Articles appearing in the Maine Sunday Telegram’s series “Payday at the mill” (April 19 and 26) have called into question Maine’s New Markets Capital Investment Program, giving this good state tax credit program a black eye.

CEI Capital Management of Portland (a wholly owned subsidiary of Coastal Enterprises Inc. of Wiscasset) works with this program and its national model, the federal New Markets Tax Credit Program, to create and preserve jobs and improve quality of life from Baileyville to Brunswick and communities in between. Along with the Legislature and the Finance Authority of Maine, we’re focused on its solid benefits to Maine taxpayers.

Yet the newspaper’s investigation has revealed the potential for abusing this important economic development program, which has also cast a shadow on the merits of the national program. Specifically, the investigation questions “one-day loans,” an optional structure in the overall program.

The good news is that the Legislature’s Labor, Commerce, Research and Economic Development Committee, working with FAME, has already taken steps to eliminate one-day loans from the program. We support this step.

Based on our experience in using this program since its inception, we see another possible amendment that would strengthen its social impact: strongly encouraging Community Benefit Agreements in the transactions through a competitive application process.

These agreements between the business being financed and the community development entity authorizing the credits are based on significant research before the project is ever funded. They add benefits to the community beyond the core project being financed.

Four years ago, we decided to use them in all of our transactions. They have provided meaningful add-ons like scholarships and workforce training.

While improvements can and should be made, we cannot lose sight of the fact that when used appropriately the program is effective, spurring major private investment and job creation.

The net benefits to Maine taxpayers from almost $200 million of capital investments were analyzed by the Muskie School’s former economist Dr. Charles Colgan in a report: “Maine New Markets Capital Investment Program: A Progress Report of Economic Impacts and State Revenue Effects as of 2014.” His findings show that as long as these projects continue to operate, they will, over time, return tax payments to Maine’s General Fund that exceed the actual tax credits they consumed.

The New Markets Capital Investment Program serves its purpose by catalyzing private investments and ultimately repaying the taxpayers when businesses grow and prosper.

As with other tax credit programs in Maine, this happens regardless of whether the tax credit value is taken as a refund over the seven-year compliance period or as a tax credit on the investor’s return. We have used the Maine New Markets Capital Investment Program three times, in each case evaluating the projects for viability with thorough due diligence before they were funded. Each time, we have built in a Community Benefits Agreement.

In Washington County, St. Croix Tissue combined federal and state New Markets tax credits to finance an expansion that will supply the growing global tissue paper market. This project preserves over 350 existing jobs and will add 80 new positions, and support even more through the local supply chain. The related Community Benefit Agreement creates a joint workforce training program with Washington County Community College, the University of Maine at Machias, Axiom Technologies and CEI, among others.

A second case is the world class manufacturing facility at Brunswick Landing built by global health care giant Mölnlycke. Not only is Mölnlycke creating over 60 professional jobs, the facility was the catalyst for bringing more operations to Maine from a newly acquired subsidiary in Minnesota. With a strong base established in Maine, it then expanded operations at its Rynel facility in Wiscasset.

One good project led to another, and all of them are in Maine. The project also incorporated several community benefits, including worker training and complementary classes for the local hospital. Rockland’s Farnsworth Art Museum is using federal and Maine programs to help fund major facilities improvements. An added Community Benefit Agreement will expand the museum’s free community educational program to local elementary students.

When deployed as intended, the state New Markets Capital Investment Program supports bedrock industries, invites new industries and helps diversify economies.

It has been working well. We support the Legislature in improving it even further so that Maine may continue to benefit from a powerful tool that attracts private capital into job-creating businesses and repays our taxpayers as these businesses grow and prosper.