November 28, 2023

40 Years of FAME

Fueling Maine’s Economic Growth by Supporting 10,000 Businesses that Created and Retained 200,000 Jobs

Augusta, Maine – November 28, 2023 – The Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) marks a significant milestone this year as the agency celebrates 40 years of unwavering commitment to supporting Maine’s business community and helping Mainers meet the costs associated with higher education. 

Since its establishment in 1983, FAME has been at the forefront of fostering economic growth, job creation, and education opportunities in the state. In its first four decades, FAME has helped nearly 10,000 Maine companies with approximately $2.5 billion in financing, resulting in the creation and preservation of over 200,000 Maine jobs throughout the state. FAME has been instrumental in helping Maine students and families meet the costs associated with higher education, as well, awarding over $470 million in grants to over 285,000 Maine students. 

“Over four decades, FAME has strengthened Maine’s economy by empowering thousands of Maine people to go to college or to start or expand a business,” said Governor Janet Mills. “FAME has been a critical partner in my Administration’s work to build an economy poised for future prosperity—efforts that have helped to fuel more economic growth over the last four years than during the preceding fifteen. I congratulate FAME on their milestone, and I look forward to our continued work to strengthen economic opportunities for all who call Maine home.”

FAME began its journey in 1983 by working closely with Maine’s lending community to enhance access to funding and bridge gaps in the state’s commercial finance system. Over the years, FAME’s mission has evolved, expanding its scope to meet the diverse financial needs of Maine’s businesses and residents seeking access to affordable higher education. 

Here are some key highlights from FAME’s journey:

Diverse Business Assistance Programs

FAME has offered a wide array of business assistance programs, from traditional loan insurance programs for small and larger businesses to investment tax credits for business investors. The quasi-independent agency also offers taxable and tax-exempt bond financing programs, allowing creditworthy firms in Maine to access capital at favorable rates and terms. 

Creating Brighter Futures for Maine Students

In 1990, the Maine Legislature significantly expanded FAME’s mission by tasking it with responsibility for administering the state’s higher education finance programs. Through various grant, loan, loan repayment, and scholarship programs, FAME helps Maine residents pursue higher education. Some highlights:

  • Since 1992, FAME has awarded more than $420 million in need-based grants through the Maine State Grant Program. Over 350,000 grants were awarded during this period.
  • FAME’s outreach and counseling programs have encouraged numerous young people to aspire to, plan for, and pursue higher education. This work includes financial aid nights, webinars, FAFSA completion assistance, and financial education tools. 
  • FAME proudly administers Maine’s Section 529 education savings program, NextGen 529®. It is a top ten savings plan in the nation, with approximately $13 billion in assets under management. The program provides a $100 initial matching grant to eligible accounts; a $100 grant to eligible beneficiaries with qualifying automatic contributions made directly from a bank account or via payroll deduction; and up to a $300 match per year for those making contributions to their account.
  • Since NextGen’s inception, FAME has awarded over $50 million in grants to encourage Maine families to save.
  • The Harold Alfond College Challenge (also known as the Alfond Grant) provides a $500 grant to eligible Maine resident babies to be used for future higher education expenses. Over 150,000 Alfond Grants have been awarded to Maine children over the years. This $75 million investment has been leveraged by family NextGen contributions, investment earnings, and FAME matching grants to represent $400 million in education savings for a brighter future for Maine’s children.

Innovation and Flexibility

FAME’s strength lies in innovative, adaptable solutions, making them the preferred resource for businesses and individuals pursuing success in Maine’s evolving economic landscape. 

  • FAME’s loan insurance helps to cover a commercial lender’s credit risk. For a business, it may mean the difference between obtaining a loan, going out of business, or never getting the opportunity to start a business. Loan insurance is available for almost any prudent business activity and insures up to 90 percent (100 percent for veterans) of a loan to a maximum FAME insurance exposure for any one relationship of $7.5 million. Since inception, the state has invested approximately $40 million in funding for this program, which in turn has resulted in over $750 million in loan insurance offered by FAME over the years. This insurance has supported approximately $1.5 billion in commercial loans to Maine businesses in partnership with local Maine lenders and has helped to create and retain over 100,000 Maine jobs.

“Maine’s Legislature created FAME in 1983 with a primary purpose to improve economic opportunities for current and future Mainers,” said Dick Trafton, chair of the FAME board of directors. “As sponsor of that law, I am excited and rewarded by FAME’s loans to businesses, grants to students, and partnering with others in Maine’s public sector. As current chairman of FAME’s Board, I believe FAME improves life for most Mainers and will continue to grow its impact.”

FAME’s Impact on Maine’s Business Landscape: Supporting Innovative Companies

MedRhythms: Cutting-edge technology improving Mainers’ health

In recent years, FAME has provided financing for some cutting-edge technology businesses, including MedRhythms, Inc., a digital therapeutics company located in Portland. MedRhythms uses sensors, music, and software to build evidence-based, neurologic interventions to measure and improve walking. FAME has worked with the company to provide various types of financing, including investments made through the Maine Seed Capital Tax Credit Program and the Maine New Markets Capital Investment Tax Credit Program, which helped to finance the costs of developing and executing a commercialization strategy for a stroke rehabilitation digital therapeutic device, as well as additional R & D expenses. The company was awarded funding through the Grow Maine program, as well. MedRhythms was honored by FAME in 2022 with its Business At Work for Maine award.

Standard Biocarbon: Biochar production, a new High-Growth, Clean, Sustainable Industry

FAME partners well with other economic development finance entities at the state and local level. One example is the partnership between FAME, Coastal Enterprises, Inc., and the Maine Technology Institute to provide $2.5 million for Standard Biocarbon, Inc.’s first Maine manufacturing facility. Standard Biocarbon is a Maine-based, clean-tech startup producing biochar at industrial scale to supply demand in agriculture, remediation, and materials and to generate carbon removal credits. The financing helped to allow the company to purchase equipment for producing high-quality biochar at its facility in Enfield.

“The support from FAME and other finance agencies, together with investment and encouragement from the broader Maine community, officials, and local forest products industry, has been instrumental in bringing this industry to Maine,” said Fred Horton, co-founder, president, and chief executive officer.

Standard Biocarbon supplies biochar for use in agriculture, environmental remediation, and emerging applications in composite building materials and pavement. Studies have shown biochar to be effective for remediation of PFAS “forever chemicals” and heavy metals. Biochar does not degrade in nature, so carbon content is captured for thousands of years where biomass, whether burned or left to rot, soon releases all of the carbon back to the atmosphere. Biochar has emerged as a highly efficient, durable, economical, and scalable carbon dioxide removal technology.  

Empowering Entrepreneurship and Thriving Business Growth: Quoddy’s Success Fueled by FAME Support

Quoddy, a Maine-based footwear company, came under the ownership of Kristen and Kevin Shorey in 1997. Their entry into the industry stemmed from their background as retailers on a mission – they could not locate Maine-made shoes within the state, so they took the step of crafting their own. As their vision rapidly outgrew their original space in Washington County, they set their sights on joining the ranks of fellow shoemakers in Lewiston, a long-time hub for this traditional Maine industry. 

“FAME has been an invaluable partner in our journey to revive and expand Quoddy,” said Kevin Shorey, President of Quoddy Inc. “Their financial assistance, especially during our move to Lewiston, has been a game-changer for our business. Without FAME’s support, we wouldn’t be where we are today. They’re not just a lender; they’re a true partner who understands our business and helps us thrive. Their commitment to Maine’s small businesses, like ours, is vital for our state’s economy.”

Quoddy worked with FAME several times, the first in 1997 so they could move their business from Washington County to Lewiston, again in 2004, 2010, and 2018. From purchasing additional machinery to hiring more people, Shorey said they would not have been able to grow into the multi-million-dollar company that they are now, hiring dozens of people over the years. 

“There’s no reason not to partner with FAME,” Shorey added. “They understand your business, they’re on your side, and they’re in it for your success. Without FAME, the state of Maine would look dramatically different. Small businesses like ours are what make up the state of Maine and contribute significantly to Maine’s economy, touching the lives of countless people in our state.”

The Journey of Pleasant River Lumber with FAME’s Vital Support

Pleasant River Lumber underwent a significant transformation in 2004 when brothers Chris and Jason Brochu, alongside their family members, acquired the business. Since then, their visionary leadership has elevated the company to become one of Maine’s largest logging enterprises. The company now owns and operates two lumber mills, plus a logging and trucking company, as well as Ware-Butler Building supply, which has fifteen locations across the state. In their pursuit of growth, the Brochu brothers partnered with FAME in 2004, a pivotal moment that marked the beginning of their journey. Today, they proudly own and operate five mills across the state, and their workforce has grown from 75 employees in 2004 to 600, all based right here in Maine. 

“FAME has been an unwavering partner in our journey to success. Their initial support, guaranteeing a portion of our loan, was instrumental in our acquisition of the business back in 2004,” said Chris Brochu, Co-President of Pleasant River Lumber. “With their assistance, we’ve not only sustained the business but thrived. Today, we proudly employ over 600 people, all within the state of Maine. Without FAME’s vital support, our growth and impact on the state’s business landscape would be vastly different. They’ve been a cornerstone in shaping the business climate in Maine, and we are deeply grateful for their partnership.”

Throughout its remarkable 40-year journey, the Finance Authority of Maine (FAME) has been instrumental in shaping the economic, educational, and workforce landscape of Maine. 

“FAME has been a catalyst for economic growth, business expansion, and educational empowerment in the state of Maine,” said FAME CEO Carlos Mello. “We are proud to have played such a crucial role in the success of countless businesses and the pursuit of higher education for so many Maine students. FAME’s legacy is one of support for the people of Maine, and we remain committed to innovating and fostering a prosperous future as we move forward.”

FAME Celebrates 40 Years of Maine Success Stories

Hear from FAME’s CEO, clients, and colleagues as the organization celebrates its 40th year.