Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
by Lynn Adler and Jim Mayer
Producers of Faith, Hope and Capital
pioneer in community lending, Ron Phillips has helped Coastal Enterprises
create sophisticated strategies for strengthening local industries and
creating job opportunities for low income people.
Read a portion below or go to a printer-friendly page of the full
My name is Ron Phillips. I went to Union Theological Seminary in New York
and studied history and economics. Actually, I intended to study more
philosophy and theology and get involved in that kind of exposure to what
human society is all about. But the concept of justice and economics kept
kind of pressing in on that whole matter to the point where I got very
interested in what we call, today, community development.
talk a little bit about the economic problems that Maine faces.
we started Coastal Enterprises in 1977, I would characterize the economic
problems facing Maine as very much the same problems that third world
countries face, being a natural resource state, being based on more
extractive industries with less value added than you'd like to see.
Maine really faced the question of how does it create a vibrant local
business economy to market its products at competitive prices, and with
value added to those products. Back in the 70s, Maine was really at
the much lower end of the spectrum in terms of per capita income and
also in terms of wage structure as compared to national averages.
in the early days, there were a lot of experiments, I guess, and mistakes?
we don't think of those as mistakes. This field was very young. As you
know, in the mid 60s Title Seven legislation of the Equal Opportunity
Act authorized establishing CDCsCommunity Development Corporationsaround
the country in urban areas and rural communities that were of low income
to help these communities develop assets, mainly in businesses, housing
and commercial real estate types of enterprise. So, t
T en years later, when CEI was organized, it was a young field. The
religious institutions on the national level were trying to allocate
resources to create housing, set up business enterprises, and make deposits
in credit unions. But many of these early efforts, both with churches
and even with governmentparticularly with government, in fact, where
most of the money wasand with foundations as well, were really trial
and error. They were learning opportunitieswe don't think of them
so much as mistakeslearning opportunities on how to take money from
one place and invest it and loan it and manage it to create a project
that would be sustainable and enduring. And we had our share of those
kinds of learning opportunities.
Early on, we were focused on natural resource industries, the fishing
industry. In fact, in the background right here is one of our early
projects. It's a very successful business venture that supports the
Southern Maine fishing fleet with ice and fuel and other kinds of services.
But, we did get involvedand still arein the small family farm movement.
We tried to set up and support a marketing co-op which didn't succeed;
we were involved in various fisheries cooperatives which also didn't
quite make it; but a lot of things did come out of that period and we're
doing much better today.
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