Tuesday, November 18, 2014
The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) celebrated another year of successful business and educational partnerships at its annual meeting and awards event, Showcase Maine, which was held on November 13, 2014, at Portland’s Holiday Inn By The Bay.
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 Bull Moose founder Brett Wickard.
“FAME enjoyed celebrating the successes of the past year with our partners in Maine’s business and higher education communities,” said Bruce Wagner, FAME’s Chief Executive Officer. “We were pleased to recognize key partners with awards and to unveil our future plans for growth as we seek to enhance and expand Maine’s economy.”
This year’s award recipients included:
St. Croix Tissue, Inc. (Business at Work for Maine Award): St. Croix Tissue, Inc. was recognized for its innovation and adaptability over the years, which is particularly noteworthy considering the challenges facing Maine’s historic papermaking industry. In September of this year, FAME and St. Croix Tissue, Inc. finalized a deal to have FAME issue a $7.5 million bond through FAME’s Major Business Expansion Program. The financing, which benefits the mill in Baileyville, as well as the surrounding economy in Washington County, will help St. Croix and a related company, Woodland Pulp, LLC, create and retain approximately 400 Maine jobs.
Martin Richard of St. Croix Tissue, Inc. accepting FAME's Business at Work for Maine award.
Photo by Brian Peterson.
Harold Alfond® College Challenge (Education at Work for Maine Award): The Harold Alfond College Challenge (HACC) is a first-of-its-kind legacy gift to help Maine families save for and aspire to higher education. The program awards a $500 grant for qualified higher education expenses to eligible Maine children. More than $20 million has been invested for over 40,000 Maine children since the program’s inception. In 2014, the grant became more broadly available, with the Alfond Scholarship Foundation now making the $500 grant (plus any earnings) available to all children born as Maine residents.
Travis Cummings, Colleen Quint and Greg Powell of the Harold Alfond® College Challenge
accepting FAME's Education at Work for Maine award. Photo by Brian Peterson.
Camden National Bank (Financial Institution of the Year Award): Camden National Bank was honored with an award for a fifth time. Over the past year, Camden National partnered with FAME on 67 loans totaling over $13.8 million. This in turn helped to create 209 Maine jobs and retain an additional 657 jobs. The bank also is committed to the communities it serves, supporting a variety of business, community, and non-profit organizations.
Hon. Brian Langley of Hancock County (Dirigo Legislative Champion Award): Langley, a state senator representing Hancock County, is also a chef, entrepreneur, and former educator. He serves on the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. Sen. Langley has been an active supporter of the Bridge Year Program, a collaborative effort involving the faculty and teamwork of Hermon High School; the United Technologies Center in Bangor; Eastern Maine Community College; and the University of Maine.
Prior to the dinner and awards ceremony, the FAME Board met for its monthly meeting and approved financing for two Maine businesses involved in the natural resources sector: North Atlantic, Inc., a Portland-based wholesale importer and distributor of frozen seafood; and Lincoln Paper & Tissue, LLC, a Lincoln-based manufacturer of commodity and specialty tissue products. The board approved the renewal of loan insurance on a Bangor Savings Bank $5 million line of credit for North Atlantic. FAME has supported the company’s financing needs since 2009, and the board’s action will help the company retain seven jobs. The board also approved a $1 million direct loan to Lincoln Paper & Tissue for working capital needs following a fire and flood at the facility in recent years. FAME’s actions will help the mill retain 175 direct jobs and hundreds more indirect jobs in the local economy.
“Lincoln Paper & Tissue greatly appreciates FAME’s swift assistance and commitment to the success of the mill,” stated Keith Van Scotter, President & CEO. “FAME’s efforts and commitment to the region will go a long way toward helping to retain good-paying jobs in the area and to a bright future for the facility.”
Finally, the board also elected new officers for the 2015 year: Raymond Nowak was re-elected to serve as chair; James Violette, Jr. was elected as vice-chair; and Cheri Walker was re-elected as treasurer.
Thursday, November 06, 2014
The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) will celebrate another year of successful business and educational partnerships at its annual meeting and awards event, Showcase Maine, on Thursday, November 13, 2014, 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 Bull Moose founder Brett Wickard.
Wickard founded Bull Moose in 1989 following his junior year at Bowdoin College. What began as a makeshift CD store with a cash register on a cardboard box has grown to be the largest retailer of music, movies, books, and videogames in Maine and seacoast New Hampshire, operating eleven stores and employing 200 people.
“FAME looks forward to celebrating the successes of the past year with our partners in Maine’s business and higher education communities,” said Bruce Wagner, FAME’s Chief Executive Officer. “We are eager to showcase our current partnerships with Maine businesses and educational organizations, and to unveil our future plans for growth as we seek to enhance and expand Maine’s economy.”
This year’s award recipients include:
- St. Croix Tissue, Inc. (Business at Work for Maine Award): St. Croix Tissue, Inc. is being recognized for its innovation and adaptability over the years, which is particularly noteworthy considering the challenges facing Maine’s historic papermaking industry. In September of this year, FAME and St. Croix Tissue, Inc. finalized a deal to have FAME issue a $7.5 million bond through FAME’s Major Business Expansion Program. The financing, which benefits the mill in Baileyville, as well as the surrounding economy in Washington County, will help St. Croix and a related company, Woodland Pulp, LLC, create and retain approximately 400 Maine jobs.
- Harold Alfond College Challenge (Education at Work for Maine Award):The Harold Alfond College Challenge (HACC) is a first-of-its-kind legacy gift to help Maine families save for and aspire to higher education. The program awards a $500 grant for qualified higher education expenses to eligible Maine children. More than $20 million has been invested for over 40,000 Maine children since the program’s inception. In 2014, the grant became more broadly available, with the Alfond Scholarship Foundation now making the $500 grant (plus any earnings) available to all children born as Maine residents.
- Camden National Bank (Financial Institution of the Year Award): Camden National Bank will be honored with an award for a fifth time. Over the past year, Camden National partnered with FAME on 67 loans totaling over $13.8 million. This in turn helped to create 209 Maine jobs and retain an additional 657 jobs. The bank also is committed to the communities it serves, supporting a variety of business, community, and non-profit organizations.
- Hon. Brian Langley of Hancock County (Dirigo Legislative Champion Award): Langley, a state senator representing Hancock County, is also a chef, entrepreneur, and former educator. He serves on the Legislature’s Joint Standing Committee on Education and Cultural Affairs. He is a strong supporter of FAME’s mission, especially with respect to providing higher education opportunities for all Maine students. Sen. Langley has been an active supporter of the Bridge Year Program, a collaborative effort involving the faculty and teamwork of Hermon High School; the United Technologies Center in Bangor; Eastern Maine Community College; and the University of Maine.
Friday, October 24, 2014
The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) is currently displaying artwork by Catherine Gram of Fairfield. The exhibit is called Flowers Galore (…and a wee bit more). FAME strives to bring visibility to the achievements of Maine artists by providing opportunities to exhibit their artwork and to inspire passion about art in others.
Gram works in watercolors with occasional use of pen and ink. She finds delight in her immediate natural world and likes to challenge herself by duplicating that delight on paper. Rather than striving for a truly realistic replication of what she sees, Gram is more a follower of the philosophy expressed by Picasso: “Art is the lie that enables us to realize the truth.” Gram’s watercolor paintings, while whimsical, are carefully composed to play with color and motion. “What I love most about watercolor is the dialogue between the medium and the painter. It is a true conversation and the final product is sometimes a bit of a surprise.”
Gram has lived in Maine for nearly thirty years and has been inspired by the great natural beauty of the state. She is concurrently exhibiting another series of watercolor paintings called Seaside Galore (...and a wee bit more) at the Skidompha Library in Damariscotta.
Gram’s childhood was divided between time spent in upstate New York and in France. She studied Art History at Vassar and Hamilton Colleges and also completed an internship at the world-renowned Jeu de Paume and l’Orangerie museums in Paris, France. As she studied the works of other artists, Gram worked on her own artistic expression whenever time allowed. “Since the 1990s, it has been a dream of mine to have a body of work worthy of sharing with the public," she explains.
The public may view Gram’s exhibition for free at FAME’s Augusta office through November 28, 2014. FAME is open Mondays through Fridays from 8:00 a.m. to 5:00 p.m. FAME’s office is located near the Augusta Civic Center at 5 Community Drive, Augusta, Exit 112 off I-95.
To learn more about FAME art exhibits and openings, or if you are an artist who would like to have your work considered for exhibition, please contact FAME at 1-800-228-3734.
Thursday, October 09, 2014
The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) is pleased to announce a statewide expansion of the SALT program in Maine. Created by American Student Assistance (ASA), SALT is an innovative program designed to empower college students and alumni to confidently approach, manage, and pay back their student loans while gaining financial skills for life.
In 2012, FAME and ASA launched SALT as a pilot program at ten participating Maine colleges and universities. As a result of the pilot, Maine has become a national leader in its statewide efforts to promote financial literacy. Colleges and universities across the state have engaged thousands of students to utilize SALT, which offers well-timed, neutral financial education resources, advice, and self-paced courses designed from the student’s point of view. Students also have access to live one-on-one counseling from trained advisors who can answer students’ questions objectively and advocate on their behalf.
FAME’s newest effort will extend SALT in Maine for an additional two years, and will be offered at all interested Maine colleges at a reduced sponsorship level, made possible by financial support from FAME and ASA. In addition, all Maine high school students will have access to a customized saltmoney.org site, including interactive money management lessons, a scholarship search tool, and resources to assist in college planning.
“Maine students often try to navigate the college financing and loan repayment waters with inadequate knowledge of the process and without thinking through the consequences of their indebtedness,” said FAME Chief Executive Officer Bruce Wagner. “FAME already offers many services to support students in their pursuit of higher education. With the statewide launch of SALT, FAME is providing another opportunity for Maine students to be better prepared to plan their futures.”
Through this first of its kind collaboration with ASA and Maine colleges, FAME will continue to fulfill its mission to support Maine students, recognizing that an educated and financially capable student leads to economic stability statewide.
Monday, October 06, 2014
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 three-year cohort default rate was 7.1 percent of borrowers. This represents nearly a full percentage point decrease compared to last year’s rate of 8.0 percent. By comparison, the national three-year average was 13.7 percent, which represents a one-point drop from last year’s national average of 14.7 percent. The cumulative rate for other guaranty agencies like FAME was 9.4 percent. Maine’s official rate was 12.8 percent, but this represents the addition of federal direct loan borrowers to the cohort. Direct loan borrowers interact with the U.S. Department of Education regarding their loans, and not with FAME.
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 prior to the end of the second following fiscal year. This is the first year that only a three-year rate is being released by the U.S. Department of Education. A three-year cohort default rate is the percentage of a school's borrowers who enter repayment on certain Federal Family Education Loan (FFEL) Program or William D. Ford Federal Direct Loan (Direct Loan) Program loans during a particular federal fiscal year, October 1 to September 30, and default or meet other specified conditions prior to the end of the second following fiscal year.
“FAME’s ability to maintain a low default rate benefits lenders, schools, and, most importantly, Maine students,” stated FAME Board Chair Ray Nowak. “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 FAME and our lender partners. FAME’s emphasis on default prevention is the right one for Maine students and families,” stated FAME Chief Executive Officer Bruce Wagner.
FAME believes that financial education is the cornerstone of debt management and default prevention. Two years ago, FAME launched SALT, a collaboration with American Student Assistance that delivers financial education and debt management services free-of-charge to Maine students and alumni. The vast majority of Maine college students now have access to SALT’s proactive debt management services, and FAME recently secured an agreement to expand SALT statewide.
In 2015, FAME will continue its commitment to providing financial education in Maine by co-sponsoring “Fostering Financial Education in Maine Schools,” a financial literacy conference for Maine teachers, administrators, counselors and others.
Thursday, October 02, 2014
At its September 18, 2014 meeting, the Board of Directors of the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) approved approximately $3 million in financing for a variety of Maine businesses, including a Scarborough-based day care; a machinery manufacturer in Benton; a specialized pharmacy in Portland; and a specialty sawmill operator in Jefferson. FAME’s actions will help to create and retain more than 339 jobs in the state.
FAME approved a total of $1.3 million in commercial loan insurance for Toddle Inn Day Care, Inc., of Scarborough, which operates six daycare facilities in Westbrook, Gorham, South Portland, Cumberland Foreside, Saco, and Scarborough. The FAME insurance supports a mortgage and direct loan provided to the company by Camden National Bank, and will help the company restructure existing debt and improve company cash flow. The financing is expected to help create up to eight new jobs and retain 142 existing jobs.
“FAME’s assistance will help our company to improve and expand our services,” stated Cheryl Carrier, President of Toddle Inn Day Care, Inc.
FAME also renewed 90% pro rata loan insurance on a $550,000 line of credit provided by Androscoggin Bank to B&B Precise Products, Inc., of Benton. The company manufactures machined parts and assembled components. The financing will help the company add six to ten jobs and retain another fifty existing jobs.
Apothecary by Design, LLC, is a specialty pharmacy based in Portland. FAME renewed insurance on an $850,000 line of credit provided to the company by Bangor Savings Bank. FAME’s actions will help the company retain sixty-three jobs.
Finally, FAME approved the restructuring of four loans by People’s United Bank that it insures to N.C. Hunt, Inc., of Jefferson. The company operates a specialty sawmill in Jefferson and makes sales to both retail and wholesale customers throughout New England and Canada. FAME’s actions will help the company to retain sixty-six jobs.
"FAME is pleased to be able to partner with others in these transactions to assist these Maine companies, along with the many other businesses our staff works with on an ongoing basis. Helping to retain and create good jobs is an important part of our overall mission to help foster a stronger Maine economy,” stated FAME Board Chair Ray Nowak.
Wednesday, September 17, 2014
The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) has completed bond financing on a deal that will benefit St. Croix Tissue, Inc. in Baileyville and the surrounding economy in Washington County. The financing will help St. Croix and a related company, Woodland Pulp, LLC, create and retain approximately 400 Maine jobs.
FAME and St. Croix Tissue, Inc. today closed on a deal to have FAME issue a $7.5 million taxable bond supported by the moral obligation of the state through FAME’s Major Business Expansion Program.
The bond financing had previously been approved by the FAME Board of Directors at its March 20, 2014 meeting. The proceeds will be used to partially finance St. Croix’s purchase and installation of two new, large tissue-making machines on a site that is a portion of Woodland’s Baileyville mill complex. FAME’s financing leverages additional project financing including debt and equity totaling over $120 million for the St. Croix project. Construction has already commenced; one machine will be in operation by the end of 2015, while the second machine is expected to start in the first quarter of 2016.
“FAME is pleased to support St. Croix tissue with its plans for growth and success” stated FAME Chief Executive Officer Bruce Wagner. “We know how important it is for the company to invest in value-added products and remain competitive in the global market. FAME’s financing should also help provide a boost for the Washington County economy.”
“We very much appreciate FAME’s support for the project and the company’s plans for growth and success in the worldwide tissue market,” stated Bert Martin, Director of Woodland Pulp and St. Croix Tissue.
Tuesday, August 12, 2014
The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) recently announced that the Client Select Series of the NextGen College Investing Plan® (NextGen) is now the nation’s second-largest advisor-sold Section 529 college savings plan, according to Strategic Insight, a mutual fund industry research firm. Administered by FAME in conjunction with Program Manager Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated, NextGen has over $8 billion in assets under management between the advisor-sold plan and the direct-sold plan as of June 30, 2014.
“We are very pleased by NextGen’s growth and success,” stated FAME Board Chair Ray Nowak. “The investment choices have made NextGen a good fit for many families around the nation saving for college, and the matching grants and other benefits created specifically for Maine residents are among the most generous available.”
Also, effective June 9, 2014, NextGen significantly decreased fees in the Client Direct Series, the direct-sold plan. Total annual asset-based fees were reduced by ten basis points in all Client Direct Series actively managed portfolios, and by five basis points in all Client Direct Series iShares exchange traded fund (ETF) portfolios. As a result, annual asset-based fees in the Client Direct Series now range from 0 to 69 basis points, with the passively managed iShares ETF portfolios ranging from 30 to 51 basis points.
“We are pleased to be reducing fees within NextGen,” stated FAME Chief Executive Officer Bruce Wagner. “We are able to offer these enhancements due to the program’s success, and we’re grateful to Merrill Lynch, the Program Manager, for their cooperation in reducing their fees. It is important for the program to remain competitive with other Section 529 plans around the nation while offering a variety of choices for investors. FAME and its Advisory Committee on College Savings, which is chaired by Maine State Treasurer Neria Douglass, continually evaluate NextGen to identify opportunities to enhance and improve the plan.”
NextGen was established by the state of Maine in 1999 as a qualified tuition program under Section 529 of the Internal Revenue Code. NextGen is a tax-advantaged investing program designed to help families prepare for qualified higher education expenses. Anyone at least age eighteen years of age can open an account, regardless of income or state residency, and assets can be used at any accredited U.S. post-secondary institution. Matching grants are available to eligible accounts. 529 plans can be opened directly with the plan (direct-sold) or through a financial advisor (advisor-sold).
To learn more about NextGen, please visit www.nextgenplan.com. For information specific to the benefits available to Maine residents for NextGen accounts, please contact FAME at 1-800-228-3734 or visit www.famemaine.com/nextgen.
FAME is a quasi-independent state agency that provides innovative financial solutions to help Maine people and businesses pursue educational and business opportunities. To learn more about FAME, please visit www.famemaine.com.
The NextGen Plan is a Section 529 plan administered by the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME). Please remember there’s always the potential of losing money when you invest in securities. Before you invest in the NextGen plan, request a NextGen College Investing Plan Program Description from your Maine bank or financial advisor, or call FAME at 1-800-228-3734 and read it carefully. The Program Description contains more complete information, including investment objectives, charges, expenses and risks of investing in the NextGen plan, which you should carefully consider before investing. You also should consider whether your or your designated beneficiary’s home state offers any state tax or other benefits that are only available for investments in such state’s 529 plan. Merrill Lynch, Pierce, Fenner & Smith Incorporated, a registered broker-dealer, member SIPC, is the program manager and underwriter.
Neither Merrill Lynch nor any of its affiliates nor the Finance Authority of Maine provide legal, tax or accounting advice. Investors should consult their legal and/or tax advisors before making any financial decisions.
Monday, July 28, 2014
At its July 17, 2014 meeting, the Board of Directors of the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) approved enhancements to FAME’s popular and successful OnLine Answer (OLA) Program, which provides a financial institution an immediate answer regarding its request for FAME’s Commercial Loan Insurance. OLA’s new loan insurance limit has been increased from $250,000 to a total exposure per relationship of up to $375,000.
FAME’s OLA Program is a faster, easier, and lower-cost way for authorized lenders to apply for loan insurance. Loan insurance insures a portion of a loan to a business made by a participating financial institution. The OLA Program has been in operation for over six years, and is now responsible for approximately 80% of all FAME loan insurance applications. OLA is FAME’s fastest growing product and popular with its lender partners and their customers.
Until now, OLA allowed for up to $250,000 in insurance for up to 75% insurance coverage. OLA’s new loan insurance limit has been increased to a total exposure per relationship of up to $375,000 at 75% insurance. The new insurance exposure equates to a lender’s loan in the amount of $500,000. The change takes effect immediately.
“FAME is pleased to increase the amount of loan insurance available to our lending partners through OLA,” stated Bruce Wagner, Chief Executive Officer of FAME.
“We know how important it is for our customers to obtain quick responses to their applications, and to be able to partner with us to help other businesses succeed.”
FAME implemented enhancements to the program after obtaining input from its Lender’s Advisory Group, which is comprised of representatives from various Maine lending institutions. The group meets regularly to advise FAME on its products and on the lending environment in Maine. OLA relieves a financial institution of having to prepare applications utilizing FAME’s paper application process.
In May of this year, FAME also launched improvements to OLA’s online features. The new features provide for a better customer experience, with easier user interface and a variety of enhancements. The modifications also help to ensure consistency among users. The enhancements include: one scrolling entry screen, automatic calculation of debt service coverage, user support screens, and streamlined entry. Also available through the Website is an enhanced OLA training tutorial and user manual.
Monday, July 21, 2014
At its July 17, 2014 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 a biomass electricity facility, which is connected with a wood pellet company in Athens. FAME’s actions will help spur investments in the Maine economy totaling more than $30 million and help to create and retain more than 200 Maine jobs in the Somerset County area.
“FAME is pleased to assist Athens Energy, LLC, with certification of Maine New Markets tax credit investor applications as the company moves forward with its plans to attract low-cost capital and enhance their operations. Our hope is for a stronger Maine economy through the creation and retention of Maine jobs,” stated FAME Chief Executive Officer Bruce Wagner.
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.
“FAME’s certification of these projects is an important step to spur further investment in this Maine-based business,” said Paul Hoffman, Managing Director of CCG Community Partners, LLC. “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.”
CCG Community Partners, LLC, was previously approved by FAME for tax credit allocation under the Maine New Markets Capital Investment Credit Program. The board in this case approved certification of applications by three subsidiaries of CCG: CCG Sub-CDE 25, LLC; CCG Sub-CDE 29, LLC; and CCG Sub-CDE 31, LLC, for investments totaling $30.3 million in Athens Energy, a sister company to the adjacent wood pellet manufacturer known as Maine Woods Pellet Company, LLC.
The proposed investments have been certified by FAME to be eligible for state tax credits totaling $12,133,333.33. A portion of the investments is also eligible for federal new markets tax credits. The investments will be in the form of loans to Athens Energy to be used for construction and equipping of a biomass electricity generator and the payment of transaction costs. The investments also will help to expand the associated wood pellet production facility. The tax credits will not be issued until the actual investments are made.