Tuesday, November 26, 2013
The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME), in partnership with the Maine Jump$tart Coalition for Personal Financial Literacy, recently launched a new web tool that offers a searchable list of financial education services available in Maine. The tool was developed to assist educators and community members locate Maine-based financial education providers and resources. FAME’s tool is the first of its kind in Maine and enables educators and individuals to identify and take advantage of resources in their local community and statewide.
The tool encompasses financial education course information, services, and workshops provided by a variety of organizations and institutions. Exclusively Maine-based, the information provided covers the entire state and almost every county. All resources and services listed come at little or no cost to the end-user.
“Improving access to financial education is at the core of FAME’s mission. By introducing a searchable list of financial education services, FAME is providing a vital, interactive tool to enhance Maine citizens’ ability to access financial education resources,” stated FAME Chief Executive Officer Beth Bordowitz.
Ready for immediate use, the tool may be accessed through FAME’s financial education webpage at the following address:
FAME will continue to partner with Maine-based financial education providers to update and add listings. Any organization offering free or not-for-profit financial education interested in including an entry should contact FAME at 1-800-228-3734 or at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Monday, November 18, 2013
The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) celebrated its 30 Anniversary at its annual meeting and awards event, Showcase Maine, on Tuesday, November 12, 2013, at Portland’s Holiday Inn By The Bay.
Showcase Maine is FAME’s annual celebration of its successful partnerships with Maine’s business, lending, and higher education communities.
The evening featured a reception, including a showcase of exhibits by Maine businesses and educational organizations that partner with FAME; a dinner and awards presentation; and a keynote speech by Richard Hackett, Esq.
Hackett, a former partner with Portland’s Pierce Atwood, LLP, discussed his tenure at the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in Washington, D.C., where until recently he served as assistant director for the past two years. Hackett oversaw installment lending markets, including auto and student lending regulation.
“We enjoyed celebrating the successes of the past thirty years with our partners in Maine’s business, higher education, and lending communities” said Beth Bordowitz, FAME’s Chief Executive Officer. “We are proud to showcase Maine businesses and educational organizations, and it was a privilege for us to honor some of Maine’s innovative leaders.”
This year’s award recipients included:
- Hodgdon Yachts (Business at Work for Maine Award): The company was recognized for its innovation and adaptability over the years, as well as its advancement of Maine’s forest products and maritime heritage. It is currently the oldest, continuously operated boat-building company in the United States.
- Jim Wellehan and Lamey-Wellehan Shoes (Education at Work for Maine Award): Jim Wellehan and Lamey-Wellehan Shoes were honored for their “Maine Difference Scholarship,” which annually assists Maine students who focus their studies on the ecology or economics of Maine as they strive to maintain a healthy state both environmentally and economically.
- Camden National Bank (Financial Institution of the Year Award): Camden National Bank was honored with this award for a fourth time. Over the past year, Camden National partnered with FAME on forty-eight loans totaling over $13.4 million. This in turn helped to create 134 Maine jobs and retain an additional 450 jobs.
- Hon. Mary Nelson of Falmouth (Dirigo Legislative Champion Award):Nelson, a state representative from Falmouth, serves on the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. She is a strong supporter of FAME’s mission, especially with respect to providing higher education opportunities for all Maine students.
Prior to the dinner and awards ceremony, the FAME Board met for its monthly meeting and authorized the issuance of up to approximately $16 million in state New Markets tax credits for three Qualified Community Development Entities proposing investments in St. Croix Tissue, Inc., in Baileyville. These include $4.5 million to CCM Community Development LVII, LLC (U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp.); $8.1 million to Enhanced Capital New Market Development Fund XXXVII, LLC (Wells Fargo Community Investments Holdings, LLC); and $3.3 million to USBCDE Sub-CDE 90, LLC (U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp.). St. Croix Tissue, Inc. operates the Woodland Pulp, LLC mill in Baileyville. The company will use the funds to expand and renovate a building at the mill complex and to install two new tissue-making machines. The funds are expected to help to create and retain more than 300 Maine jobs.
The Board also authorized the issuance of up to $4.2 million dollars in state New Markets Tax Credits to Stonehenge Community Development LXII, LLC (U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp.), an investor in Press Hotel, LLC, which plans to purchase and renovate into a 110-room hotel the former offices of the Portland Press Herald, located at 390 Congress Street in Portland. 70 new jobs are expected to be created during the construction-renovation process, with an additional 80 new jobs expected once the hotel is built.
The Maine New Markets Capital Investment Program provides refundable state tax credits of up to 39 percent to investors in qualified community development entities (CDEs) that reinvest in certain businesses in eligible low-income communities in Maine. The program is modeled after the federal New Markets Tax Credit Program, and is administered by the Finance Authority of Maine, in cooperation with Maine Revenue Services and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.
Thursday, November 07, 2013
The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) will celebrate its 30 Anniversary at its annual meeting and awards event, Showcase Maine, on Tuesday, November 12, 2013, beginning at 4:30 p.m. at Portland’s Holiday Inn By The Bay.
Showcase Maine is FAME’s annual celebration of its successful partnerships with Maine’s business, lending, and higher education communities.
The evening will feature a reception, including a showcase of exhibits by Maine businesses and educational organizations that partner with FAME; a dinner and awards presentation; and a keynote speech by Richard Hackett, Esq.
Hackett, a former partner with Portland’s Pierce Atwood, LLP, recently departed the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau (CFPB) in Washington, D.C., where he was assistant director for the past two years. Hired by the office to oversee installment lending markets, he was the bureau's point person on auto and student lending regulation. He will discuss his tenure at the CFPB, including the bureau’s role with respect to students and businesses, as well as the role of markets offices and approaches to data at the bureau.
“We look forward to celebrating the successes of the past thirty years with our partners in Maine’s business and higher education communities,” said Beth Bordowitz, FAME’s Chief Executive Officer. “We look forward to showcasing current Maine businesses and educational organizations, as well as looking back at FAME’s success stories over the past three decades.”
This year’s award recipients include:
- Hodgdon Yachts (Business at Work for Maine Award): Hodgdon Yachts of East Boothbay has been launching world-class vessels in East Boothbay since 1816. The company is being recognized for its innovation and adaptability over the years, as well as its advancement of Maine’s forest products and maritime heritage. It is currently the oldest, continuously operated boat-building company in the United States.
- James Wellehan and Lamey-Wellehan Shoes (Education at Work for Maine Award): Jim Wellehan and Lamey-Wellehan Shoes will be honored for their “Maine Difference Scholarship,” which annually assists Maine students who focus their studies on the ecology or economics of Maine as they strive to maintain a healthy state both environmentally and economically. The company will celebrate its 100th anniversary in 2014.
- Camden National Bank (Financial Institution of the Year Award): Camden National Bank will be honored with an award for a fourth time. Over the past year, Camden National partnered with FAME on forty-eight loans totaling over $13.4 million. This in turn helped to create 134 Maine jobs and retain an additional 450 jobs. The bank also is committed to the communities it serves, supporting a variety of businesses, community, and non-profit organizations. The bank sponsors Community Spirit of Giving, a community outreach program that helps raise money to help area families in need at the holidays.
- Hon. Mary Nelson of Falmouth (Dirigo Legislative Champion Award): Nelson, a state representative from Falmouth, serves on the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. She is a strong supporter of FAME’s mission, especially with respect to providing higher education opportunities for all Maine students.
Thursday, October 10, 2013
The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) continues to maintain impressively low cohort default rates for Maine student loan borrowers. According to data recently released by the U.S. Department of Education, FAME’s federal Fiscal Year 2011 official cohort default rate was 5.6 percent of borrowers. By comparison, the national two-year average was 10 percent, up from 9.1 percent the previous year. Last year’s national average for guaranty agencies was 7 percent.
Cohort Default Rates measure the percentage of all federal Stafford Loan borrowers entering repayment in a given federal fiscal year who default on their loans before the end of the following fiscal year. FAME’s Fiscal Year 2010 cohort default rate was 4.9 percent of borrowers, while its FY 2009 rate was 6.1 percent and its FY 2008 rate was 5.9 percent.
“FAME’s ability to maintain a low default rate benefits lenders, schools, and, most importantly, Maine students,” stated FAME Board Chair Susan Snowden. “FAME’s default rate is the result of expanded college access, financial education and debt management services that support financial aid offices and educate borrowers.”
“These results show the value of the personalized financial education and default prevention efforts of guaranty agencies like FAME and our lender partners. FAME’s emphasis on default prevention rather than on post-default collection is the right one for students and families doing their best to pay back their obligations and for taxpayers,” stated FAME CEO Beth Bordowitz.
FAME believes strongly that financial education is the cornerstone of debt management and default prevention. Last year FAME launched SALT, a first-of-its-kind collaboration with American Student Assistance that delivers financial education and debt management services free-of-charge to Maine students and alumni. Currently, 82% of Maine college students have access to SALT’s proactive debt management services. FAME’s CAFÉ Team also provided financial education to 6,320 Maine citizens, an increase of 124 percent over the previous year. In 2014, FAME will continue its commitment to providing financial education by co-sponsoring “Fostering Financial Education in Maine Schools,” a financial literacy conference for Maine teachers, administrators, counselors and others.
Friday, October 04, 2013
The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) recently notified twenty-five Maine schools and non-profit education organizations that they have been selected to receive sub-grants totaling $957,933 through the Maine College Access Challenge Grant (MCACG) administered by FAME. The awards range from $9,900 to $69,932.
“FAME is pleased to announce these sub-grants for the MCACG Program,” stated Beth Bordowitz, Chief Executive Officer of FAME. “These much-needed funds will help FAME and its partners throughout Maine strengthen our college access and financial education efforts to help Maine students and families achieve their postsecondary education goals.”
The College Access Challenge Grant was awarded to FAME by the U.S. Department of Education. Awards are to be used by states on efforts to increase college access and success among underserved student populations, particularly low-income and first generation college attendees. FAME will provide a one-third required match.
FAME’s sub-grants were awarded on a competitive basis to eligible Maine schools and non-profit organizations. All recipients and their project descriptions are listed online at FAME’s Web site: www.famemaine.com
Grant recipients include several programs that are focused on adult learners. College for ME-Androscoggin, through its Resiliency is the Key Program, will leverage the experience and partnerships of more than forty organizations to provide group mentoring, develop multi-generational outreach for families about college-going, financial literacy, and debt management, and deliver joint professional development for K-16 and adult education instructors focused on student writing skills. The Regional Adult Education Partnership (RAP), comprised of RSUs 9, 52, and 73, which are located in Franklin and Androscoggin Counties, and in collaboration with RSUs 58 and 78, which are located in Franklin County, will create a plan for adults who desire to attend college. The work will culminate in preparation for sustainable employment, which will be achieved through academic preparation, student advising, and business networking.
Other grantees will focus on college, high school, and middle school students. MCACG funds will provide support to the University of Maine at Farmington’s PAID Program, a peer-educated financially literacy program that addresses the negative impact that financial issues, including student loan indebtedness, have on student success in college. Grant funds also are being provided to the Lake Regional Vocational Center to support high school students through the College Success Program, a forty-five-hour class delivered after school two days per week. Students learn strategies to reach their maximum potential while in college and persist until graduation and may earn high school and college credits through an approved dual credit articulation agreement with Southern Maine Community College. The New Surry Repertory Theatre and Acting School, Inc. will use MCACG funds to collaborate with the Blue Hill Harbor School, the Reach School, and the Blue Hill Consolidated School to increase the post-secondary attainment of students who are less likely to pursue higher education using recognized best practices in college access, as well as provide self-esteem enhancement and confidence building through effective and engaging improvisation and role-playing workshops.
Another grant recipient is Good Will-Hinckley’s Maine Academy of Natural Sciences (MeANS). The school will offer academic support services to youth who are aging-out of foster care and wish to attend college. Their planned Step-Up Program will provide housing, academic and life skill supports to cohorts of seven to ten students per academic year. The goal of the program is to increase degree attainment and financial independence of former foster youth in Maine.
The FAME College Access and Financial Education (CAFÉ) Team includes professionals who not only work with high schools, middle schools and elementary schools, but also coordinate with colleges, adult education centers, and college access programs to reach students and parents. The free services provided are available to all Maine citizens, regardless of income.
Thursday, September 19, 2013
Twenty-five adult education programs around the state will host “GEDNow” events on Saturday, September 21 to help Maine residents without a high school diploma earn their General Educational Development (GED) certification. Anyone interested in attending can visit MaineGEDNow.org and click on “Find An Event.”
The GEDNow events are being coordinated by the Maine Department of Education (MDOE) in partnership with the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) to encourage as many Mainers as possible to complete their GEDs before the end of the year. Beginning in January 2014, Maine will be converting from the GED to a new testing service.
“The professionals associated with Maine’s adult ed programs are understanding and excellent at motivating and supporting those individuals who want to earn their GED,” said Pam Crate, College Access Counselor at FAME. “They are in the local communities and really serve as the “go-to” resources for education, making them ideal partners in this effort.”
Encouraging GED completion is a positive step not only for individuals but also for the economy of Maine. Completing a GED can open doors to new career paths and higher education. Statistics show that nearly 7,000 Mainers have started the GED process, completing some but not all of the testing requirements. There are 136,000 residents who don’t have a high school credential (either a diploma or a GED). According to U.S. Census figures, those with a high school credential earn $2,078 a month as opposed to $1,472 per month for those without such a credential. In addition, according to the U.S. Department of Labor, the average unemployment rate for individuals possessing a high school credential is 8.3%, while the rate of unemployment for those without a high school credential is 12.4%.
Saturday’s events will offer support and encouragement for those Mainers who wish to complete their GED this year or get started on earning their high school equivalency. To learn more about attending a GEDNow event, please visit MaineGEDNow.org or contact an adult ed program near you.
Thursday, August 29, 2013
The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) helped more Maine students than ever to pursue their higher education goals by providing financial aid, college savings, and financial education information throughout the state. This past school year, FAME’s College Access & Financial Education (CAFÉ) Team held 439 statewide events reaching over 30,000 Maine parents, students, and education professionals. Most notably, FAME’s CAFÉ Team provided financial education to 6,320 Maine citizens, an increase of 124 percent over last year.
FAME’s outreach efforts are an invaluable resource for Maine schools and the students that they serve. Brittany Ray, school counselor at Narraguagus High School, spoke of her experience: “FAME CAFE Team member Mila Tappan provides expertise in the often confusing world of financial aid and helps families access higher education, gain financial knowledge, and understand that they can make college a reality. We have tough questions and Mila has the answers. We’ve seen it over and over: FAME helps students both realize that college is possible and take the steps necessary to make higher education a reality. This is critical to Maine students succeeding.”
Machias High School counselor Cara Cirillo said: “FAME played Get a Life, a college aspiration/financial education game with our students, and presented a college savings event. One particular student who was on the verge of dropping out was so moved by the motivating experience she decided to give high school another try. I am thrilled! That is just one example of the impression FAME makes on Maine families daily.”
FAME’s CAFÉ Team is active year-round, day and night, visiting schools and other locations throughout Maine. From kindergarten to college and beyond, FAME offers a diverse selection of college savings, financial aid, and financial education resources. These sessions typically are offered directly in a school or college setting through presentations, games and a variety of hands-on learning activities.
From July 1, 2012 through June 30, 2013, FAME’s CAFÉ Team presented financial aid information at 157 events; helped with completion of the Free Application for Federal Student Aid (FAFSA) at 69 sessions; provided financial education at 138 events; conducted trainings at 43 locations; and attended 32 college and career fairs and conferences.
“FAME’s remarkable outreach figures are the result of the agency’s expanded college access, financial education, and debt management services that support Maine students and families,” stated Susan Snowden, chair of the FAME Board of Directors.
Tuesday, August 27, 2013
At its August 15, 2013 meeting, the Board of Directors of the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) certified Maine New Markets Capital Investment Program applications related to investments planned for the Thermogen I, LLC project in Millinocket and for Mölnlycke Manufacturing US, LLC in Brunswick. FAME’s actions will help spur investments in the Maine economy totaling more than $50 million and create and retain more than 200 Maine jobs.
“FAME is pleased to assist Thermogen and Mölnlycke with certification of investor Maine New Markets tax credit applications as they move forward with their plans to attract low-cost capital and enhance their operations in Millinocket and Brunswick. Our hope is for a stronger Maine economy through the creation and retention of Maine jobs,” stated FAME Board Chair Susan Snowden.
The Maine New Markets Capital Investment Program provides refundable state tax credits of up to 39 percent to investors in qualified community development entities (CDEs) that reinvest in certain businesses in eligible low-income communities in Maine. The program is modeled after the federal New Markets Tax Credit Program, and is administered by FAME in cooperation with Maine Revenue Services and the Maine Department of Economic and Community Development.
The board approved certification of applications for investments totaling $40,416,666.66 regarding the Thermogen I project in Millinocket. The proposed investments have been certified by FAME to be eligible for state tax credits totaling $15,762,500. These potential tax credits are unrelated to a separate application by Thermogen I for a $25 million bond through FAME’s Major Business Expansion Program. That application is currently under review by staff.
The applications related to Thermogen were submitted by three separate entities: CCM Community Development LI LLC (a subsidiary of CEI Capital Management LLC); USBCDE Sub-CDE 101, LLC; and CCG Sub-CDE 25, LLC. The tax credits will not be issued until the actual investments are made, which is expected to occur within 180 days.
FAME also approved certification of an application by CCM Community Development, LI LLC related to proposed investments by U.S. Bancorp Community Development Corp. in Mölnlycke Manufacturing US, LLC, totaling $10 million. If the proposed investments occur, the investor will receive a tax credit certificate in the amount of $3.9 million.
Mölnlycke, a Swedish company with production locations in Wiscasset and Brunswick, is considered a world leader in the manufacture of advanced wound care dressings. The investments will help the company purchase and install specialized machinery to be used at its manufacturing facility in Brunswick. Importantly, the transaction will help to transfer product manufacturing from Finland to Maine.
“FAME’s initial certification of these projects is an important step to spur further investment in these Maine-based businesses,” stated Charles Spies, Chief Executive Officer of CEI Capital Management. “The expected tax credits will not only help create jobs directly at these sites, they should also encourage other business development in the surrounding communities.”
Monday, July 01, 2013
At its June 20, 2013 meeting, the Board of Directors of the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) approved bond financing for Webber Hospital Association d/b/a Southern Maine Medical Center (SMMC). FAME’s actions will help the hospital construct a new medical office building, increasing community access to medical care and creating approximately nine Maine jobs in the primary health care field.
“FAME is pleased to support Southern Maine Medical Center and its plans for growth,” stated FAME Board Chair Susan Snowden. “We are happy to be experiencing increased demand for our programs, including our bond program and the other commercial programs we offer in support of Maine businesses.”
The approved tax-exempt bond financing of $17.5 million to SMMC is made through FAME’s non-recourse or “conduit” bond program, which allows bonds to be privately placed with a lending institution, in this case TD Bank. Such bonds impose no liability on the taxpayer or FAME and allow a qualified entity to access this low-cost financing.
SMMC is a healthcare system with a medical center licensed for 150 beds located in Biddeford. It has 100 physicians associated with it with offices in Saco, Biddeford, Old Orchard Beach, and Kennebunk. SMMC will use the bond proceeds to construct a new 40,000 square-foot medical office building and some improvements to existing buildings. The new building will house a variety of services, including internal medicine, orthopedic surgery and neurology practices, as well as a physical and occupational rehabilitation therapy clinic.
“Southern Maine Medical Center is grateful to FAME for its assistance as we expand our operations and grow our workforce,” stated Norman Belair, Vice President of Finance and Chief Financial Officer of Southern Maine Medical Center. “We are excited about the construction project and our plans for a new office building.”
Since the beginning of the fiscal year in July 2012 to its close June 30, 2013, FAME has approved loan insurance for 285 companies totaling $36.5 million and made twenty-eight direct loans in the amount of $4.7 million. The financing has assisted numerous Maine small businesses, including Avena Botanicals of Rockport; Maine Standard Biofuels of Portland; Maine Heritage Weavers of Lewiston; and Elkins and Co., Inc. of Boothbay; and Sullivan Logging of Ashland.
Avena Botanicals produces a variety of hand-crafted herbal remedies to support the health and well-being of its customers. Most of the company’s products are made with herbs grown and harvested from its biodynamic garden, situated on a thirty-two-acre farm in Rockport. Avena was founded in 1985 by herbalist and gardener Deb Soule. Since then, the company has continued to expand and grow, serving both its local community and customers from afar who seek hand-made custom herbal remedies.
Maine Standard Biofuels is a small but growing renewable energy company that manufactures premium biodiesel in Portland. The company collects used cooking oil from nearly 800 restaurants from Bar Harbor to Boston, recycling it into quality biodiesel and a powerful degreasing and cleaning product for restaurants called Wicked Strong Soap. The company’s trucking fleet customers include Oakhurst Dairy and National Distributors, which use the biodiesel to make deliveries to many of the places where the company collects the used cooking oil. Casella Waste uses the fuel to pick up trash and recyclables from many of Maine Standard Biofuels’ restaurant partners.
Tuesday, May 21, 2013
The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) recently launched a year-long thirtieth anniversary celebration in the State House Hall of Flags. The agency unveiled a new logo and provided information and resources to legislators, stakeholders, and citizens as part of “FAME Day” at the Maine Legislature. FAME staff also was joined by professional sports team mascots from the Portland Sea Dogs, the Maine Red Claws, and the Portland Pirates. FAME partners with these sports teams through the Maine College Savings Program, also known as the NextGen College Investing Plan® (Next Gen®), through which the teams provide scholarships to Maine students.
FAME was created in 1983 by the Maine Legislature and then-Governor Joseph E. Brennan and charged with improving economic development strategies, policies, and activities, as well as securing loans and funding for Maine businesses. In 1989, FAME became the designated state guarantor for federal student loan programs, as well as the administrator of the state’s higher education grant, loan, and loan forgiveness programs. In 1998, the Legislature created the Maine College Savings Program and assigned the administrative responsibilities to FAME. NextGen is now the seventh-largest college savings plan in the nation, with approximately $6.8 billion in assets as of April 30, 2013. In 2008, thanks to the generosity of the late philanthropist Harold Alfond, the Harold Alfond College Challenge was launched. This first-in-the-nation program provides a $500 grant to every Maine baby to open a NextGen account by the baby’s first birthday. Nearly 19,600 children now have a NextGen account seeded with this grant.
Some other impressive statistics about the agency include:
- Over the past 5 years, FAME has awarded over $52 million in grants to 59,552 Maine students through the Maine State Grant Program.
- FAME provides financial aid and financial education information to several thousand Maine students and families each year.
- College Goal Maine, which is annually coordinated by FAME, assisted 987 Maine families with completion of the FAFSA in 2013.
- FAME’s Regional Economic Development Revolving Loan Program has made over 772 loans totaling $39 million. These loans leveraged another $258 million in investments, helping to create and retain 10,509 Maine jobs.
- FAME’s Seed Capital Tax Credit Program has awarded $30 million in tax credits, resulting in approximately $75 million in new Maine business investments.
- In FY 2012, FAME’s commercial loan insurance and direct loan programs totaled approximately $42 million and leveraged total loans in the amount of approximately $67 million. These programs made funds available to 248 Maine businesses and helped to create and retain 4,713 Maine jobs.
FAME’s year-long thirtieth anniversary celebration will culminate with its annual dinner and awards celebration, Showcase Maine, which will take place Nov. 12 at Portland’s Holiday Inn By the Bay. The event will prominently feature business and student success stories over the years.