend in CEI’s creative economy investments. One such incubator example is Fork Food Lab in Portland, Maine, a business that provides shared kitchen space and entrepreneurship opportunities to new local food businesses in Maine. To get them started, CEI provided Fork Food Lab with an equipment loan.4 Today, Fork Food Lab provides support to 35+ local food businesses who contribute to their local economic and social communities. Immigrant Kitchens, one Fork Food Lab member, shares immigrant recipes through media outlets, celebrating the diversity of cultural knowledge around food from around the world. Another member, Steindry, prides themselves on their Maine made sustainable jerky and fruit snacks which they sell to local stores.