Coastal Enterprises, Inc. (CEI) was founded in 1977 by Ron Phillips, a civil rights activist and recent seminary graduate, to help create income, employment, and ownership opportunities, especially for people left out of the economic mainstream. CEI made its first investment in 1978 in Boothbay Region Fish and Cold Storage, Inc., which had been recently destroyed by a fire. The facility represented the future of Maine’s working waterfront, and was an economic anchor for employees, fishermen, and the community.
Backed by the governor’s office and with grants and investments from local banks, charitable and religions organizations, and the federal government, Phillips modeled CEI on grassroots economic development models from developing countries. His vision holds true today: for 40 years, CEI has aggregated capital from a private, public, and community sources to promote value-added production capacity and local economic growth. In the meantime, CEI expanded its expertise in business and project financing, and developed complementary services in workforce development, business advising, housing counseling, and policy advocacy.
In 2016, Betsy Biemann, CEO, and Keith Bisson, President took over the leadership of CEI upon Ron Phillips’ retirement. Together with CEI’s 80 staff members, they are working to ensure an even greater level of impact over the next 40 years.
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