Biddeford, Maine
CDFI: Coastal Enterprises, Inc.
Loan type: Welfare-to-work loan

Soleras, a manufacturing company in Biddeford, Maine, produces aluminum targets used in the vacuum sputtering equipment that deposit thin layers of metal on CD’s, and other similar specialty products. The company grosses about $5 million a year, is profitable, and employs about 60 people.

When Soleras needed financing in the early 1990s, they initially met resistance from banks because they had no credit history. Fortunately, they heard about Coastal Enterprises (CEI), a CDFI in Portland. As a standard condition of their loans, CEI requires businesses to consider for jobs that become available people coming off public assistance and other low-income people. Not surprisingly, Soleras’s initial response to this requirement was less than enthusiastic. As the company president said, "To be honest, what we wanted was the money. We had never seen a job-training agreement before. We looked at it, nodded our heads, signed on the bottom line, and got the money."

Fortunately, CEI’s referral and training programs are so good that Soleras now sees CEI as a provider of valuable services. Production Manager Jim Clark put it this way:

"I was a little bit leery at first because I guess I had a stereotype of social service or welfare people that was incorrect. I always thought that people on welfare were there because they wanted to be there. I found out later that wasn’t the case. They were there because they needed it. We have put a lot of those people to work and they have proved to be some of our best employees."

Soleras not only hired former AFDC recipients (both men and women), they have gone on to initiate on-site training programs in cooperation with the local community college. The company pays wages and benefits that are above average in their area. CEI continues to be involved, giving Soleras equity investments. Most recently CEI loaned Soleras $100,000 towards the construction of a new building.

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